Vanished Worlds, Enduring People

Opening a Transatlantic World

Hernán Cortés. Praeclara Ferdinadi Cortesii de Noua Maris Oceani Hyspania Narratio Sacratissimo. Norimberga: Fridericum Peypus, 1524. [view]

Acting on the authority of the governor of Cuba, and subsequently on his own, HernÁn Cortés conquered the Aztec empire between 1519 and 1521. During this period, he wrote five letters to Charles V, detailing his exploits and making a case for both the legitimacy of his actions and his future privileges in the Spanish colonies.

The second letter describes the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, a huge metropolis, protected and enriched by its location at the center of a vast lake. The letter reached Spain in 1521 and was published in 1522. A Latin translation, shown above with an engraving of Charles V, was published in Nuremberg in 1524.

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