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Descripcion de las Yndias del Norte: Herrera y Tordesillas c. 1726

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  • Title: Descripcion de las Yndias del Norte
  • Author: Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas
  • Date: c. 1726
  • Medium: Copperplate engraving
  • Condition: Wide margined, well inked, very pleasing age toning. An excellent example.
  • Inches: 8 x 10 3/4 [Platemark]
  • Centimeters: 20.32 x 27.31 [Platemark]
  • Product ID: 317000

The Enduring Legacy of Herrera y Tordesillas

Eighteenth century re-issue of rare Spanish New World Map, sixth and final plate in this enduring series. Spain jealously guarded the geographic knowledge of its massive New World empire, and rarely allowed general publications depicting the area. Usually only when her ships suffered piracy from those of the other European powers, and Spanish maps and charts were recovered, did Spain contribute meaningful knowledge to the cartography of the New World.

The lack of information on maps such as this one reflected not only the official Spanish position concerning the information it wished shared, but also Spanish priorities in exploration and the consequent lack of interior investigations. Yet Spain did permit some compilation and distribution of information concerning the New World, with the best work done by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, a well educated and capable scholar who had rare access to the archives of Spain as the first official historian of Castile and the Indies. Using great care and discretion, Herrera worked through the voluminous archives that document of the early decades of Spanish discovery and in 1601 published his monumental history of the New World through 1555.  The history included this simple but elegantly engraved map of North America.  An example of Herrera’s circumspection; the only place name to appear in North-Central America is Florida. The geography is largely derived from the manuscript charts of Juan López de Velasco. At least four of these have survived, one resides in the John Carter Brown library, Rhode Island.

Herrera was born in 1559, and after completing his education in Spain, he moved to Italy where he became secretary to Vespasiano de Gonzaga, viceroy of Naples. Herrera’s work led to his appointment by Philip II as historiographer of Castile in the Indies.