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

Overview and Significant Items

This overview and guide to selected significant items in the Kraus Collection is reproduced from the preface on pages vii-viii of J. Benedict Warren’s Hans P. Kraus Collection of Hispanic American Manuscripts: A Guide (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1974).

The Hans P. Kraus Collection is made up of a select group of manuscripts relating directly or indirectly to colonial Spanish America. It is varied in nature and in origin, with materials concerning many different aspects of colonial life and administration. The majority of the items pertain to the history of colonial Mexico, although there are important items concerning other regions.

The items fall into several related groups. Items 1-116 are a collection of royal decrees and other related papers concerned primarily, though not exclusively, with the Church in Mexico. They fall within the 16th century, except for items 105-116, which date from 1607-09 and 1648-60. Six items pertain to the Inquisition in New Spain (items 145, 149, 151, 155, 159, and 160). Other items concerning the Church in New Spain are item 153, on the Cruzada; item 154, on an election scandal in the Dominican Order; and item 157, on the proposal to construct a new church in Otatitlan.

Several items deal with explorers of America and/or their families: Amerigo Vespucci (items 118-119), Giovanni da Verrazzano (item 121), Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (item 122), and Pedro de Ursúa and Lope de Aguirre (items 141-143).

The history of the pre-Spanish period in Mexico is represented by the Crónica mexicana of Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc, written toward the beginning of the 17th century (item 117).

Seventeen important documents concerning the general civil administration of the Spanish Indies during the 16th century are contained in a bound volume (items 123-139). These are especially important because of the light they throw on the preparation of the New Laws of 1542 and the reaction of the colonists to them. Various aspects of viceregal administration are covered in item 140, an order book of Viceroy Luis de Velasco the Elder; item 150, royal instructions to Diego Benavides y de la Cueva as Viceroy of Peru; item 161, the instruction of the Viceroy of New Granada, Pedro de Medinueta y Múzquiz, to his successor in office; and item 162, six monthly reports of Juan Rúiz de Apodaca, Viceroy of Mexico, to the Spanish secretary of state and war. Items 146 and 147 pertain to local civil administration in Tepeaca and Yucatán respectively.

There are four items relating to the history of Spanish Florida: item 144, a collection of manuscript materials regarding Dominique de Gourgues and his family; item 148, a volume of 27 documents pertaining to Pedro de Céspedes y Vallejo, a soldier who served in Florida; item 152, a letter of Diego Quiroga y Losada, governor of Florida; and item 156, a treatise by Antonio de Arredondo on Spanish claims to Georgia.

Two appeals for royal favor are included. Item 120, by a descendant of Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia, incorporates the latter’s relation of his services to the crown in the conquest of Mexico. The background of the Iturrates, a Basque family of Ica, Peru, is given in item 158, together with their royal patent of Basque hidalguía.

In preparing the following descriptive catalog of the collection, an effort has been made to locate and cite published versions of the documents, but there has been no attempt to give cross-references to related material in print or in manuscript, which is often quite extensive. This task is left to those scholars who undertake to publish individual items. Editorial comment on the value and importance of the documents within the literature has been avoided.

I wish to acknowledge the work of Richard Boulind, who prepared the preliminary descriptions of the manuscripts for Mr. Kraus. In the case of the manuscripts written in 16th-century Italian and French, I have depended entirely upon his notes for the description of their contents. In all cases his work has been of great help. I wish also to express my gratitude to the members of the Latin American, Portuguese, and Spanish Division, the Manuscript Division, and the General Reference and Bibliography Division, Library of Congress, for their assistance. Particular thanks are due to the late Howard F. Cline for general direction of the project and to my wife Patricia S. Warren for the indexing.

J. Benedict Warren