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Letters from Mexico Paperback – 23 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: www.bnpublishing.com (23 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607964910
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607964919
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 341,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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

"Pagden provides us with two important innovations: the first reliable edition of the most important Spanish text... -- Helen Nader, Sixteenth Century Journal

"The definitive edition of the letters in any language ... The book is a 'must'... -- C. R. Boxer, English Historical Review --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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MOST HIGH, MIGHTY AND EXCELLENT PRINCES, MOST CATHOLIC AND POWERFUL KINGS AND SOVEREIGNS: We have reason to believe that Your Royal Highnesses have been informed, by letters of Diego Velazquez, the admiral's lieutenant in the island of Fernandina (Cuba), of a new land that was discovered in these parts some two years ago more or less, and which was first called Cozumel and later Yucatan, without it being either the one or the other as Your Royal Highnesses shall see from our report. Read the first page
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By F. Aetius on 9 May 2008
Format: Paperback
Letters from Mexico is the complete collection of letters written by the Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortes, to the Emperor Charles V and Queen Dona Juana. These five letters (stretching from 1519 to 1525) tell the story of the conquest of the Aztecs from the perspective of the man responsible for their overthrow. They are, in the words of Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes: "One of the most fascinating Machiavellian documents to come out of the Renaissance."

The book is introduced by Anthony Pagden and J.H Elliott who present a few short essays on Cortes relationship to Charles V, as well as the history and veracity of the letters. These essays are interesting even by themselves as they shed a whole new light on Cortes' writings. In one section they mention that Moctezoma's speech to Cortes when he first arrived at Tenochtitlan is almost certainly the work of Cortes imagination, as his speech is highly implausible. They describe how Moctezoma's speech echoes the Gospels and 16th century European legal formulae - these are certainly not the words of an Aztec. These essays make you consider the letters in a different perspective.

The Five letters themselves are rather long, with their whole length reaching over 500 pages. Cortes is a much more erudite writer then Bernal Diaz, (the contemporary who followed him on his expedition) but he lacks Diaz's eye for detail and his many strange anecdotes. As I have already mentioned, Cortes writings can't be completely trustworthy as he was attempting to justify the conquest to his superiors, and therefore he twists the truth quite often. That said, the letters truly are a fascinating document.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By peterfalvy on 22 May 2014
Format: Paperback
amazon.com sells the complete works -670 pages- with same title. this must be some rip off abridged version, in that case shoudltn advertise itslef as the complete letters
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Interesting read 3 April 2002
By Robert EL Tedder - Published on Amazon.com
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. The letters also show that Cortes was very deferential - as he addresses his head of state, every few pages Cortes begins a new thought with phrases such as, "Most Powerful and Invincible Lord", "Your Majesty", and "Most Catholic Lord." For the contemporary reader this can be distracting. From the triumph of Conquest, the reader finds Cortes ends as a broken man, literally begging King Charles for monies to pay his increasing debts. Certainly these are not all the letters Cortes wrote to his monarch. What letters presented represent a unique opportunity. Herein lays the thinking of the man who led a handful conquerors and New World allies to bring down an empire. In this respect, the work succeeds brilliantly, for the mind of Cortes leaps out in his letters.
I might have read a different edition than the one advertised, so the page numbers might not match up.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Great Man's Clever and Enduring Accounts 29 Nov. 2012
By Towelclerk - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
my husband loved this book 11 Feb. 2013
By Int´l. executive - Published on Amazon.com
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.
20 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Oranges and Hernan Cortes 10 Sept. 2000
A Kid's Review - Published on Amazon.com
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
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Powerful documents that prove Cortes started the "Cortes is 28 Feb. 2003
By Min Byong Chang - Published on Amazon.com
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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