Library of Congress Hispanic and Portuguese Collections: An 
Illustrated Guide
Previous Table of Contents Next

The Hispanic and Portuguese World


Spain and Portugal occupy the Iberian Peninsula, which is separated at its southern tip from North Africa by only a narrow strait situated at the juncture of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. This key geographical position played an important part in Iberia's history. From ancient times various Mediterranean civilizations came, attracted by mineral and agricultural potential. The Romans had the most lasting impact. By the second century A.D. most of Iberia had been romanized in language, religion, and law.

From the early eighth century until the late fifteenth century Iberia's history was Muslim domination and the Christian attempts to reclaim political control over the peninsula. By the fifteenth century a stable monarchy provided the impetus for early Portuguese expansion. In Spain, the marriage of Isabel and Fernando in 1479 marked the first steps towards forging modern Spain. From those events, the modern states of Spain and Portugal emerged. Portugal became the earliest European state.

Thumbnail image of Hispalis [Seville]. Hispalis [Seville]. In Georg Braun and Francis Hogenberg. Civitates orbis terrarum. Cologne, 1612-18. vol. 5/6. In this plate, the Netherlandish artist, Georg Hoefnagel, portrays Seville frontally from a raised perspective. By 1580 Seville, with more than 130,000 inhabitants, was the largest city of Spain. It has a long, prominent history from Roman, Islamic, and medieval times. Its wealth and prestige grew rapidly toward the end of the fifteenth century due to Columbus's explorations and Spanish colonization of America. In 1503, the House of Trade, la Casa de Contratación was founded in the city, assuring Seville's control over commerce and trade with America. Seville is the location of the important General Archive of the Indies, which contains the administrative papers of Spain's overseas colonies. (Geography and Map Division)

And it is the emigrants to America from this geographically unified but culturally very diverse Iberian Peninsula who, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, carried with them their experiences, culture, and expectations of what they could accomplish to America. In these new surroundings they were forced to adjust to a context quite different from that of Spain and Portugal. Ibero-American societies began to take shape in part as a result of the adaptations that Iberian emigrants made to the new situation they found. The indigenous peoples, with whom they mingled, constituted yet another crucial factor in the equation that produced American societies. The Library of Congress's extensive Luso-Hispanic collections provide ample information about the centuries of human existence on the Iberian Peninsula and its influences throughout the world.

The Spanish and Portuguese monarchies reached the zenith of their power during the time when printing was revolutionizing the consciousness of the Western world. Both Spain and Portugal had extended the frontiers of European control outside Europe, particularly by spreading the use of printing. The emerging art of printing chronicles the period of Iberia's greatest power and wealth; it illustrates how the world and its European rivals felt Iberia's impact.

The manuscript and book catalogs of the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, are available in the Library of Congress, such as Antonio Paz y Melía's Papeles de Inquisición...(1947) and, notably, the colossal Inventario General de Manuscritos, which has been appearing since 1933. The more than 4,800-microfiche Catálogo general de libros impresos, in the Microform Reading Room, provides a comprehensive record of authors and works in Spain's Biblioteca Nacional up to 1987. Also present are such research tools as Francisco Sintes Obrador's Archivos y bibliotecas de España (1953) and J. E. Martínez Ferrando's Tres archivos de España (1950), a guide to the Archives of the Corona de Aragón, Simancas, and Indias.

Thumbnail image of Portolan Chart
of the Mediterranean World Portolan Chart of the Mediterranean World. Mateo Prunes [Majorca] 1559. Vellum. A cartographic revolution occurred in the Mediterranean world in the thirteenth century with the emergence of a new type of chart, the portolan chart. This coincided with the surge in seafaring activity and Atlantic exploration which began before the end of that century. This colorful one-of-a-kind portolan chart was drawn on vellum in 1559. Mapmaker Mateus Prunes (1532-1594) was a leading member of a family of Majorcan cartographers who lived and worked on that island from the early sixteenth to the late seventeenth centuries. The chart depicts the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, part of the Red Sea, the Atlantic coast of Africa from Cape Spartel to Senegal, and the European coast to northern Scandinavia. Both real and mythical islands appear in the northwest. The real ones include Fixlanda (Iceland) and Isola Verde (probably Greenland). Among the mythical islands are Isola de Brazil and Isola de Maydi, the latter possibly a name of Arabic origin that first appeared on the 1325 chart by Angelino Dalorto. (Vellum Chart Collection, Geography and Map Division)

The work of prime concern for the study of Spain is the Real Academia de la Historia's famed 112-volume Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de España (1842-1895), along with its six-volume Colección de documentos para la historia de España y sus Indias (1928-1934), Documentos inéditos para la historia de España (1936-1957), and the forty-seven-volume Memorial histórico español: colección de documentos, opúsculos y antigüedades (1851-1916, 1947-). These collections reproduce documents that are now either lost, in private hands, in the archive at Simancas, or original manuscripts of several chroniclers.

