A brief account

Bartolomé de las Casas (1484–1566)
Narratio regionum Indicarum per Hispanos quosdam deuastatarum verissima / priùs quidem per Episcopum Bartholemæum Casaum, natione Hispanum Hispanicè conscripta; & anno 1551. Hispali, Hispanicè anno verò hoc 1598. Latinè excusa. Narratio regionvm Indicarvm per Hispanos qvosdam deuastatarum verissima
Francofurti: Sumptibus Theodori de Bry, & Ioannis Saurii typis, anno M.D.XCVIII. [1598]
Syn.7.59.8, title page

In 1552 Las Casas arranged for the publication at Seville of his Brevíssima relación de la destruición de las Indias or Brief account of the destruction of the Indies. The work drew on his much longer and unpublished History of the Indies. It described in graphic detail the horrors perpetrated by the Spanish upon the indigenous Indians of the New World, including massacres which Las Casas himself had witnessed in Cuba. The title’s language of destruction, scholars suggest, drew a parallel between what the Spanish were doing in the Americas and what had happened much earlier in Spain during the Arab invasion. Where the conquistadores saw themselves as following in the steps of El Cid, they more nearly resembled his opponents. The book sought to impress on readers a reality which Las Casas feared was hidden from them by official or other self-interested reports.

The Brief account was eagerly seized upon by Spain’s enemies in Europe. A Latin translation, Narratio regionum Indicarum per Hispanos quosdam devastatarum verissima…, was published by Theodore de Bry at Frankfurt in 1598 with additions taken from several other of Las Casas’s published works. Dedicated to Frederick IV, Count Palatine, the text was newly accompanied by eighteen illustrations by Joos van Winghe of different atrocities.

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