The True History of the Conquest of Mexico, By Captain Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of the Conquerors. Written in the year 1568
Publisher: Printed for J Wright by John Dean
viii+514 pages with frontispiece map. Quarto (10 1/2" x 8 3/4") housed in a custom slipcase. Translated by Maurice Keatinge. First English edition.
Bernal Diaz del Castillo was a conquistador, who wrote an eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards under Hernan Cortes, himself serving as a rodelero under Cortes. Born in Medina del Campo (Spain), he came from a family of little wealth and he himself had received only a minimal education. He sailed to Cuba in 1514 to make his fortune, but after two years found few opportunities there. Much of the native population of the island had already been killed by epidemics and forced labor, and in 1517 an expedition was sent to the smaller Caribbean islands to find alternative sources of labor. Diaz joined this group, under the command of Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba. It was a difficult venture, and although they discovered the Yucatan coast, by the time the expedition returned to Cuba they were in disastrous shape. Nevertheless, Diaz returned to the coast of Yucatan the following year, on an expedition led by Juan de Grijalva, with the intent of exploring the newly discovered lands. Upon returning to Cuba, he enlisted in a new expedition, this one led by Hernan Cortes. In this third effort, Diaz took part in one of the legendary military campaigns of history, bringing an end to the Aztec empire in Mesoamerica. During this campaign, Diaz spoke frequently with his companions in arms about their experiences, collecting them into a coherent narration. The book that resulted from this was Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva Espana (English: The True History of the Conquest of New Spain. In it he describes many of the 119 battles in which he claims to have participated, culminating in the fall of the Aztec Empire in 1521.
As a reward for his service, Diaz was appointed governor of Santiago de los Caballeros, present-day Antigua Guatemala. He began writing his history in 1568, almost fifty years after the events described, in response to an alternative history written by Cortes's chaplain, who had not actually participated in the campaign. He called his book the Verdadera Historia (True History), in response to the claims made in the earlier work. Diaz died in 1585, without seeing his book published. A manuscript was found in a Madrid library in 1632 and finally published, providing an eye-witness account of the events, often told from the perspective of a common soldier. Today it is one of the most important sources in understanding the campaign that led to the collapse of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
Spine renewed with new period spine label and original boards which the corners and edges are heavily rubbed, some foxing to early pages. Frontispiece map repaired. Custom made red slipcase with Japanese toggles and leather spine label in gilt lettering else about a very good copy in a near fine case.
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