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Book of the week — Idea de una nueva historia general de la america…

Idea de una nueva historia general de la america…
Lorenzo Boturini Benaducci (ca. 1702-1750)
Madrid: Impr. de J. de Zuniga, 1746
First edition
F1219 B75 1746

Lorenzo Boturini Benaducci was the first European to conscientiously collect material documenting a nearly vanished Aztec civilization. The first part of this book is an outline for the history of the Americas.

The second part is Benaducci’s catalogue of his collection of Mesoamerican manuscripts. Authorities in New Spain had confiscated the collection, but he was able to list the pieces from memory.

Benaducci, descended from an aristocratic Italian family, went to Spain in 1733 to avoid political upheaval in Italy. There he met Condess de Santibanéz, a direct descendant of Montezuma. She authorized him to collect a pension due to her from the government of New Spain. In 1736 he arrived at Veracruz, where his ship capsized. He was convinced that he had been saved from death by the miraculous intervention of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He began to collect Mesoamerican documents to prove the authenticity of the Virgin’s numerous miracles. He believed that the most sincere and faithful records of these would be found in the documents of indigenous Mexicans. He learned Nahuatl and traveled several times into the interior of Mexico, gathering native stories about her.

So enamored did he become of the Virgin that he decided to create a tribute to her in the form of a golden, jeweled crown. His solicitations for donations, and a general mistrust of foreigners by New Spain’s civil and ecclesiastical authorities, got him into trouble. The Catholic Church regarded the manuscripts as dangerous. Benaducci was arrested and his collection confiscated. He spent ten months in prison and was then sent back to Spain. His ship was captured by British privateers and his remaining possessions stolen. His captors left him on the shores of Gibraltar from where he walked to Madrid.

He was later absolved of his crimes and appointed official chronicler of the Indies, but he never returned to land of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He died in poverty. His collection in Mexico was scattered among institutions and individuals. A French historian who lived in Mexico between 1830 and 1840 was able to reassemble part of it, and took it to Paris. In 1889 he ran into financial difficulties and sold it to Franco-Mexican Eugène Goupil (1831-1896), who had it cataloged and donated it to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Illustrated with engravings by Franciscan Matías de Irala (1680-1753).

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