Colonial Perspectives: Works from the Louise Bulkeley Dillingham Collection

Libro Primo de la Conquista del Peru (1535)

Libro primo de la Conquista del Peru 1/6

The title page is emblazoned with the coat of arms of the Emperor Charles V, to whom Xerez dedicated the text. The arms are shown over the crowned double-headed Habsburg eagle, which rests its talons one a scene that represents the earth. On either side are the Pillars of Hercules that bear Charle's personal motto Plus Ultra or Further Beyond. (Click image above for a detailed view of all of the images featured on this page.)

Francisco López de Xerez. Libro primo de la Conquista del Peru & provincia del Cuzco de le Indie occidentali. Translated by Domingo de Gaztelu. Venice: Stampato per S. da Sabio, 1535.

Francisco López de Xerez (or Jerez) (1497- c.1565) was a Spanish conquistador and acted as secretary to Francisco Pizarro in 1524, during his fateful expedition to the Andes. Xerez witnessed the conquest of the Incan empire and many of its most famous events, including the battle at Cajamarca, Pizarro’s capture, and the execution of the Incan emperor Atahualpa. In 1534 Xerez returned to Spain, settling in Seville where he married and became a prominent merchant in the city’s growing maritime trade with the Spanish colonies. Towards the end of his life he sought approval and material support from the Council of the Indies in order to return to the viceroyalty of Peru with his family, but it is unclear whether he ever did so or if he in fact died in Seville.

Xerez published the Verdadera Relación de la Conquista del Perú y Provincia del Cuzco in Seville in 1534 upon his return to Spain and dedicated the text to Emperor Charles V. It was one of the earliest chronicles of Pizarro’s conquests, and was possibly written in response to the interest shown La Conquista del Perú Llamada la Nueva Castilla published in Seville by the conquistador Cristóbal de Mena a few months earlier. Xerez’s work offers a rare first hand glimpse into Andean culture prior to European contact and is a major source of information about the Incan empire. It also provides insight into the character of Pizarro and his family, who were pivotal figures in the Spanish conquest. 

Xerez’s chronicle quickly became a success and replaced de Mena’s text in popularity. A second edition was published in Salamanca in 1547, and further editions followed. Bryn Mawr College owns an edition translated into Italian, printed in Venice in 1535.

 

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It was translated by Domingo de Gaztelu, a native of Tudela, Spain, who was living in Venice and was employed as the secretary to Charles V's ambassador to the Venetian republic. Domingo de Gaztelu dedicated the Italian translation to the Doge of Venice, Andreas Gritti, a political ally of Charles V. Gritti's arms appear before the dedication, labeled on either side by his initials "A." and "G.".

Sources:

  • Concepción Bravo and Francisco de Xerez. Verdadera Relación De La Conquista Del Perú. Madrid: Historia 16, 1985.