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VEGA, Garcilasso de la.

The Royal Commentaries of Peru,

in two parts. The first part treating of the original of their Incas or kings: of their idolatry: of their laws and government both in peace and war: of the reigns and conquests of the Incas: with many other particulars relating to their empire and policies before such time as the Spaniards invaded their countries. The second part describing the manner by which that new world was conquered by the Spaniards. Also the civil wars between the Picarrists and the Almagrians, occasioned by quarrels arising about the division of that land. Of the rise and fall of rebels; and other particulars contained in that history. Written originally in Spanish, by the Inca Garcilasso de la Vega, and rendred into English, by Sir Paul Rycaut, Knight.

London: Printed by Miles Flesher, for Richard Tonson, 1688 Stock Code: 126602
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The first work by a native of America to enter the western canon

First edition in English of Vega's chronicles of Peru, the first work by an author born in the Americas to enter the western canon. Born in the early years of the Spanish conquest from an Incan mother and a conquistador father, Garcilasso de la Vega (1539-1616) moved to Spain aged 21, where he wrote the present histories. First published in Lisbon in 1609 under the title Comentarios Reales de los Incas, the work proved popular across Europe and was widely reprinted. The present English edition is illustrated with plates boldly depicting the violence of the conquest.

Partly abridged, the translation by Paul Rycaut has not been rated highly, partly due to the declaration in Clements Markham's preface to his own 1869 translation of the text that Rycaut "had a very slight knowledge of the Spanish language, and he did not scruple to make wild guesses at the meaning of sentences, and to omit whole chapters". Nonetheless, Rycaut's translation joined his other works on the Ottoman Empire, the popes, and the Orthodox and Armenian churches, and it has been claimed that "The common element in these very different enterprises was Rycaut's interest in human societies and how they were shaped by external factors... his translations as well as his original writings were to influence students of human nature from Racine, Leibniz, and John Locke to Daniel Defoe, Montesquieu, and Byron" (ODNB). The present copy is one of three issues, each for a different bookseller, but apparently issued contemporaneously.

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Folio (309 x 187 mm). Contemporary calf, rebacked and recornered to style, red morocco labels, covers panelled in blind.


Portrait frontispiece of Rycaut and 10 engraved plates, as called for by Sabin.


Some minor worming and a few blemishes to contents, light staining at base of early pages and toning to edges of some pages, a few tiny chips to contents marginally affecting text and at extremities, small chip to plate facing p. 550 just impinging on illustration and lettering, worming to last couple of leaves slightly impinging lettering. A very good copy.


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