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Collection Hans Peter Kraus Collection of Spanish American Documents, 1433 to 1877

About this Collection

The Hans Peter Kraus Collection of Spanish American Documents, 1433-1877, consists of 162 multipage items (5,950 images) dating mainly from 1500 to 1800, which were digitized from 4 reels of previously produced microfilm. The collection documents the history of the Spanish colonies in the Americas, chiefly Mexico, but also Peru, Guatemala, and New Granada (the present-day countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela), and territories that became part of the United States, including California, Florida, and New Mexico. Topics covered include Spanish exploration of the Americas, laws and governance of New Spain, economic conditions, the Catholic Church, the Inquisition in Mexico, and relations with Native American peoples, France, the American colonies, and the United States.

Among the significant figures represented in the collection are explorers Amerigo Vespucci, Giovanni da Verrazzano, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, Pedro de Ursua, Lope de Aguirre, and Dominique de Gourgues. Others include Bartolomé de las Casas, Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, and viceroys Luis de Velazco the Elder and Antonio de Mendoza.

The Scope and Content Note in the collection’s finding aid (PDF: 173.738KB and HTML versions) provides a more extensive summary, and a catalog, J. Benedict Warren’s Hans P. Kraus Collection of Hispanic American Manuscripts: A Guide, describes each item in detail. The preface to Warren’s guide is also reproduced as an essay on this site.  

The digital scans were originally made for an earlier Web presentation, Parallel Histories: Spain, the United States, and the American Frontier, which was part of the Library’s Global Gateways platform.

The collection is arranged in two series:

Spanish American Documents, 1433-1877 (Reels 1-4)
Letters, decrees, order books, reports, instructions, dispatches, printed material, and miscellaneous legal documents relating to the history of Spanish America.  Arranged numerically by the item number recorded in the guide Hans P. Kraus Collection of Hispanic American Manuscripts by J. Benedict Warren.

Miscellany, 1938-1966 (Not filmed; not scanned)
Notes and printed material of descriptions and partial translations of the collection.  Arranged by type of material and therein numerically by item number.

Hans Peter Kraus (1907-1988)

Hans P. Kraus was a book collector, rare book dealer, and leading figure in the world of rare books and manuscripts. Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1907, he opened his first bookstore there in 1932. In 1938, after escaping detention in the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald, he immigrated to New York, where in 1939 he transplanted his business, H. P. Kraus.

Kraus was a generous benefactor to libraries, making gifts to the Morgan Library and Yale University as well as the Library of Congress. He gave the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress this collection in 1969-1970, and in 1980, he and his wife donated to the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division the Hans and Hanni Kraus Sir Francis Drake Collection.

Kraus’s family ran H. P. Kraus after his death in 1988. Following the shop’s closure in 2003, its stock was purchased by Sotheby’s.