Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert: Book II, Preface

The second book of the General and Natural History of the Indies begins.


Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

In order for this extensive natural and general history of the Indies to be fully understood, it would be helpful to differentiate between my books; and I intend to use the Preface or beginning of each book to offer a specific summary description of the various matters that will be addressed in each, or at least of the most substantial topics. Hence, I state that this second book will continue the narrative begun in the first book or preface and explain the motivations and intentions I pursue, thereby fulfilling that which His Imperial Majesty has commanded me to do. And in addition, I will explain how I follow, or rather, how I want or wish to emulate Pliny and I will touch briefly on the various opinions about to whom he dedicated his Natural History. And I will also share my opinion about whether the Ancients knew about these islands, and whether they were the Hesperides: and I will prove it with reference to documents and authorities of great repute. And I will speak of who was Don Christopher Columbus, first discoverer and Admiral of these Indies, and what path and form led to their discovery; and when they were found by him, and what happened in the first and second voyages he made to these parts and of what he discovered in each voyage, and about the endowment and apostolic title that the Holy Pontiff made of these Indies to the Catholic Monarchs Don Ferdinand and Doña Isabella and to their heirs to the kingdoms of Castile and León (despite the fact that way back they had belong to Spain, according to my opinion). And I will tell of who were the knights and noblemen who first found themselves engaged in the conquest and pacification of this island of Hispaniola, and of the struggles the Christians underwent in it while the Admiral went to discover the island of Jamaica; and of the origin of the illness of the sores,[1] and of four notable things that happened in the year 1492 when these islands were discovered; and the bearing of the route and navigation from Spain to these parts, and of the ebb and flow of the sea and of its flux and reflux, and of the north-eastering and north-westering of the navigating needles and other particularities related to the course of this history, as will be told at longer length in the following chapters. And because I said in the first book that I have crossed the Ocean eight times, seven of those times before I came this eighth time to present this treatise to our great Emperor, as I have done; and if it pleases God, the ninth will have God returning me home to serve Their Majesties and to write a clean copy of the second and third part of these histories.

[1] Syphilis. [EE]

Image: “Christopher Columbus encounters native Americans” from a work by Anne-Marie du Boccage in 1756, retrieved from the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.