Spain and Portugal had belonged to the Roman Empire long before they became empires in their own right. Appropriately, therefore, Pomponius Mela’s first-century geography of the known world was translated into Spanish and published with revisions in 1644. Both crowns and their bureaucracies also needed tools of empire, hence, Esteban de Terreros y Pando’s 1768 Paleografía española, the first useful guide for the decipherment of ancient hand writings. Notwithstanding the rapid diffusion and widespread use of the printing press, handmade books continued to be produced, such as the magnificent 1586 decree transferring the spring waters of Corpa to the royal patrimony.

The Dutch also established a major empire once they achieved their own independence, even taking over part of the Portuguese empire for a while. One reason the Dutch were able to hang on to northeastern Brazil for thirty years is because they made strategic alliances with some of the native peoples, especially the fierce Tapuya as recounted in the 1651 Relation du voyage de Rovlox Baro.

The flora and fauna of the New World enriched the pharmacopeia and cuisine of the Old World. Mango, meaning pickle, entered the English vocabulary sometime in the seventeenth century, the first literary usage of which occurs in John Evelyn’s 1699 Acetaria. Evelyn was a celebrated gentleman gardener and avid vegetarian. Some of the recipes he collected are still popular.

The expanding corpus of knowledge regarding the Old as well as the New World also led to the production of compendia and distillations such as Bernard Picart’s The Religious ceremonies and customs of the several nations of the known world, similar to today’s online Wikipedia, an admixture of fact and fiction.



Don Phelippe Segundo dese nombre por la gracia de Dios Rey de Castilla de Leon de Aragon. ([San Lorenzo, 1586]). Ms.

The verso of the vellum cover of this codex or manuscript book features a spectacular rendition of the royal coat-of-arms of Spain. It is hand-drawn and colored. The technique employed appears to have been gouache. The recto of the first leaf of text (also on vellum) is notable for its magnificent letter D with a portrait of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child together with an angelic Dominican and the head of a hound. The border of this leaf is enlivened with flowers, birds, butterflies, and various insects, including ladybugs. This codex transcribes the royal decree transferring Corpa (then a small village, nowadays a suburb of Madrid) from the civil jurisdiction of Alcalá de Henares and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Toledo to crown jurisdiction so that the royal family could enjoy the celebrated waters of Corpa at their leisure.

Pomponius Mela


Mela, Pomponius. Compendio geographico, i historico de el Orbe Antiguo. I Descripcion de el sitio de la tierra. (Madrid, 1644). [B07-162]

Pomponius Mela, first Roman geographer, wrote this work circa AD 43. Almost nothing is known about Mela other than that he was born and lived in Spain. He had some peculiar notions of geography, including the existence of antichthones, or people who inhabit the opposite side of the earth, inaccessible to Europeans because of the intolerable heat of the intervening torrid zone. Nonetheless, Mela wrote knowingly of Western Europe and his work is still an important source of information on Spain in the Roman Empire. The “various illustrations” added by his Spanish translator and editor are explanatory notes.

Esteban de Perreros y Pando


Terreros y Pando, Esteban de, 1707-1782. Paleografía española, que contiene todos los modos conocidos, que ha habido de escribir en España. (Madrid, 1758). [B07-494]

Although chronologically this is the second manual of Spanish paleography to have been published—the first appeared twenty years earlier—the lexicographer Terreros y Pando’s Paleografía española was the first truly useful vade mecum to appear. Such tools are not easy to come by. In the first place, they were issued in small runs; in the second, they tended to be well used. Although some authorities attribute primary authorship of the Paleografía española to the Jesuit historian Andrés Marcos Buriel (1719–1762), no one disputes Terreros y Pando’s greater or lesser involvement in the production of this work. Open to plate 1, a letter of Queen Isabel the Catholic, dated 19 Jan. 1481, that illustrates two of the scripts employed in Spain during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the cortesana or courtesan and the procesada—a term for which there is no English equivalent— both of which demonstrate why a manual of paleography or guide to the decipherment of “old writings” had become necessary.

