Description: Acosta, José de (1540-1600)
Historia Naturale, E Morale Delle Indie; Scritta Dal R.P. Gioseffo Di Acosta Della Compagnia del Giesù; Nellaquale si trattano le cose notabili del Cielo, & de gli Elementi, Metalli, Piante, & Animali di quelle: i suoi riti, & ceremonie: Leggi, & governi, & guerre de gli Indiani. Novamente tradotta della lingua Spagnuola nella Italiana Da Gio. Paolo Galucci Salodiano Academico Veneto. Con Privilegii.
Venice: Bernardo Basa, 1596
Quarto: 21.8 x 15.5 cm. †4, ††4, a-d4, A-Z4, Aa-Tt4, Vv6 (with blank leaf Vv6)
A fresh copy in contemporary vellum. With a small ms. Annotation to the blank margin of the title. There is a fine woodcut printer's device on the title and numerous woodcut ornaments & initials throughout. Excellent.
Location of Origin: Europe
Dimensions: Quarto: 21.8 x 15.5 cm.
Primary Classification: Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Books : Science
Expertise: FIRST ITALIAN EDITION and the second overall edition. Translated by Giovanni Paolo Gallucci. "An invaluable chronicle of the zoological, botanical, meteorological, geophysical, ethnological, anthropological, and sociological marvels that Acosta encountered in his fourteen year sojourn in the Indies." (Burgaleta)
Classic work on the natural history of Latin America. Divided into 7 books on geography, metallurgy, natural history, and the laws, customs and history of the American Indians, it is one of the earliest balanced accounts of the New World. The present Italian translation follows the Spanish edition of 1590. The work grew out of Acosta's 'De natura novi orbis' in 1589. Father José de Acosta (1539- 1600) wrote from first hand knowledge, having spent many years as a Jesuit missionary in Peru and Mexico. Humboldt considered his work a source for the physical geography of America. It is important for the early history of metallurgy, as it describes for the first time the method of treating silver mines with quicksilver in order to extract larger quantities. On the subject of climate, Acosta anticipated Buffon with his theory of attributing the different degrees of heat and cold both in the Old and New Worlds to the agency of the winds. Historically, he is a source for the lives of Cortés and Pizarro.
The "Historia Naturale" includes information on volcanoes and earthquakes, numerous chapters on metals and mining, cultivation of crops and the diet of the Amerindians, cocoa and coca, medicines and drugs, tobacco, and the fauna -both native and introduced- of the New World. The "Historia Moral" describes the religion, politics, government, laws and customs of the people of Mexico, Central and South America, with chapters on the temples of Mexico and the Incan calendar and postal system. Book seven gives a detailed history of Mexico, including a long account of the reign of Monteczuma and the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico.
"This is one of the most celebrated early works on America. It is especially important for its particulars concerning the state of South America at that time, and the early history of the Indians of Peru and Mexico." (Cox)
"José de Acosta was one of the most renowned Spanish Jesuits of his time; he was also one of the most despised. At the age of twelve he ran away from home and entered the Society of Jesus at Salamanca. Before realizing his dream of going to the Indies to save souls, he had acquired a reputation as a fine sacred orator, theologian, and playwright. In 1571 he disembarked in Peru, where he would minister for close to fifteen years. As preacher, theologian, consultor to the inquisition, and confidant of viceroys and bishops he became a luminary of Andean colonial society.
"In 1576, when Acosta was the second provincial superior of the Jesuits in Peru, he made a decision of profound importance for the Society of Jesus and the Church of Latin America. He accepted, from Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, the reduction, or mission, at Juli on the Peruvian shores of Lake Titicaca to minister to the native peoples of that area. Juli became the model for the more famous Jesuit reductions of Paraguay.
"However, Don José is best known for his books. He wrote about the flora, fauna, and culture of the people of the Indies as well as their evangelization. His American trilogy earned him the title of 'Pliny of the New World.'
"The 'Historia Natural' was completed upon Don José's return to Spain in 1587 and first published in 1590 in Spanish. It represents the mature reflection of his American experience after his fifteen-year stint in Peru and Mexico. Originally the parts of these books that dealt with the Andean regions were published in 1589 along with the 'De Procuranda' and made up a separate work called 'De Natura Novi Orbis.'
"The work is made up of seven books, of which one through four deal with various natural phenomena in Peru and Mexico, the 'historia natural'. Thus, books one and two deal with the earth and its relation to the cosmos, while book three examines the constitution of the world by the four primal elements of air, water, earth, fire. Book four moves to more particular considerations and examines the mineral, vegetable, and animal novelties found in the Americas.
their history and political and social organization; this is the 'historia moral'. Books five and six bear a great resemblance to Eusebius of Caesaria's 'Praeparatio Evangelica.' Just as Eusebius chronicled the religions of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Hebrews with apologetic aims for Christianity, Acosta attempts something similar for the Aztecs and Incas. [...]
"Finally, book seven devotes two chapters to the miracles worked by the Trinity in the Americas for the benefit of the faith of the Amerindians. For Acosta these 'miracles' include how God disposed the religious beliefs and social practices of the Amerindians so that Christianity could be easily propagated, in addition to healings and mass conversions occasioned by the actions of Christian missionaries and lay people and to the termination of droughts.
"Some have considered book seven to be simply added on. They see the first six books as following Aristotle's hierarchy or ladder of being, moving from consideration of inanimate creation through the vegetative and animal kingdoms to the zenith of creation, the world of culture created by rational creatures. But read against the backdrop of the 'Spiritual Exercises', the structure of the 'Historia' appears in a new perspective. The final book is in fact the culmination of the 'Historia', central to Acosta's purpose. Presenting here a theological teleology, he is demonstrating that Providence was able to prepare the way for the efficacious preaching of the gospel by using the idolatrous rituals of the Amerindians to prefigure the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus in their own way even the base pagan beliefs and practices helped people to find God."(Claudio Burgaleta, S.J., "Jose de Acosta, S.J.")
De Backer Sommervogel; Adams A128; Alden 596/2; Arents (Tobacco) 35; Bell Library Catalogue A50; BM STC Italian p. 5; JCB III p. 339; Sabin 124; Streit II 1138; cf Field 8-9; Winsor II p. 420; Index Aureliensis 100.461; Palau 1991
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