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The first printed history of Mexico, and the first appearance of the name "California" to describe the West Coast of North America

Primera y segunda parte dela historia general de las Indias contodo el descubrimiento y cosas notables que han acaecido dende que se ganaron ata el an虄o de 1551. con La co虄quista de Mexico y de la Nueua Espan虄a.
Miguel Capila,
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Two parts in one volume. First edition. Small folio (302 by 205mm). Gothic letter, two columns, woodcut title to part one printed in red and black, large woodcut of the arms of Cortes on title to part two, woodcut initials, two woodcut maps showing the new and the old world, woodcut of a bison on cxvi verso in part one, 262 leaves, 5 leaves (ai-iiii and ci supplied in facsimile), title, maps, and first few leaves with damage to sheet edges with small areas of loss skilfully repaired with reinstatement in ink facsimile, fiiii, gii, and miiii with small tear at foot, folio liii recto with the word "ygualar" without the cancel slip recorded on the copy at JCB, tiiii torn at lower right corner in first part, biiii, gii, and tiiii with small tears in second part, one line of text on verso of folio lvi in second part corrected by means of a printed overslip "narvaez" not previously recorded by other bibliographers, this example without the printed overslip on folio xxxvii noted on several previous examples. Contemporary vellum over boards, rebacked.


[4]; a(4) (supplied in facsimile); b-z(4, with ci in facsimile); A-G(4); a-z(4); A-M(4).


The first printed history of Mexico, the first appearance of the name "California" in print to describe the West Coast of North America, the first Spanish map to depict the entire American continent, and the first Spanish printed map to show the West Coast of North America.

L贸pez de G贸mara (1511-c1559) served as Cort茅s' chaplain and secretary from 1540, when the Conquistador returned to Spain. Although he himself had never been to the Americas, the author had ready access to primary source materials from his patron and others.

G贸mara organized the work in two parts, the first of which contains a dissertation on world geography, location of the Indies, Columbus' discoveries, colonization of Hispaniola and Peru. The second part presents Cort茅s' biography, the Conquest of Mexico, Cort茅s' travels to Cuba, Santo Domingo, Honduras, and his trips back to Mexico, the Francisco de Ulloa in 1539, and Juan Rodr铆guez Cabrillo in 1542. The second part also includes descriptions of the indigenous population in Mesoamerica at the time of the conquest.

Each part stands alone as a distinct work. The book was first published in 1552 (known only by a single example held in John Carter Brown Library), and was almost immediately suppressed by an order of the Crown, dated November 17, 1553, requiring that all copies be seized and returned to the Consejo Real, and imposing a penalty of 200,000 maravedis on anyone who should reprint it. This was probably the reaction of the Crown to the claims of the Cort茅s family regarding their rights in Mexico, and G贸mara's hagiography ran contrary to its purposes. Despite this, the work soon became widely known and was published in Paris, Venice, Rome, Antwerp, and London.

"G贸mara's history is a good history; he derived his information from the highest sources, and he wrote with an elegant brevity and a sense of arrangement that contrasted favourably with the rambling incoherencies of many of his contemporaries. Small wonder it was a favourite book of the time" (Boies Penrose).

The work is of particular Californian interest as it records Cort茅s' expeditions to the western coast, the discovery and naming of California, (the first appearance of the name "California" in print (fol cxvii, verso)), the Ulloa voyages along the coast of Upper California, the preliminary journey to C铆bola of Fray Marcos de Niza, and the expedition to the fabled Seven Cities by Francisco V谩zquez de Coronado. "Despite the fact that the cartography is very simple, with just a few placenames, it does show a remarkably accurate west coast of North America. 'C. de Vallenas' represents a misspelt Ballenas, or Cape of Whales. The far reaching voyage of Jacques Cartier up the St. Lawrence River is also illustrated" (Burden).

Rare. We are aware of examples in the following institutions BnF, Madrid, Harvard, Huntington, JCB, Lilly, Newberry, Princeton, UVA, NYPL.


The Celebrated Library of Boies Penrose Esq, sale catalogue, (London: Sotheby's, 1971); J.C. Brown I, pp.175-176; Burden 18; Church 97; W. Michael Mathes, 'Historiography of the Californias: Imprints of the Colonial Period, 1552-1821', California State Library Foundation Bulletin 72 (2002) 1n; Palau IV, 264; Sabin 27724; Shirley, World, 94; Henry Wagner, The Spanish Southwest 1542 1794: An Annotated Bibliography, reprint, (Staten Island: Martino, 1997), 2.