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Harkness Collection

Documents relating to colonial Mexico and Peru

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In 1928 and 1929 Edward Stephen Harkness (1874-1940), American philanthropist, presented to the Library of Congress an important collection of documents from the first 200 years of Spanish rule in Mexico and Peru. The Mexican manuscripts (2,939 folios) fall into four categories. The majority were owned for many years by the descendants of the conquistador Hernando Cortés and pertain to the purported Cortés-Avila conspiracy to overthrow the government of New Spain (1566) and to the affairs of Cortés and his family between 1525 and 1565. The other Mexican material consists of denunciations and judicial proceedings conducted by the Inquisition during the third quarter of the sixteenth century and miscellaneous manuscripts ranging in date from 1557 to 1609. The Mexican items are described in a published guide and have been reproduced on microfilm.

The Peruvian manuscripts (1,405 folios) are more varied in character. The greater part of the collection is composed of notarial instruments (1531-1618), original documents which were retained by notaries after copies had been sent to Spain. Other manuscripts include royal minutes and acts of the town councils of Chachapoyas (1538-45) and San Juan de la Frontera de Guamanga (1539-47). Forty-eight documents relating to Francisco Pizarro and his kinsmen and Diego de Almagro and his son, key figures in the Spanish conquest of Peru, have been published with full Spanish texts, translations, and notes. The Peruvian manuscripts are described in a published register and have been reproduced for reference use as enlargement prints. Auxiliary finding aids are available in the Manuscript Division.

Two sixteenth-century manuscript maps donated by Mr. Harkness have been added to the Vellum Chart Collection in the Geography and Map Division.

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  October 14, 2010
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