Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana e Islas de Tierra Firme

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Author: Duran, Diego (c1537-1588)

Year: 1867-1880

Publisher: Imprenta de Ignacio Escalante

Place: Mexico City


3 volumes: xvi+535 pages; 305+[1]-177 pages with Explanation of the Codice Geroglifico of Mr Aubin by Alfred Chavero; 65 full-page engravings drawn from the Duran and Aubin manuscript, collates [1-32]+[1-10]+[1a]+[11a]+[2a-6a]+Aubin Codex [1a-16a]. Large Quarto (11 3/4" x 8 3/4") bound in original publisher's wrappers and housed in three cloth enclosures. Introduction and atlas by Jose F Ramirez. First edition.

In the final quarter of the sixteenth century, Diego Duran compile an account of the history and religious-ritual system of the natives of late pre-Hispanic Central Mexico that is one of the richest resources for the study of Meosamerica's past. The Dominican friar's comprehensive reconstruction of Mexica culture is contained in his only known extant work, the Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espana e Islas de la Tierra Firme. This chronicle is composed of three tratados: 1) the "Libro de los Ritos" (completed in c1576); 2) the "Calendario Antiguo" completed in 1579); and 3) the "Historia" (completed in 1581). The lengthiest of the three tratados is the "Historia", a detailed history of the Mexica from their entry into the Valley of Mexico to the end of the Spanish conquest. Duran noted that the major source he employed for the "Historia", a Nahuatl history, regrettably lost, which he referred to as the "histoira" and "Historia mexicana", only treated affairs relating directly to Tenochtitlan. In addition to his high regard for the information contained in the "historia mexicana", explanations for Durán's use of this Nahuatl chronicle can be found in his goals of authorship. Durán balanced the largely unflattering picture of the natives he painted in the "Libro de los Ritos" and "Calendario Antiguo" with an altogether different canvas created from his remarks in the Historia; the cowardly, brutish pagans depicted in the former two works frequently yield in the Historia to valiant warriors and builders of a civilization whose fame he had hoped to preserve through his writing. Durán attempted this balance to show more than an "innate goodness". Rather, by illustrating the glories and achievements of the native past, Durán sought to demonstrate the natives' rationality, and in so doingwas echoing the general tenor of the ideological school of which he was a part, and its great Dominican head master, Bartolomé de las Casas. Fray Diego noted that he had argued with other Spaniards who asserted that the natives were irrational beings in that they lived as beasts with no apparent harmony or order. He explained that these opinions could be discounted by an analysis of native history that clearly would show in his judgement that "no ha habido gente en el mundo, ni nación que con tanto concierto y orden y pohcía viviese en su infidelidad, como esta nación" and who were, axiomatically, rational. It would seem that Durán would have presented a more balanced history of pre-contact Central Mexico in his Historia, as he once expressed the desire to do, had his orientation been essentially historical rather than devotional. The Historia can, thus, be interpreted as having been conceived by Durán principally to serve the doctrinal goals of demonstrating the natives' rationality and advancing proselytism.

The Duran Codex was unpublished until the 19th century, when it was found in the Library of Madrid by Jose Fernando Ramirez. Duran's work has become invaluable to archaeologists and others studying Mesoamerica. Although there are few surviving Aztec codices written before the Spanish conquest, the more numerous post-conquest codices and near-contemporary works such as Duran's are invaluable secondary sources for the interpretation of archaeological theories and evidence.


The Volume I wrapper edges chipped and some light foxing to first few pages, unread with folds yet to be separated, spine taped. Volume II wrapper chipped. Atlas volume which has become quite scarce because of a flooded basement of the printer wholly destroyed many copies and others were made up of the remaining, often with damaged leaves. A near fine set internally except for the Atlas volume.

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