In the study of modern history an often subtle interaction between literature and events in human affairs, particularly since the invention of the printing press, is not fully appreciated.
Fictional writings are not only the subjective records of human experience, but sometimes the unconscious instigators of the actions of men by. Often the works of imagination that were most influential in this respect at a given time and place are not the supreme creations of genius; they are frequently inferior manifestations of artistic expression which, because of special circumstances, sway the thoughts and emotions of their readers more profoundly.
As a result, they sometimes alter the course of history or modify contemporary customs and manners.
Few would claim Uncle Tom's Cabin to be a masterpiece of American letters, but few would deny it an influence all out of proportion to its esthetic merits in the thoughts and subsequent actions of the people of the United States of the middle nineteenth century. The effect of the wide reading of the rags-to-riches tales of Horatio Alger by the youth of a generation or two ago on the economic conceptions and individualistic philosophies of older, conservative businessmen of recent years might prove a fruitful inquiry. And who can tell to what extent the dime-novel fiction of the athletic superman, Frank Merriwell, helped to bring about a shift of juvenile interest from going west to kill Indians to the tremendous enthusiasm for sports during the last four or five decades?
Such writings can hardly be termed literature, yet they had an appeal to a mass of readers of an impressionable age which, in some measure, conditioned their habits of thought and conduct. It is possible, then, that the Spanish Conquistador offers an early example of this interaction between the fictitious and the real. His matchless courage and driving force did not spring from brawn and endurance alone; his febrile fancy had much to do in spurring him relentlessly on to unprecedented exploits.
Some of the visionary passion that animated him had its inspiration in the imagined utopias, adventures, and riches alluringly depicted in the song and story of his time. The texture of dreams became corporeal in the new medium of leaden type, and these men of the Spanish Renaissance were moved to work miracles greater than those performed in the pages of their books.
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In the first chapters of this account an attempt is made to appraise, to understand, and to explain these men and the fiction they emulated. This book about books of the Conquistador and his descendants strives to serve a threefold purpose: first, to explore the possible influence of a popular form of contemporary literature on the mind,. The first six chapters deal with the conqueror and the romances of chivalry that he knew, and the possible reaction of books on men is indicated particularly by the quest of the Amazons in America. Chapters XIII to XIX are a series of case histories of individual shipments which symbolize the universal dissemination of books throughout the sixteenth-century colonial empire of Spain, including the outlying Philippines.
This procedure was adopted because the surviving records in the archives of Spain and Spanish America are of such fragmentary nature that a statistical approach to the problem of book distribution is impossible.
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The total number of volumes which crossed the ocean in the sixteenth century can not be determined, though it clearly ran into the thousands annually, nor can the specific titles sent in the largest quantities be identified. The names which recur often on the surviving lists may be assumed to be among the most desired, and chapter IX suggests these seeming favorites, judging by a large number of ship manifests consulted in the Archive of the Indies at Seville.
The seven chapters of case histories are based on a selection of nine representative book lists, all but one from Spanish American repositories. They range from to ; book lists before the earlier date are extremely rare and the few discovered are short and of relatively slight interest. Of the nine, three are fairly long inventories for New Spain, dated and ; five are shorter ones for the viceroyalty of Peru, of , , and ; and one, still shorter but of considerable interest, is from the Philippines, dated Each chapter is based on one or more of these inventories and includes a historical sketch of the social and cultural life of the locality represented, together with an account of the special circumstances relating to the particular book order or shipment.
Because of its exceptional value in giving insight into Mexican intellectual life at the end of the sixteenth century, the list discussed in Chapter XVI is subjected to detailed commentary on all types of literature noted in it.
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As the novel enters an eclipse at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the introduction of Don Quixote into the New World is the climactic event with which the book closes. The whole question of fictional and secular books in the former Spanish colonies has long been beclouded by prejudices engendered by the so-called "Black Legend" of the obscurantism allegedly practiced by Spain in America, and by the antipathies arising from the wars of independence in the early nineteenth century.
It is not the purpose of the present work to transform the denigration of Spanish colonial policies into a "White Legend," but this account of the often denied circulation of books and ideas in viceregal Hispanic America, added to the investigations of others, may help to demonstrate that the true color of the "legend" was something like, perhaps, a light gray. The conviction, which some historical evidence seems to support, that Spanish authorities tried to seal off the colonies from European thought by excluding all books save those of approved orthodox religion still dominates the minds of many; it is almost a dogma which even scholars hesitate to question.
By a somewhat cursory inspection of the ship manifests of the fleets sailing to America in , which he found in the Archive of the Indies at Seville, he proved the exportation of several hundred copies of presumably the first edition of the famous novel. His discovery of these registros thus opened a rich vein for research.