Roulox Baro


Baro, Roulox. Relation du voyage de Rovlox Baro, interprete et ambassadeur ordinaire de la Compagnie des Indes d’Occident, de la part des Illustrissimes Seigneurs des Prouinces Vnies au pays des Tapuies dans la terre ferme du Brasil. (Paris, 1651). [B07-30]

This is an important first-hand account not just of the Dutch in Brazil in the 1640s, but even more importantly of various groups of nomadic natives of Amazonian Brazil known collectively as the Tapuya, the majority of whom practiced cannibalism. According to Charles Boxer, “These cannibals would never consent to be educated or civilized by the Dutch; but they were perfectly willing to co-operate with them against the Portuguese, and proved themselves valuable if at times embarassing allies.” One of three contemporary accounts of the Tapuya, Baro’s Relation, based on his several years among them, is an invaluable source for anthropologists and ethnohistorians.

John Evelyn


Evelyn, John, 1620–1706. Terra. A philosophical discourse of earth, relating to the culture and improvement of it for vegetation, and the propagation of plants, &c. The third edition improv’d. (London, 1706). [B07-513]

“Take the biggest Cucumbers (and most of the Mango size) that look green: Open them on the Top or Side; and scooping out the Seeds, supply their Place with a small Clove of Garlick, or some Roccombo [i.e., leek] Seeds.” — John Evelyn.

One of the meanings of “mango” is “a pickle, esp. of melons or cucumbers, resembling that made of green mangoes.” The Oxford English Dictionary gives as the first written mention thereof, none other than John Evelyn’s 1699 Acetaria: a discourse of sallets, now held by the JCB in its second edition as the third part of the third edition of Evelyn’s Terra, to which is appended a number of “receits” contributed by “an Experienc’d House-wife.” Regardless of who that “Experienc’d House-wife” was, this volume of writings on trees and edible flora by England’s most celebrated gentleman gardener and vegetarian of the seventeenth century is a welcome addition to the JCB’s collections, especially for its timeless recipes. One such recipe is that for mushrooms: “The large Mushroms well cleans’d, &c. being cut into Quarters, and strew’d with Pepper and Salt, are broil’d on the Grid-Iron, and eaten with Fresh-Butter.”

Religious ceremonies


The Religious ceremonies and customs of the several nations of the known world: represented in above an hundred copper plates, designed by the famous Picart. Vol. III. Containing the ceremonies of the idolatrous nations. (London, 1731). [B07-651]

Clearly Bernard Picart (1673–1733) was not familiar with American Indians. If he had been, he would not have misrepresented their bodies, costumes, and architecture as Greek or Roman. Nor do the compilers of the texts that accompany Picart’s illustrations appear to have been well-grounded in the religious beliefs and practices of native Americans. If they had been, they would not have misrepresented the marriage practices of the “Incas” or the naming ceremony of their offspring. Although the Sapa Inca or “Emperor” of the Tahunatinsuyu “married” one of his sisters and there were public naming ceremonies of children, neither ceremony occurred as represented in the engravings and corresponding texts of Religious ceremonies and customs. Picart and collaborators were not the only fabricators. Many European images and accounts of the New World are more fiction than fact. Nevertheless, they were widely believed and highly influential.

In the present posture  


In the present posture of affairs, what is the King to do? ([Paris, 1791]). Ms.

A letter of August 8, 1791, from Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816), one of the founding fathers of the United States, to the Count de Montmorin (1745–1792), in Morris’s own hand. Morris, a native of New York, represented Pennsylvania in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and was the envoy of the United States to France between 1792 and 1794. Armand Marc, comte de Montmorin de Saint Herem was the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Navy under Louis XVI.
In this lengthy missive (52 handwritten pages), Mr. Morris does not hesitate to discourse on the past, the present, and possible future of France, suggesting to the king that he should emulate the United States by embracing an elected form of representative government. Would Louis still have lost his head had he been in a position to implement Morris’s advice? In this regard, it should be noted that Montmorin himself was already under arrest and would be guillotined shortly thereafter.



France. Decret de la Convention Nationale, du 27 juin 1793, l’an second de la République Françoise, qui ordonne la convocation des assemblées primaires pour la presentacion de la Déclaration des droits de l’homme & du citoyen, & de l’Acte constitutionnel. (Paris, 1793). [B07-617]

Displayed here is the French decree that called for the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly to approve a revised Declaration of the Rights of Man, that included a statement of the responsibilities of citizens (devoirs) as well as of their rights (droits). It was incorporated into the constitution of 24 June 1793, and, with additional amendments, into the constitution of 22 Aug. 1795.

    Exhibition prepared by Michael T. Hamerly.
John Carter Brown Library