PIZARRO Y ORELLANA, Fernando. Varones ilustres del Nuevo Mundo.

Madrid, por Diego Diaz de la Carrera, 1639.


FIRST AND ONLY EDITION. Folio. pp. [36], 427, [1], 72, [32]. Roman letter, little Italic. Decorated initials and ornaments. Several lower edges untrimmed, light age yellowing, ll. First half lightly browned and foxed, decreasing and intermittent to end, couple of minor marginal paper flaws. A good wide margined copy in contemporary calf, double gilt ruled, rebacked, original gilt spine remounted, minor repair to corners and extremities. Bookplate of Thomas Philip (1781-1859), Earl of Grey, Wrest Park, to front pastedown, early ms price 6ll 10 to half title. In folding box.

The first and only edition, in English binding, of this glorification of the Spanish Conquest of the New World – a treasure trove of historical historic and sociocultural information, and an interesting piece of propaganda. ‘This work contains biographies of Columbus, Alonso de Ojeda, Cortez, the four Pizarros, Diego de Almagro, and Diego Garcia de Paredes, in which the treachery and brutality of the conquerors in the treatment of the Indians is palliated and defended’ (Sabin). Printed on poor quality paper the text is often oxidised, but not in this case.

Fernando Pizarro y Orellana was professor of law at Salamanca and appointed minister of the Counsel of Castile by Philip IV. He claims here to be the grandson of the greatly celebrated conquistador Francisco Pizarro. In the appended ‘discurso legal’, he reminds the King of the grants promised by his predecessors to Pizarro’s ancestors, as a reward for the riches brought about by the conquest. After several prefaces, preambles, privileges and prefatory letters – all intended to give weight to what is to follow – the work opens with probably the longest (40pp.) biography of Columbus then printed. His discovery was seen as the start of a successful conquest ‘which was not only just, but had also been foreseen and prophesized’. It recounts how Columbus convinced Ferdinand and Isabella to fund his enterprise and his several voyages, with the addition of ‘observations’ by Pizarro himself, which include a variety of anecdotes such as the arrest of the Cacique Caonabo. There follows the biography of Captain Alonso de Ojeda and his travels in the Caribbean and the northern part of South America, including Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana and Venezuela. He was instrumental in the founding of the first city of the New World, which he called Fer-Isabelica. Other notable biographies are those of Fernando Cortéz, with an account of his meeting with Montezuma and Francisco Pizarro and his exploration of Peru. Scattered among the travelogues is copious information on the types of government and social hierarchy enforced by the Conquistadores and their exchanges with local communities. A most interesting work and probably the most comprehensive (albeit biased) encyclopaedia of New World explorations available at the time.

Thomas Philip (1781-1859), Earl of Grey, was the first president of the Institute of British Architects in London, founded in 1834. He was greatly interested in architecture, overseeing the remodelling of his London townhouse and of his seat at Wrest Park.

USTC 5032331; Wilkinson 53087; Palau 227687; Sabin 63109; Alden 639/93; JFB P288.
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