Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Codex Vindobonensis S. N. 1600

Cartas de Relacion de la conquista de la Nueva España Facsimile Edition

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The Cartas de Relación de la Conquista de la Nueva España is a compilation of firsthand accounts of New Spain written by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and other conquerors between 1519 and 1527. Containing five lengthy reports to Emperor Carlos V of the Hapsburg Empire, these narratives record the Spanish conquests and occupation in Mexico. Among these stories is the arrival of Cortés and his troops on the island of Cozumel, reactions to Aztec architecture and culture at Tenochtitlan, expeditions along the Gulf of Mexico, alliance with the Tlaxcala and other peoples of Mexico, and apprehension of Aztec noble, Moctezuma.

This manuscript is comprised of 336 folios of paper bound in parchment, contains Spanish and Latin text, there are no illustrations. The codex is in the collection of Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.

Reporting from the New World

The volume in Österreichische Nationalbibliothek is a compilation of five writings penned in cursive script during an eight-year period while Hernán Cortés made his third expedition to New Spain. Cortés, and other mission principals such as Pedro Alvarado, Francisco Pizarro, Diego Almagro, and Deigo de Godoy, handwrote these reports to be sent to the royal court in Vienna. Along with works authored by Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and Peter Martyr d'Angheria, Cartas de Relación de la Conquista de la Nueva España is considered one of the most important works on sixteen century New Spain.

The first two expeditions of Cortés are narrated in the first letter, dated 1519.

Dated October 30, 1520, the second letter written to Emperor Carlos V, informs the reader of gained alliances with the Tlaxcalans and other ethnic groups in Mexico, destruction of Cholula, Spanish perceptions on arrival at Tenochtitlán, and capture of Aztec leader Moctezuma.

Sent from Coyoacán, now part of Mexico City, in May 1522, the third letter describes how the conquest of Tenochtitlán was carried out. Included in this letter are the names of Spanish military and political leaders.

The fourth letter, written by Cortés in October 1524, outlines expeditions led by others to regions of Mexico such as Oaxaca and Colima, and Hibueras (now Honduras) and Guatemala. A notable aspect of this report is that it asks for Franciscan and Dominican friars to be sent to Mexico.

In the fifth letter of September 1526, also written from Tenchtitlán, Cortés conveys news to the Spanish crown of betrayal by Cristóbal de Olid, leader of the Hibueras expedition. Included in this report are descriptions of meeting with the Chontal and other Maya groups.

Understanding the Physical Volume

The 336 folios of the Cartas de Relación de la Conquista de la Nueva España presents some challenges. The first four letters begin with the verso of the second page and end at page 212r. Folios 229r through 287r contain the fifth letter.

Other documents related to the expeditions to New Spain as well as blank folios also appear in the volume. Commonly known as Prima Relación, or First Letter, it has the actual title Carta de las Justica y Regimiento de la Rica Villa de la Vera Cruz a la Reina Doña Juana y al Emperador Carlos V, su Hijo, en 10 julio de 1519. It was not written by Hernán Cortés, but is a notary copy from a commission in Vera Cruz. Even though a first letter is referred to in the body of the second letter, the Prima Relación of this manuscript is not the letter indicated in the second report. The location of the actual Prima Relación is not known.

Long Provenance of Many Owners

According to a 1965 catalog of manuscripts in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, the Cartas de Relación de la Conquista de la Nueva España, was in the royal court library by 1576. It bears the signature of Hugo Blotius, who became the librarian of the Hapsburg Imperial Library in 1575. In 1865 it was given to Maximilian I of Mexico by Emperor Franz Joseph I. Before his execution, Maximilian I presented the manuscript to his physician, Dr. Samuel Basch. Later it became the property of Mexican historian Manual Orozco y Berra. Eventually, it was part of the collections of Alfredo Chavero and Don Gilberto Crespo y Martinez, nephew of Chavero and Mexican envoy to Vienna. After the death of Crespo y Martinez in 1911, it was sold by Joseph Mayer, his chauffeur, to the court library.

The recto of the blank leaf in the front of the volume bears several signatures and numbers written in pencil.

Binding description

The Cartas de Relación de la Conquista de la Nueva España is bound in parchment. Three parchment bands hold the text block into the binding. A parchment button attached to the front flange allows for closure with a parchment loop attached to the back cover. Brief Latin and Greek texts with sixteen and seventeenth-century dates appear on the binding exterior. The restoration took place in 1951.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Cartas de Relacion de la conquista de la Nueva España": Cartas de Relacion de la conquista de la Nueva Espana facsimile edition, published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1960

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Manuscript book description compiled by Miranda Howard.
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Cartas de Relacion de la conquista de la Nueva Espana

Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 1960

  • Commentary (English abstract, German) by Stummvoll, Josef; Gibson, Charles; Unterkircher, Franz
  • This is a partial facsimile of the original document, Cartas de Relacion de la conquista de la Nueva España: the facsimile might represent only a part, or doesn't attempt to replicate the format, or doesn't imitate the look-and-feel of the original document.

The facsimile (black and white, 270 x 370 mm.) is in the same size as the original document. The pages are represented on a larger white background. The edition features both facsimile and commentary in one volume. The commentary is interspersed within the facsimile pages. The volume includes a short bibliography.


Half leather.

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