Melchor Pérez de Soto first appears in the documentary record as a navigator, accompanying Pedro Porter Casanate on his 1643 exploration of Gulf and coastline of California. Porter Casanate, himself an accomplished navigator and mathematician, called Pérez de Soto an "expert cosmographer" (perito cosmógrafo) and the two were part of a large circle of scientifically minded men in Mexico City. Porter Casanate taught Pérez de Soto judicial astrology during their voyage up the Pacific coast of North America.

Pérez de Soto's collection included a great number of practical navigational texts, along with works explaining how to make and use nautical instruments. These were supplemented by accounts of voyages, geographical, and historical texts. All of these would inform his astrological practice, from the movements of celestial bodies to the manners and customs of distant lands.



1. Medina, Pedro de. L'art de nauiguer. Lyon: Guillaume Rouille, 1569.

Medina's Arte de navegar originally appeared in 1545 in Valladolid and was subsequently translated into Italian, French, Dutch, and English—seeing no fewer than 25 editions by the mid-seventeenth century. His account was the first to include reliable information on navigating from Europe to the Americas.


2. García de Palacio, Diego. Instrucion nauthica, para el buen vso, y regimiento de las naos. Mexico: Pedro Ocharte, 1587.

García de Palacio's Instrucción náutica is the first Spanish-language text to include an extensive discussion of ship construction and design. Interestingly, it was printed in Mexico City in 1587, by Pedro Ocharte, rather than in Spain. This copy belonged to the Conde de São Vicente, Portuguese governor of East Timor from 1832-1834.


3. Céspedes, Andrés García de. Regimiento de nauegacion q[ue] mando haser el rei nuestro señor por orden de su Conseio Real de las Indias a Andres Garcia de Cespedes. Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1606.

García de Céspedes was Royal Cosmographer to Philip III of Spain and taught cosmography at the school for navigators in Seville. This comprehensive navigation manual includes detailed sailing directions for the West Indies, New Spain, Rio de la Plata and the Pacific coast of South America.


4. Zamorano, Rodrigo de. Compendio del arte de navegar. Seville: Joan de León, 1588.

Zamorano and Céspedes were colleagues in Seville. Zamorano's Compendio, in addition to being a navigational manual, includes instructions on building nautical instruments. The Library's copy shows clear signs of being used aboard ship, from water-stains to a previous owner's detailed instructions, seen here, for circumnavigating the earth.


5. Gemma, Frisius. De principiis astronomiae [&] cosmographiae, deq[ue] vsu globi ab eodem editi. Item de orbis diuisione, [&] insulis, rebusq[ue] nuper inuentis. Antwerp: Gregorium Bontium, 1530.

Gemma was a physician, a mathematician, and a cartographer, known for the quality of his globes and for the precision of his mathematical instruments. In 1533, he was the first to describe the method of triangulation, used in surveying down to today. In the same year, he proposed that an accurate clock could be employed to determine longitude.


6. Cortés, Martín. The arte of nauigation conteyning a compendious description of the sphere, with the making of certayne instruments and rules for nauigations, and exemplifyed by many demonstrations. London: Richard Watkins, 1589.

Originally published in Spanish in 1551, Cortés's Arte de navigar was translated into English and published in 1561. It was the first English-language manual on navigation and became the principle text for European navigation for the next century.


7. Crescentio, Bartolomeo. Nautica Mediterranea. Rome: Bartolomeo Bonfadino, 1607.

Crescentio's comprehensive and extensively illustrated volume on nautical topics includes coverage of shipbuilding, instrument making and usage, sailing directions, coastal fortifications and weaponry.


8. Figueiredo, Manuel de. Hidrographia, exame de pilotos, no qual se contem as regras que todo piloto deue guardar em suas nauegaçones. Lisbon: Vicente Alvarez, 1625.

First printed in 1608, Figueiredo's Hydrographia was the first Portuguese roteiro, or collection of sailing directions, which detailed voyages from Lisbon to Portuguese outposts in the East and West Indies.


9. Vázquez de Espinosa, Antonio. Tratado verdadero del viage y nauegacion deste año de seiscientos y veinte y dos, que hizo la flota de Nueua España, y Honduras, general della Fernando de Sosa. Malaga: Juan Regnè, 1623.

Vázquez de Espinosa's Tratado recounts a Spanish treasure fleet's voyage from Mexico to Spain by way of Cuba. During the voyage, the fleet endured storms, shortages of food and water, and a plague of rats. Vázquez de Espinosa, a Carmelite friar, interprets these afflictions in terms of their moral and spiritual implications for the crew.


10. Nodal, Bartolomé Garcia de, and Gonzalo de Nodal. Relacion del viaje que por orden de Su Mag[esta]d. y acuerdo del real consejo de Indias. Madrid: Fernando Correa de Montenegro, 1621.

The Nodal brothers were the first Spanish mariners to explore the Le Maire Strait, in 1619. Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten had discovered it only three years before. Reaching the Pacific via Cape Horn, they returned via the Strait of Magellan, becoming the second Spanish explorers to do so.


11. Enciso, Martin Fernández de. Suma de geographia q[ue] trata de todas las partidas [y] prouincias del mundo: en especial delas Indias. Seville: Ju[an] Crombergger, 1530.

Enciso's work is both a geographical compendium as well as synthesis of the theory and practice of navigation. First published in 1519, his is the first account in Spanish of the discoveries in the New World to include the Southern Sea (the Pacific).


