Don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora: A Mexican Savant of the Seventeenth Century

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Author: Leonard, Irving Albert (1896-1996)

Year: 1929

Publisher: University of California Press

Place: Berkeley


xii+287 pages with frontispiece, folding map, appendix, bibliography and index. (9 1/4" x 6") bound in full leather with four raised spine bands, black label in gilt. First edition.

Don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora (1645-1700) was one of the first great intellectuals born in the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain. He was a Criollo patriot, exalting New Spain over Old. A polymath and writer, he held many colonial government and academic positions. Siguenza entered the Society of Jesus as a novice 1660, took simple vows, 1662 at Tepotzotlan. But he was dismissed from the Jesuits in 1668, for repeatedly flouting Jesuit discipline and going out secretly at night. He repented and pleaded to be reinstated, but the head of the Jesuits, the General of the Order, rejected his plea, saying "The cause of the expulsion of this person is so disreputable, as he himself confesses, that he does not deserve this boon [of being readmitted]". This dismissal was not only a grave disappointment and a blot on his reputation, but it also meant that he would be financially insecure for the rest of this life. He became a secular priest without a parish or a steady income, so the multiple offices he sought during his lifetime were to support himself and his extended family, all of whom, including his father, were dependent on him to the end of his life. He was ordained a secular priest in 1673. He studied at the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico following his dismissal from the Jesuits, and excelled at mathematics and developed a lifelong interest in the sciences. When a faculty position in Mathematics & Astrology was available, he was able to secure it. In 1681 Siguenza wrote the book Philosophical Manifest Against the Comets Stripped of their Dominion over the Timid in which he tried to dismiss fears of impending superstitious predictions that linked comets to calamitous events; in the work he takes steps to separate the fields of astrology and astronomy. In the 1680s, he prepared the first-ever map of all of New Spain, which won high praise and was widely copied. He also drew hydrologic maps of the Valley of Mexico. In 1692 King Charles II named him official geographer for the colony. As royal geographer, he participated in the 1692 expedition to Pensacola Bay, Florida under command of Andres de Pez, to seek out defensible frontiers against French encroachment. He mapped Pensacola Bay and the mouth of the Mississippi: in 1693, he described the terrain in Descripción del seno de Santa María de Galve, alias Panzacola, de la Mobila y del Río Misisipi. Sigüenza had a strong interest in the indigenous past of Mexico and began learning Nahuatl following his dismissal from the Jesuits in 1668. He collected books and other materials related to indigenous culture. At the Hospital de Amor de Dioas Siguenza became a close friend of Don Juan, the son of indigenous nobleman Don Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl. Sigüenza helped Alva Ixtlilxochitl's on Don Juan de Alva with a lawsuit against Spaniards attempting to usurp his holdings near the great pyramids at San Juan Teotihuacan. Don Juan in gratitude for Siguenza's aid, gifted him the manuscripts and codices of his historian father, Don Fernando Alva Ixtlilxochitl. This was a rich collection of documents of his royal ancestors and the kings of Texcoco. In 1668, Siguenza began the study of Aztec history and Toltec writing. On the death of Alva Ixtlilxochitl in 1650, he inherited the collection of documents, and devoted the later years of his life to the continuous study of Mexican history.


Previous owner's name on front pastedown and title, small book dealer stamp on front pastedown, corners and spine ends gently rubbed. Spine title rubbed else a very good copy.

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