“Among the most important parallel accounts describing the Luna Expedition to Florida”—Clark

Paramount Importance for Early Colonial History of Mexico and the Dominican Missions in America

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113. DÁVILA PADILLA, Agustín. Historia de la Fundacion y discurso de la provincia de Santiago de Mexico de la Orden de Predicadores por las vidas de sus varones insignes y casos notables de Nueva España. Por el Maestro Fray Augvstin Davila Padilla. Al Principe de España Don Felipe nuestro Señor. Edición segunda. Brussels: En casa de Ivan de Meerbeque, 1625. [8], 1-654, [6] pp. (leaf [2M5] missigned as 2M2), printed in double columns, title printed in red and black with copper-engraved Dominican arms on title page (unattributed), engraved decorative headpiece on text p. 1, woodcut decorative initials. Folio (32.2 x 21 cm), contemporary limp vellum, spine lettered in sepia, lacks ties, upper joint cracked, slightly soiled, with evidence of old paper repair on upper hinge. Binding stained and lightened on upper cover, light browning to text, final few lines of verso of final leaf (Index) in skillful manuscript facsimile, contemporary ink ownership inscription erased from title page. Overall a very good copy of a rare work (OCLC locates three copies, all abroad: British Library, Berlin State Library, and SUB Göttingen). With twentieth-century silver printed book label on front pastedown.

     Second and best edition (first edition, Madrid, 1596). Beristain IV, p. 107. Brinton, Notes on the Floridian Peninsula, pp. 41-41. European Americana 1625/62. Medina, Hispano-Americana 784. Palau 68981. Sabin 18780. Streit II:155. Wilgus, p. 46. Clark, Travels in the Old South 24 (the present edition is mentioned in his entry for Priestley’s editing of The Luna Papers relating to the Expedition of Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano for the Conquest of La Florida in 1559-1561, and Clark comments: “The first important steps taken by Spain to protect her empire’s northern frontiers from foreign aggression” and notes that Dávila Padilla’s 1625 book is “among the most important parallel accounts describing the preparations and the expedition itself...pp. 188-229.” See also Ernest J. Burrus, “Religious Chroniclers and Historians: A Summary with Annotated Bibliography” in Handbook of Middle America (Vol. 13), Guide to Ethnohistorical Sources (Part 2), pp. 155-156:

The long title of the chronicle...indicates its purpose: to provide the history of the first Mexican Dominican province through the lives of outstanding missionaries. It is considered a major or key work. The author extends his account from the first coming of the Dominicans to the very eve of his sending his manuscript to Madrid, covering therefore the rich period from 1526 through 1592.

This work is so fundamental for the early Dominican apostolate in New Spain that the other chroniclers of the Order who record the same period drew heavily from it without adding anything really substantial to Dávila Padilla (Ricard, 1933a, p. 13).... He wrote the book in the Indies (New World), and therefore it has that viewpoint. He said that some forty years earlier Fray Andrés de Moger had begun the chronicle, and that it was extended by Fray Vicente de las Casas and Fray Domingo de la Anunciación. These materials were translated into Latin by Fray Tomás Castellar. In 1589 the General Chapter ordered Dávila to collect all the papers and write a history in “Romance,” i.e., Spanish. Because of scarcity of documents it was all the more necessary to get eyewitness accounts from the original persons. He finished the work in 1592, he states, and it was to be printed in Mexico. But the merchant fleet did not appear with the necessary paper, so the manuscript was taken to Spain where “the Lord was served by having it printed.”

The various biographies stress the record of work among Indians, with much information on Native matters. Dávila Padilla, in the spirit of his times and the canons of chroniclers, overemphasizes the unusual and extraordinary, as well as the numerous standard virtues of his biographical subjects. Book 1 deals with Domingo de Betanzos, founder of the province, first Provincial; with Julián Garcés, first bishop of Tlaxcala; with Domingo de la Cruz, Domingo de Santa María, and Louis Cáncer (missionary in Mexico, later Florida, where Natives killed him). Book 2 takes up Bartolomé de las Casas, Tomás del Rosario, Cristóbal de la Cruz, Alonso Garcés, Pedro de Pravía, Domingo de la Anunciación, and Jordán de Santa Catalina.

There are three editions (Dávala Padilla, 1596, 1625, 1955).... The 1955 version is the best. It is a facsimile of the 1625 printed text.

     An invaluable work for the history of the earliest missions to the New World. This book is very desirable for the information it contains about the first century of Spanish settlement in Mexico and includes not only biographies of priests and discussions of their activities, but also extensive dialogue regarding Native Americans, their beliefs and mysticism, their conversion to the Catholic religion, and their Native languages (e.g., p. 31 contains an essay on “Lengua Mexicana dificultosa, y porque”; see also Pilling 995 & 994a). Also included is discussion of the interaction and acculturation of the two cultures as they forged together to make the new culture: Mexico. So thorough was the author that he was criticized for being verbose, to which he responded: “The style of this story has tried some clerics and historians.” The chronicle also contains essential material on Florida (e.g., Chapter L:III, pp. 177-229 “La Provincia a tierra de la Florida,” including a biography of the above mentioned Louis Cáncer, the missionary martyred in Florida, and Florida in general in these early years. This is a most important chronicle of the Dominican order in New Spain and among the early accounts of Florida.

     Davila Padilla (1562-1604), a native Mexican born in Mexico City, graduated from the University of Mexico with the degree of Master of Arts at the age sixteen and soon after entered the Dominican Order. Historian-author, he served as Bishop of Santo Domingo, became an Inquisition official for the Holy Office in Mexico, and was Prior of Puebla. During a journey to Spain he met with Philip II, who was so impressed with his eloquence that he appointed the friar as Archbishop of Santo Domingo and Chronicler of the Indies. The first two editions are rare in commerce. Of this edition, we have located only five at auction in the past thirty years, and three of those were defective. This is the author’s only extant work.


Sold. Hammer: $2,000.00; Price Realized: $2,450.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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