The Single Most Important Poem of Spanish American Independence

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473. OLMEDO [Y MARURI], J[osé] J[oaquín de]. La Victoria de Junin Canto a Bolivar, por J.J. Olmedo. Reimpreso en Londres. [title verso & p. 80: Imprenta Española de M. Calero, 17, Frederick Place, Goswell Road], 1826. [1-3] 4-80 pp., 3 engraved plates (including frontispiece portrait of Bolivar). 8vo (16 x 10.5 cm), contemporary three-quarter tan leather over blue and green marbled paper, spine gilt-lettered. Spine lightly rubbed at ends, some edge wear, corners bumped, hinges barely starting. Interior, including plates, fine, with minor stains on frontispiece, original green tissue guards.


Bolivar. Pub. por R. Ackermann, Londres. Sheet size: 14.5 x 9.3 cm. Frontispiece portrait. Bust portrait of Bolivar in uniform; ribboned leaf garland below.

Venganza y Gloria nos Darán los Cielos. Pub. por R. Ackermann, Londres [below image at left] Louis Parez Pinxt. Image size: 10.9 x 7 cm. Sheet size: 14.5 x 9.4 cm. Depicted is Huayna-Cápac, one of the last Incan emperors, who died fighting the Spanish conquistadores in the sixteenth century. The Inca ruler is shown returning from the dead and appears to Bolívar’s troops prophesying defeat of the Spaniards. The title translates: “Heaven Will Grant Us Vengeance and Glory.” Artist Louis Parez (or Lewis Perez) was active from 1820 to 1830, working in London from 1821 to 1823. He specialized in miniature paintings and portraits, a medium well-suited to and masterfully executed in the present work. See Bénézit.

Medalla a Bolivar. Sheet size: 14.5 x 9.3 cm. Illustration of two sides of a medallion struck in Bolivar’s honor: Obverse is an illustration of the Goddess of Victory crowning a warrior with the laurels of Victory. Reverse with text within garland: A Simon Bolivar Libertador de Colombia y del Peru El Congreso de Colombia Año de MDCCCXXV. R. Ackermann was the publisher of this engraving, although the imprint is not on this plate.

     First English edition, revised and expanded from the original edition. Palau 201000. There is also a large paper English edition from the same setting of type and with Ackermnann’s imprint on the medalla plate. The first edition was published at Guayaquil in 1825 (Palau 200997: “Primera edición rara”). Palau calls in error for six plates for the present edition. Despite Palau’s assertion that this edition contains six plates, no copy is known with that plate count. Large and small format editions appeared in Paris in 1826.

     José Joaquín de Olmedo (1780-1847), Ecuadorian poet and patriot, declared the city of Guayaquil independent of Spanish rule in 1820 and was President of the Free Province of Guayaquil until it was united to Gran Colombia by Simón Bolívar against Olmedo’s will. He served as Vice President of Ecuador (1830-1831), and President in 1845, surviving an attempted coup. He departed for London in 1825 and apparently was the impetus for this edition. The epic poem, which may have been composed at Bolívar’s request, is the most famous one by Olmedo and one of his longer ones. The subject is Bolívar’s defeat of the Spanish cavalry at Junín (present-day Peru) on August 6, 1824, where he outmaneuvered and outfought them. The royalists retreated all the way to Cuzco. The battle, though fought totally by cavalry, was significant in demoralizing the Spanish forces and setting up the final decisive Battle of Ayacucho, several months later, which was the contest that finally put an end to Spanish colonies in South America.

     Efraín Kristal, “The Degree Zero of Spanish American Cultural History and the Role of Native Populations in the Formation of Pre-Independence National Pasts” in Poetics Today, Vol. 15, No. 4 (1994), pp. 591-592:

Bolívar’s pragmatic proposals have been controversial since he first made them, but his vision of a fraternal union of Spanish Americans as a single nation has inspired poets from José Joaquín de Olmedo, his contemporary, who wrote the most important poem of Spanish America Independence, to Gabriel García Márquez.... Bolivar was indeed annoyed by the conceit of claiming independence in the name of long lost pre-Columbian kingdoms that informed some patriotic rhetoric. He objected to José Joaquin de Olmedo’s 1825 Oda a la Victoria de Junín...on the grounds that an Inca appears in the poem to thank him, in the name of Aztec emperors and other American natives, for liberating the Indian populations of America. Bolivar found it in bad taste, even allowing for poetic license, to have Indians giving thanks to the descendants of those who had exterminated their own civilization.

     Among the many locations named to honor hero, visionary, revolutionary, and liberator Simón Bolívar is Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, Texas.


Sold. Hammer: $750.00; Price Realized: $918.75.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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