12. Bordon, Benedetto. Libro di Benedetto Bordone nel qual si ragiona de tutte l'isole del mondo. Venice: Nicolo d'Aristotile, 1528.

Bordone's Isolario is an illustrated descriptive guide that seeks to include the newest trans-Atlantic discoveries. It includes twelve maps related to the Americas, including the one shown here of Tenochtitlan. It also contains the earliest known printed account of Pizarro's conquest of Peru. On Asia, it includes the earliest European map showing Japan as an island.


13. Porcacchi, Thomaso, and Girolamo Porro. L'isole piu famose del mondo. Venice: Simon Galignani & Girolamo Porro, 1576.

Among the best known of books of islands, Porcacchi's work includes numerous fine engravings of each island and concludes with two very detailed maps of the world. The 1572 edition included the first map depicting North America as a single continental entity. Each entry includes extensive commentary, here, about Columbus and his arrival at Hispañola.


14. Anania, Giovanni Lorenzo d. L'vniuersale fabrica del mondo, ouera Cosmografia. Venice: Andrea Muschio, 1596.

Anania's geographical treatise is divided into four parts: Europe, Asia, Africa and America, each accompanied by a folding map.  He is particularly strong on ethnographic detail. His work is the product of extensive research, drawing on information from virtually all of the geographical works published prior to 1573.


15. Mela, Pomponius, Johannes Oporinus, and C. Julius Solinus. Pomponii Melæ De orbis situ, libri III. Et C. Iulii Solini, Polyhistor. Basel: Henricpetrina, 1576.

Drawing mainly on Greek sources, Mela's work is the only geography written in classical Latin. Produced circa 43 A.D., Mela divides the earth into five zones, only two of which were temperate and habitable. Unlike other geographers, he proposes the existence of the antchthones, inhabitants of the southern temperate zones. Inhabitants of the north, he claimed, would be unable to reach the antchthones owing to the intervening torrid zones.


16. Alfonso X, King of Castile and León, and Florián de Ocampo. Los quatro libros primeros de la cronica general de España. Zamora: Juan Picardo, 1543.

Ocampo was born shortly after the discovery of the New World, and studied at the University at Alcalá de Henares under the great Latinist Antonio de Nebrija. Named royal chronicler by Charles V, his Los quatro libros... recounts the history of the world up to the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) in such a fashion as to argue that the Spanish monarchy was the oldest in the world.


17. Cabrera de Córdoba, Luis. Filipe Segundo Rey de España. Madrid: Luis Sanchez, 1619.

This first volume of Cabrera de Córdoba's chronicle of the life of Philip II is a year-by-year account that runs from his birth in 1527 to 1583. The second volume was successfully suppressed by representatives from Aragon over passages related to Antonio Pérez, the one-time secretary to Philip II who fled to Aragon after being accused of treason. It was not published until 1876.


18. Guicciardini, Lodovico. Descrittione di m. Lodouico Guicciardini patritio fiorentino, di tutti i Paesi Bassi, altrimenti detti Germania inferiore. Antwerp: Guglielmo Silvio, 1567.

Guicciardini's description of the Low Countries remained the single best source on the topic for nearly a century, and saw multiple editions in Italian, French, Dutch and Latin. Though born in Florence, he spent much of his life in Antwerp, and his description betrays his deep affection for the city and the people.


19. Conestaggio, Geronimo. Historien der Königkreich, Hispannien, Portugal, vnd Aphrica. Munich: Adam Berg, 1589.

Conestaggio's history of the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal went through six Italian editions and six more in French, along with translations into German, English and Castilian. He was criticized for his favorable view of Spain and the Spanish right to the throne of Portugal, though his later work on the battles in the Low Countries was decidedly less forgiving of Spain.


20. Leonardo de Argensola, Bartolomé, and Pieter Perret. Conquista de las islas Malucas. Madrid: Alonso Martin, 1609.

Bartolomé and his brother Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola were, together, known as "the two Horaces of Spain" owing to the clarity, polish and style of their poetry. The Portuguese had been driven from the island of Ternate in 1575 by the island's Muslim ruler, Sultan Baab Ullah. Argensola’s history of the successful re-taking of the island was not justified on the basis of bringing Christianity to the island, but rather on thwarting Dutch Protestant aims in the region.


21. Fernández, Diego. Primera, y segunda parte, de la historia del Peru. Seville: Hernando Diaz, 1571.

Fernández arrived in Peru shortly after the completion of the conquest, and was a participant in support of the Crown in the civil wars that followed. Viceroy Hurtado de Mendoza arrived in Peru in 1555, and charged Fernández with writing a history of the events. Critical of the Pizaro faction, legal actions ensued and Fernández's Historia was suppressed immediately following publication and most copies were destroyed.


22. Caro de Torres, Francisco. Historia de las ordenes militares de Santiago, Calatraua, y Alcantara desde su fu[n]dacio[n] hasta el rey don Filipe Segundo administrador perpetuo dellas. Madrid: Juan Gonçalez, 1629.

The military-religious orders of Santiago, Calatrava and Alcántra trace their origins to the Middle Ages and the Reconquest of Spain. Members enjoyed a special relationship with the Crown. While membership was originally based on military accomplishments, by the end of the Reconquest, membership became akin to a title of nobility. Pretenders were required to show not just purity of blood, but also sufficient income and that neither they, nor their parents or grandparents ever earned their living from manual labor.




Exhibition prepared by Kenneth Ward. John Carter Brown Library
John Carter Brown Library John Carter Brown Library John Carter Brown Library