Istoria o brevissima relatione della distruttione dell'Indie Occidentali

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Author: Bartolomé "Bartholomaeide Las Casas (1484-1566)

Year: 1626

Publisher: Marco Ginammi

Place: Venice


xvi+154+[2] pages with woodcut printer's device on title-page, woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces. Quatro (8 1/4" x 5 1/2") bound in modern burgundy leather with five raised spine bands with gilt lettering and decoration to spine with gilt ruled edges to coveres and marbled end papers and paste downs.  Translated by Giacomo Castellani, printed in double column with the Spanish and Italian texts side by side.  Ginammi includes a list of his latest publications at the end, on T6r, in which this work is listed.  First Italian translation uses the Spanish text from the 1552 Seville edition, as specified on the title-page. 

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (Spanish: Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias) is an account written in 1542 (published in Seville in 1552) about the mistreatment of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in colonial times and sent to then-Prince Philip II of Spain.

One of the stated purposes for writing the account was Las Casas's fear of Spain coming under divine punishment and his concern for the souls of the native peoples. The account was one of the first attempts by a Spanish writer of the colonial era to depict the unfair treatment that the indigenous people endured during the early stages of the Spanish conquest of the Greater Antilles, particularly the island of Hispaniola. Las Casas's point of view can be described as being heavily against some of the Spanish methods of colonization, which, as he described them, inflicted great losses on the indigenous occupants of the islands. In addition, his critique towards the colonizers served to bring awareness to his audience on the true meaning of Christianity, to dismantle any misconceptions on evangelization. His account was largely responsible for the adoption of the New Laws of 1542, which abolished native slavery for the first time in European colonial history and led to the Valladolid debate.

In 1550, Las Casas debated in Valladolid his views on the American Indians with Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in front of the Spanish court. Sepúlveda, a humanist lawyer born in 1490, was an important figure in the court of Charles V where he served as the Emperor's chaplain and his official historian. In 1544, Sepúlveda wrote Democrates Alter (or, on the Just Causes for War Against the Indians). This became the most important text at the time supporting the Spanish conquest of the Americas and their methods. The text justified theoretically following Aristotelian ideas of natural slavery the inferiority of Indians and their enslavement by the Spaniards. He claimed that the Indians had no ruler, and no laws, so any civilized man could legitimately appropriate them. In other words, Sepúlveda considered the Indians to be pre-social men with no rights or property. The debate, which continued in 1551, reached no firm conclusion; but the court seemed to agree with Las Casas, and demanded a better treatment for the Indians.

The book became an important element in the creation and propagation of the so-called Black Legend – the tradition of describing the Spanish empire as exceptionally morally corrupt and violent. It was republished several times by groups that were critical of the Spanish realm for political or religious reasons. The first edition in translation was published in Dutch in 1578, during the religious persecution of Dutch Protestants by the Spanish crown, followed by editions in French (1578), English (1583), and German (1599) Italian from the 1552 Spanish edition (1626) – all countries where religious wars were raging. The first edition published in Spain after Las Casas's death appeared in Barcelona during the Catalan Revolt of 1646. The book was banned by the Aragonese inquisition in 1659.


Modern Twentieth Century binding. title-page with small paper repair else a very attractive copy. Somewhat scarce only 3 copies in the United States found out OCLC. 


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