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Parallel Histories

The Library of Congress has relaunched its bilingual, multiformat English-Spanish digital library site devoted to Spanish exploration and settlement in North with new, easier-to-use navigation, better graphics and more information.

Carta confirmatoria de hidalguía Map of California shown as an island

The project, a cooperative effort between the National Library of Spain and the Library of Congress, covers the 15th to the early 19th centuries and is part of the Global Gateway initiative to build digital library partnerships with national libraries around the world.

"Parallel Histories: Spain, the United States and the American Frontier"explores the history of the Spanish presence in the territories now part of the United States, from the first voyage of Columbus in 1492 to the exploration and settlement of California and the American Southwest in the early 19th century. It is intended for use by schools, libraries and the general public worldwide. Its objective is to present important primary source materials online -- maps, manuscripts, rare books, prints, photographs and other materials -- relating to the history of Spain and Spain's role in the exploration, settlement and development of North America.

The project grew out of a landmark agreement that was concluded in Seville in October 1999 by the Institución Colombina and the Library of Congress. The agreement established a digital collaboration aimed at making available to students, researchers, and lifelong learners unique documents from the cultural heritage of Spain and the United States. This initial step was followed by the conclusion of a collaborative agreement between the Library of Congress and the National Library of Spain. The agreement was signed on Feb. 24, 2000, on the occasion of the visit to Washington of King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía of Spain at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

"Parallel Histories" includes some 55,000 images from the rare book, manuscript, map and print collections of the Library of Congress and the National Library of Spain. Among the items available on the site are Columbus' letter of 1493 describing his first voyage to the New World; "Naufragios" ["Shipwrecked"], the account of the eight-year trek in the 1520s and 1530s by Alvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca from Florida to Mexico; Villagra's Historia de Nueva Mexico, the first Spanish history of New Mexico; and manuscript items from the Hans P. Kraus Collection of Hispanic American Manuscripts relating to Arredondo, Las Casas, Verrazano, Vespucci and others. The site also includes rare maps showing the voyages and discoveries of De Soto, Coronado, Father Eusebio Kino, Father Junipero Serra, and other prominent Spaniards.

"Parallel" histories joins other international Web sites in Global Gateway: Russia, Brazil, the Netherlands and France.

A. Sebastian Vizcaino, [Carta confirmatoria de hidalguía], 1600. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Reproduction information: Call No.: HT653.M6 V5 1600. Contact:

B. Joan Vinckeboons, [Map of California shown as an island], ca 1650. Geography and Map Division. Reproduction information: Call No.: G3291.S12 coll .H3 Vault : Harr vol. 2, map. 10