Conquista de las Islas Malucas.
Conquista de las Islas Malucas.

Conquista de las Islas Malucas.

Madrid: Alonso Martin, 1609.

Small folio, pp. [12], 407 [i.e. 411]; eighteenth-century stiff parchment.

The "Spanish Hakluyt" Herrera's annotated copy of Argensola's classic work on the western Pacific

A remarkable and very important association copy of this great book, by a figure whose circle of literary colleagues included both Cervantes and Lope de Vega; the 'essential work for the history of Spanish and Portuguese exploration in the East Indies' (Hill catalogue), this copy belonged to and was heavily and critically annotated throughout by Argensola's contemporary and rival author, the chronicler Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559-1625). While the book is a crucial source for the history of the Spanish in Asia and the East Indies, the combination of the text as printed with the extensive manuscript remarks by its important and critical reader are testament to a far-reaching debate about the writing of history and the role of the chronicler with regard to patriotic obligations.

A remarkable and very important association copy of this great book, by a figure whose circle of literary colleagues included both Cervantes and Lope de Vega; the 'essential work for the history of Spanish and Portuguese exploration in the East Indies' (Hill catalogue), this copy belonged to and was heavily and critically annotated throughout by Argensola's contemporary and rival author, the chronicler Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (1559-1625). While the book is a crucial source for the history of the Spanish in Asia and the East Indies, the combination of the text as printed with the extensive manuscript remarks by its important and critical reader are testament to a far-reaching debate about the writing of history and the role of the chronicler with regard to patriotic obligations.

Herrera's distinctive hand here matches the annotations in a manuscript of Francisco Cervantes de Salazar's 'Crónica de la Nueva España' (MSS/2011 at the Biblioteca Nacional de España; see Richard L. Kagan, Clio and the Crown: The Politics of history in medieval and early modern Spain, Baltimore, 2009, pp. 175-6) as well as the specimen included in Mariano Cuesta Domingo's Antonio de Herrera y su Historia General del Mundo (Madrid, 2016, vol. I, p. lxxxix).

Interestingly, Kagan remarks that 'the care and attention Herrera paid to Cervantes de Salazar's manuscript [showed] the manner in which he read and used other authors' to compile his own works. This assessment is borne out here, where Herrera's meticulousness in analysing the text demonstrates his own wide knowledge of early European exploration in the western Pacific and, more importantly, a clearly-defined understanding of the role of the historian or chronicler, when writing accounts such as Argensola's and the several works he himself composed.

This exceptionally interesting book later belonged to the Spanish diplomat and Enlightenment figure, José Nicolás de Azara (1730-1804), a considerable collector, patron of the arts, and scholar (his annotated edition of Garcilaso de la Vega's poetry, for example, was published in 1765 in Madrid).

Herrera

Herrera, the most learned historian in the Spanish speaking world, was appointed Chronicler General of the Indies in 1596 and of Castile in 1598 serving the series of Spanish Habsburg monarchs Philip II, III and IV. With his privileged and unrestricted access to the archives and to primary sources of information, including reports from the adelantados (administrators of the far-flung Spanish colonial possessions) and the often unpublished manuscript accounts of expeditions, he was the "Spanish Hakluyt", writing a number of important and frequently re-published works on the history of Spain and its empire, most notably the Descripción de las Indias Occidentales (Madrid, 1601), the Historia General del Mundo (3 vols., Madrid, 1601-12) and his most significant work, one of the primary accounts of the early Spanish conquest of the New World, the Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Océano (4 vols., Madrid, 1601-15) also known as the Decades.

Argensola

Argensola, poet as well as chronicler, belonged to the literary establishment of Spain's Golden Age which included such figures as Cervantes, Francisco de Quevedo, and Lope de Vega. Unsurprisingly then, his Conquista de las Islas Moluccas was quite literary in style. He placed the Spanish push against the Dutch in the Moluccas within the wider context of European exploration, beginning with its earliest days. His account is considered to have added 'significantly to the stockpile of information on Asia, especially on the Moluccas, Java, Sumatra, and Ceylon. His book also ties together neatly the affairs of Europe with struggles in the overseas areas, for he sees the spice trade in its world-wide ramifications and makes his reader acutely aware of its immediate and potential interest for Japan and China' (Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, III p. 312). It is 'an essential work for the history of Spanish and Portuguese exploration in the East Indies' (Hill).

The writing of chronicles

Argensola's Conquista as annotated by Herrera exemplifies the debates not only about the significance of events during the initial years of European exploration and conquest in the western Pacific, but also about the discipline of writing up such events and the role of the chronicler in creating a historical record. Argensola and Herrera represent two contrasting viewpoints – which, as Kagan demonstrates in his Clio and the Crown, greatly preoccupied their contemporaries in the seventeenth century. It was a debate which would continue into the eighteenth century (see Jorge Cañizares-Esquera, How to Write the History of the New World, Stanford, 2002), while vestiges of the issue still influence history-writing today.

Herrera's remarks

Herrera's annotations are very extensive: about 340 in number, they range from single words to long or sometimes multiple sentences. They include his objections to Argensola's literary manner, in conflict with the nature of a chronicle; to superfluous content; to content which fails to glorify Castilian achievement; to praise of the achievements of other nations; to the inclusion of topics not directly related to the discussion, like natural history or native politics; to the inclusion of long history of the Dutch in the Moluccas; to the inclusion of too much about matters relating to the Philippines, India, Japan and China; to being too concise on topics that would highlight Castilian achievements; to failing to discuss the Chinese population in the Philippines in detail; to not being as good as Antonio de Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Mexico, 1606); to breaking the Conquista up by subject into ten different books and forgoing a chronological narrative; to a general meanness probably the consequence of Argensola's Aragonese rather than Castilian origins; to preferring Portuguese over Castilian accounts, for example of the Magellan voyage, showing 'the malice and the poison of the Portuguese as well as his own as an Aragonese'.

We will be happy to supply on request a 30-page schedule of Herrera's annotations, as well as a very much more detailed cataloguing and analysis.

Provenance: Antonio Herrera y Tordesillas (1559-1625); José Nicolás de Azara (1730-1804), item 154 in his sale of 1806.

Alden 609/65; Hill, 1006; Kraus, Drake, 33; JCB (3) II 61; Lach, III, pp. 311-2; Medina, BHA 551; Medina (Philippines) 48; Palau, 16089; Retana, 67; Sabin 1946; Salva, 3349; Steele, pp. 120-21.

Price (AUD): $195,000.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504611

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