MARTYR, Peter (1499-1562); Gonzalo Fernández de OVIEDO y Valdés (1478-1557) and Giovanni Battista RAMUSIO (1485-1557)
Summario de la Generale Historia de l'Indie Occidentali
Venice: 1534. 3 parts in one volume, small quarto. (7 7/8 x 5 1/2 inches). 1 folding woodcut map of Hispaniola, 4 woodcut illustrations (3 full-page, 1 half page).
Bound to style in 18th-century dark red morocco, covers bordered in gilt, spine in six compartments with raised bands, ruled in gilt on either side of each band, lettered in the second compartment
Important source for primary material on the New World.
This important collection of voyages and narratives is the work of several authors, although most bibliographers attribute it to Peter Martyr, a translation of whose work makes up the first section. The present volume is one of the first attempts anywhere to assemble a group of accounts of travel and exploration. It was probably assembled for publication by the Venetian, Giovanni Ramusio, later famous for his much larger collection, Navigationi. .., which began publication in 1554.
The Historia... is divided into three books. The first part is made up of material from the Decades of Peter Martyr, drawn from the edition of 1530, the first complete edition to present all eight Decades . The second and most important part is drawn from the first published work of the great historian and chronicler of the early West Indies, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo's De la Natural Hystoria de las Indias (Toledo, 1526). Since that pioneering work of American natural history (which is a completely different book from Oviedo's later Historia GeneraL. ..) is virtually unobtainable today, the present 1534 publication is the only form in which the first work of Oviedo can be had. Oviedo's observations are the first accurate reports of New World plants and animals. He also provides one of the first accounts of Bermuda, where he tried to land while en route to Spain in 1515, only to be driven off by adverse winds. The distinction of being the first obtainable edition is also true of the third part, a translation of an anonymously written tract entitled La Conquista de Peru , first published in Seville, also in 1534, of which only three copies survive. It gives the text of the tract in full. Both are among the first published accounts of the conquest of Peru.
The woodcuts in the text are both drawn from the work of Oviedo and made up by the Venetian printers. They are some of the earliest published images of the New World based on actual experience, as opposed to the fantasies of European woodcut artists. There is also a handsome double-page woodcut map of Hispaniola, an extremely early piece of detailed New World cartography.
Arents 3; Borba de Moraes, pp.531-32; Church 69; European Americana 534/28; Harrisse 190; JCB (3)I:114; Sabin 1565; Streeter Sale 13.