First Publication of Casas’ Breve relación in Mexico

—Meant to Foment Revolution

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

70. CASAS, Bartolomé de las. Breve relación de la destrucción de las Indias Occidentales. Presentada a Felipe II. Siendo Principe de Asturias. Por Don Fray Bartoleme de las Casas, del Orden de Predicadores, Obispo de Chiapa. Impresa en Sevilla, reimpresa en Lóndres, en Filadelfia y en México, en la oficina de Don Mariano Ontiveros, año de 1822 [colophon at end: En la Librería de Recio portal de mercaderes, se balla á seis reales en Indio Esclavo por el mismo F. Bartolomé de las Casas]. [Mexico, 1822]. [2], [1-2] 3-164 pp., copper-engraved illustrated title (Destruccion de las Indias Occidentales por D.F. Bartolome de las Casas) by Luís Montes de Oca (Mexican eagle on cactus at lower center; two female figures holding vases of flowers intertwining to create border). 12mo (14.7 x 10 cm), contemporary dark brown suede, title gilt-lettered diagonally on spine, edges sprinkled, original pink endpapers. Binding rubbed, spine and extremities chipped. Interior very good, except for occasional light staining and browning, engraving excellent and strong, with old sepia ink stamp at bottom of José e Hijos. Watermark is lily and crown; countermark is JN B Hijo. Very rare edition (no copies for sale and none at auction in the past thirty years).

     First Mexican edition, same text as the 1821 Philadelphia edition, but with the added beautifully engraved title by Luis Montes de Oca; errors in text corrected; wording on title changed from: “Impresa en Sevilla, reimpresa en Londres, ahora in Filadelfia”; addition of publisher’s note at end. Both editions have 164 pages. Palau 46951 bis. Sabin 39114. The first edition of this work was printed at Seville in 1552. The text was reprinted numerous times in Europe and England, including an edition in Spanish printed in London in 1812, from which the first U.S. edition was printed in Philadelphia in 1821 by Juan F. Hurtel (see Sabin 11236 and American Imprints 1821 #4926 & #5790). The text of the present Mexico 1822 edition was reset from the copy used by publisher Juan F. Hurtel for the 1821 Philadelphia edition, with only the few minor changes documented above. For another edition of this work—the first illustrated edition (Frankfurt, 1598)—see preceding entry.

     Sabin notes that the work was “produced under the supervision of Dr. [José Servando Teresa] de Mier [Noriega y Guerra].” The present work is one of the most interesting editions of Casas’ writings. After Mier escaped Spanish authorities at Havana, he made his way to Philadelphia, then a hotbed of Latin American revolutionary activity, and published this little book containing Casas’ first tract, delivered in 1542 to the King and his councils. It is divided into nineteen articles, each portraying in detail the condition of the Indians in the Spanish American provinces, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela, Florida, New Spain, etc.

     This edition is set against the background of the wars of independence then raging against Spain in Mexico, Central, and South America. Courageous and intelligent Mier had served his time (literally and figuratively) on account of his fiery enthusiasm for Mexico’s attaining her independence. In 1816 he accompanied the Mina Expedition to the Texas coast, where Samuel Bangs created the first Texas imprints (Streeter 1 & 2). In the present work Mier takes up Casas’ mantra, accusing the Spaniards of again resorting to cruelties and atrocities in the present wars, just as they did in La Conquista. This edition thus serves as a reminder to those fighting for their independence that they, just as did the original natives, are fighting a cruel, implacable foe. In the end, he holds up Casas as a guiding light (p. 30):

¡Americanos! La estatua de este santo falta entre nosotros. Si sois libres, como ya no lo dudo, la primera estatua debe erigirse al primero y mas antiguo defensor de la libertad de América. Alrededor de ella formad vuestros pactos y entonad á la libertad vuestros canticos; ningun incienso puede serle mas grato. Yo le pondria esta ó semejante inscripcion.

Pára, si amas la virtud,
Pasagero: esta es su imágen:
Venera a Casas, que fué
De nuestros Indios el Padre.

     An edition certainly as socially significant when it appeared as were Casas’ original publications, although here the editor turns Casas on his head by seeking to excite resistance rather than urging reforms in Spanish behavior. Fiercely suppressed by the Mexican Inquisition, this work of Casas appeared in Mexico for the first time in the present edition—270 years after its first printing.

     For more on the engraver, see Mathes, La Ilustración en México colonial, p. 139: “Luis Montes de Oca, a relative of José María...produced religious allegories in 1816 and 1821.” See also Romero de Terreros, Grabados y grabadores en la Nueva España, p. 503.


Sold. Hammer: $800.00; Price Realized: $980.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: