The strange and delectable History of the discoverie and Conquest of the Provinces of Peru…

London, Richard Ihones, 1581


FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. [viii] 88 (1-12 unnumbered) [iv]. Black letter. Title within woodcut frame, flanked by Moses with the two Tablets of the Law, and King David (McKerrow and Ferguson 117), 7 half-page woodcut illustrations, including of the ‘Riche Mines of Potossi’, local animals, construction work for a new city, and a horned man (two repeated), woodcut initials throughout. Blank fore-edge of A3 restored, one leaf holed at gutter with loss of a few letters, general age-yellowing, a few leaves lightly browned, some running titles and outer edges a little shaved. A good copy in blind tooled diced Russia c1800, covers with gilt lozenge, neatly rebacked, a.e.g. Contemporary marginalia, ex-libris of Boies Penrose on fly, gilt leather ex-libris of Rt. Hon. Thomas Grenville on upper pastedown, 17thC shelfmark in blank upper portion of title.

FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF ONE OF THE EARLIEST ACCOUNTS OF THE DISCOVERY AND CONQUEST OF PERU. Zarate was sent to Peru by the Emperor Charles V in 1543, as a tax collector to implement the Emperor’s ‘New Laws’. He was in Lima at the time of Gonzalo Pizarro’s revolt, and the work concludes with Pizarro’s execution and the subsequent incorporation of Peru into the Spanish Empire in 1548. The first edition, in Spanish, appeared at Antwerp in 1555. This edition is a translation of the first four books of the first edition, with the addition of ‘The Discovery of the ritche Mynes of Potosi and how Captaine Carauajall toke it into his power’. The work includes descriptions of the ‘people and things beyond the Equinoctiall lines’, including Christian and Indian settlements in the mountains of Peru, as well as the history of the Kings of the Incas, but mostly focuses on the course of the Conquests: the towns and villages taken by, and the battles fought by Pizarro and Diego de Almagro.

The translation is by Thomas Nicholas, a translator for the Levant Company, who lived for many years in the Canary Isles, until imprisoned by the Spanish Crown in 1560 on charges of ‘heresy’. Finally released years later following the intercession of Elizabeth I, he returned to England, where he published three translations, presumably done during his imprisonment.

Thomas Grenville (1755-1846), MP and bibliophile was the son, and brother of Prime Ministers. He bequeathed his celebrated library of more than 20,000 volumes to the British Museum. De Ricci remarks of him that he was “a true bibliophile, in the highest sense of the word. He had a feeling for quality equal to that of Cacherode and there is hardly an items in his collection the condition of which was not capable of satisfying the most exacting collector” (de Ricci, English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts 1530-1930, p. 114).

Rare. Only one other copy has sold at auction in over thirty years, and RLG records only four (Harvard, Cambridge, New York Historical Society and Yale).

STC 26123; JCB (3) I: 287; Sabin 106272; Alden 581/70; not in JFB.


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