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Letters from Mexico Paperback – September 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0300090949 ISBN-10: 0300090943 Edition: New edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Nota Bene
  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; New edition edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300090943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300090949
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #474,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the most fascinating Machiavellian documents to come out of the Renaissance." -- Carlos Fuentes, Guardian

"The definitive edition [of the letters] in any language." -- C. R. Boxer, English Historical Review

"The first reliable edition of the most important Spanish text . . . draws on Pagden's own profound knowledge of Mesoamerican cultures." -- Helen Nader, Sixteenth Century Journal

Language Notes

Text: English, Spanish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robert EL Tedder on April 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Anthony Pagden, Harry C. Black Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University, presents his readers with what he feels is the definitive edition of Hernan Cortes letters. Pagden states in his introduction that although his translation was not the first in English, the previous were, "more or less unsatisfactory" (page lxxix). Pagden sticks to the verisimilitude of the letters as much as possible, presenting Cortes' original spellings and place names. The main liberty Pagden admits to have taken, dividing the text into further paragraphs, does not distract the reader or destroy the intent of the work. By using the earliest available manuscripts, the original translations, and numerous primary sources as evidenced by an extensive bibliography, Pagden allows the reader to enter another world, and delve into the mind of the most talked about of all conquerors, Hernan (Hernando, Fernando) Cortes. Five letters are presented for synaptic digestion. However, the first letter presented is actually not written by Cortes. The unknown author speaks highly of Cortes, though. The other letters, penned by Cortes, describes the exact minutiae of what he paints as a perilous journey. What makes these letters so readable and enjoyable is the reader gains an intimate knowledge of the pageantry of the 16th century, and a first-hand account of what must have been clash of Spanish and New World cultures. The letters written by Cortes are revelatory. He must have had either a tremendous memory (the shortest letter is fifty-six pages long whereas the longest is 122 pages) or a fervent imagination. It is not inconceivable, then, and Cortes' prose intimates this, that he was an educated man.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Towelclerk on November 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Late in his life, somewhat neglected but still mightily feared in his restless, Castilian retirement, Hernan Cortes managed to get a fleeting audience with the man to whom he had devoted his life and stunning achievements of conquest. That man was the Spanish King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; that man had been the exclusive recipient of the five detailed letters written by Cortes from Mexico. What Cortes said to his emperor during the rapid and frustrating audience of his later years is, I think, one of history's most pithy and accurate summaries: " I gave you more provinces than your ancestors gave you cities."

The cleverly written, informative and entertaining letters from Mexico are, in effect, political right-of-way documents, whereby Cortes directly sought (and finally got) ever-increasing power from an emperor who was above both him and his immediate superior and essential antagonist in New Spain (Diego Velasquez). It can easily be said, in fact, that Velasquez was a much more essential and necessary enemy to Cortes and his men than poor Moctezuma ever was. So while the letters have the vivid content of victorious battles and conquests over a truly foreign and exotic foe, they never really stray from their political reason for existence. They are, in sum, masterpieces of how to gain leverage, power and treasure from one's often hesitant superior.

This edition of the translated letters comes with introductions by Padgen and Elliott, the former an American historian/translator and the latter a British historian. Both of these academics have written summaries of Cortes and his life and his writings that can be eagerly read by general audiences. This book is, in the final analysis, an account of men and power first, and events and saga second.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
The story begins with the planting of A Orange Tree and ends with the the conquest of Mexico. Cortes is a man driven by adventure and the lure of wealth in the new lands. It is however sad that he ends up in love with the place and culture that he finally destroys. The book gives a blow by blow description of the political intrigue of the church, the crown and of course Cortes men. At one point in the book the fighting is so brutal that Cortes is literally hacking the Aztec warroirs to death as steel meets wood in a no contest.Montezouma is perhaps the most tagic figure given that he is a child not a leader. The insights that Cortes rrecordrds give a fascinating account in a true historical sense. It is a book that destroys the idea that conquistidores like Cortes are bigger than life.The book reaffirms a tragic tale with its detail descriptions. A great read for enthusiasts of Mexican history Leigh Collins
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Int´l. executive on February 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Its an original (translated) autobiography written by a Machevillean genius - Hernan Cortes himself. Very informative especially if co-read with Conquist & History of New Spain by Bernal Diaz.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Min Byong Chang on February 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent new translation of five letters to Charles V, the HRE, four written by Cortes. The first letter, not written by Cortes, seems to have been written with Cortes leaning over the writer's shoulder, for it fits in perfectly with the four Cortes letters, both in sequence and in theme.
The running theme of all five letters seems to be this: Cortes is a great man who works to bring wealth and glory to Charles V, while overcoming amazing obsticles presented by both Indian and Spanish sources.
What can be learned from these letters? Not much that can be trusted, other than Cortes is good at "selling" Cortes to the royal court.
The letters are full of obvious exagerations and vast silences.
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