In an important collection of documents, Libros. In the winter of — it was my good fortune to be able to carry forward the researches of Sr. I had photostatic copies made of many of these documents of the last decades of the sixteenth century and the first years of the seventeenth, and I took copious notes of many more. In and again in these archival investigations were continued in Mexico City; also in Lima, Peru, in and , with briefer delvings into similar repositories of Chile, Argentina, and Colombia. These accumulating manuscript materials were first exploited in a short monograph, Romances of chivalry in the Spanish Indies with some registros of shipments of books to the Spanish colonies Berkeley, , which gave the fullest discussion then available of the circulation of light literature in those regions, and reproduced the first group of these curious book lists with a check list of titles.
Subsequent utilization of other documents of this character occurred in a series of articles printed in scholarly journals, chiefly from to In considerably modified form some of the latter and parts of the monograph are incorporated in the present work. Three chapters of this landmark of cultural history are devoted to the question of the circulation of books, and they have done much to shatter the legend of Spanish obscurantism in this respect so long maintained.
Torre Revello's monograph but adds a few book lists for study. This succession of important, docu-. I have a heavy debt of gratitude to acknowledge for help received from numerous institutions and individuals. Subsequent aid from this source continued these efforts in Mexico in Research funds of the University of California assisted in the acquisition of photostatic copies of registros preserved at Seville.
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In the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation bestowed a fellowship enabling me to carry on my investigations in various countries of South America. The editors of the Hispanic Review, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, and the Hispanic American Historical Review, published by the Duke University Press, have kindly given permission to reprint in modified and enlarged form several articles and book lists first published in those journals. XV, No. IX, No. XI, No. VIII, No. XXII, No. XXIV, No. All have undergone revision in this book, varying from slight changes in text to a complete rewriting with the insertion of many new data.
First claim to my gratitude among individuals is held by Guillermo Lohmann Villena, a distinguished young scholar of Peru who made my visits at the National Archive in Lima fruitful by helping me to locate colonial book lists in that repository and later by sending me copies and transcriptions of other inventories that he encountered. The distinguished Spanish paleographer, Dr.
Millares Carlo, rendered similar service in my work in Mexico City. In the difficult and sometimes trying task of identifying the abbreviated titles of works on the colonial lists I have called upon numerous friends and colleagues, including Professors R. Spaulding and C.
Kany of the University of California, and especially Dr. Otis H. Green of the University of Pennsylvania. The entire analysis of the book list contained in chapter XVI is, with slight changes in wording, entirely the work of Dr. Green, who generously authorized its use in this book.
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It appeared originally in the Hispanic Review vol. IX in an article of the same title as the present chapter and under our joint names. For the benefit of their advice and for reading the drafts of some chapters I wish to thank Dr. Earl J. Hamilton of the University of Chicago, Dr. The failure to heed their counsel in some respects will account for some of the book's imperfections. The extraordinary actions and adventures of these men, while they rival the exploits recorded in chivalric romance, have the additional interest of verity.
They leave us in admiration of the bold and heroic qualities inherent in the Spanish character which led that nation to so high a pitch of power and glory, and which are still discernible in the great mass of that gallant people by those who have an opportunity of judging them rightly. Washington Irving . The cause of the killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls by the Christians [i. Of these two quotations inspired by the deeds of the Spanish conquerors in America, the second probably accords more closely with the impression held by the majority of that unnumbered throng who have been stirred by their prodigious feats.
Indeed, its unflattering characterization of these sixteenth-century adventurers remains so firmly established and so pervasive as to partake of the nature of a hallowed tradition which blots out all other considerations. Thus the Spanish conquerors are condemned forever by the evidence of a star witness, a conspicuous countryman who had seen their works. Why, therefore, examine the matter further?
Why regard the Conquistador as anything better than a ruthless brigand? Yet there are good reasons, aside from the obvious special pleading of the great "Apostle of the Indians," to suggest the greater justice of the more dispassionate opinion expressed nearly three centuries later by the North American writer, Washington Irving, in the first quotation.
The Spanish Conquistador, like all other human elements before and after him, was the creature of his own age, molded and conditioned by the contemporary influences of his environment. If in retrospect he appears excessively primitive, fanatic, proud, cruel, and romantic, it is only because he reflected more conspicuously than did other Europeans of his age the dominant traits of his own time and of his Western European culture, and only in this light can he be rightly judged. If indeed he did sin more in these various respects than his neighbors on the Continent, it was mainly because his opportunities and temptations were so much greater than theirs.