Thumbnail image of Southern Africa,
Mozambique to Cape of Good Hope Southern Africa, Mozambique to Cape of Good Hope. In João Teixeira. Taboas geraes de toda a nevegação divididas e emedades por Dom Ieronimo de Attayde. Manuscript atlas, 1630. The Portuguese cartographer João Teixeira produced a rich collection of maps of places throughout the world in the early seventeenth century, including areas in Africa which were some of the very first Portuguese colonies. His unique 1630 manuscript atlas is in the Library of Congress. Little is known about Teixeira, except what can be deduced from his works. He was appointed cartographer of the Armazéns da Casa de Guiné e India in 1602. Since the Spanish and Portuguese crowns were officially united in 1580, Teixeira's maps were known to various Spanish explorers. Teixeira served as Cosmographer-major briefly in his career, only signing as such in his atlases of 1648. No work of his is recorded after 1649. This map of southern Africa illustrated "Mountains of Gold," "Mines of Copper," "Land of Good People," "Land of Hunger," and "Barren Land," in the interior of southern Africa and, along the coast, shipwrecks containing "medallions of gold." The atlas came into the hands of Spanish authorities in the late seventeenth century. In a letter to Charles II (1661-1700), Francisco de Seixas y Lovera (1650-1705/6) states that he acquired the Teixeira atlas from the Portuguese Royal Library and Archives using intelligence and money. (Vault Map Collection, Geography and Map Division)

Another significant collection, the PORTUGUESE MANUSCRIPTS COLLECTION, purchased in 1927 and 1929, is part of a group of nearly 28,500 items--manuscripts and printed works related to Portuguese history and literature--14,000 items of which are in Portuguese. Like the book and pamphlet portions of the collection, the majority of the manuscripts, which span a period of more than five hundred years, are from the private libraries of the Conde de Olivais e Penha Longa and Antonio Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro.

Substantial items are concerned with Sebastianism, the belief that King Sebastian, killed in North Africa in 1578, would return to restore Portugal to its former greatness; Luis de Camões (1524-1580), author of Portugal's epic poem Os Lusíadas; the military orders of knighthood; general historical works, histories of the Portuguese sovereigns, letters of seventeenth-century diplomatic figures, and a volume containing 210 letters (1774-1779) of Manoel de Cunha Menezes, captain general of Pernambuco and Bahia.

The PORTUGUESE PAMPHLETS COLLECTION 1610-1921, on seventy-five reels of microfilm in the Microform Reading Room, was collected primarily by Antonio Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro (1850-1920). It reflects the contemporary interests of nineteenth-century Portugal, including items on Camões, the Marques de Pombal, Brazil, dynastic struggles, voyages of discovery, political tracts, criticism of the monarchy and other officials, literary and intellectual polemics, eulogies, sermons, prose and poetry by Leite de Vasconcellos, and historical essays by Sousa Viterbo and Gabriel Pereira, as well as writings on agriculture, science, and music.

The LESSING J. ROSENWALD COLLECTION of illustrated books from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries, in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, contains numerous treasures of the Luso-Hispanic world. Along with the first book printed in the Philippines, Doctrina Christiana, en lengua española y tagala (1593), in this extraordinary collection are found a remarkable 1524 edition of Praeclara Ferdinadi Cortesii de Nova maris Oceani Hyspania narratio--Hernando Cortés's 1520 letter about Mexico to Charles V of Spain--, 1479 and 1484 editions of Juan de Torquemada's Meditationes seu Contemplationes devotissimae, and works by Rodrigo Sánchez de Arévalo, Fernando Mexía, Luis de Lucena, Enrique de Aragón, Pedro de Castrovol, Pedro de Cieza de León's Parte primera dela Chronica del Peru (1553), Francisco López de Gómara's Primera y segunda parte dela historia general de las Indias (1553), and Pedro Nuñes's 1537 translation of Sacrobosco's Sphaera mundi.

The VELLUM CHART COLLECTION, in the Geography and Map Division, contains twenty-seven rare nautical charts and six atlases on vellum from several major early schools of chart making, particularly from Spanish and Italian groups. With examples ranging from an anonymous fourteenth-century chart of the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Seas to the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century hydrographic charts depicting portions of the Caribbean Sea from the Royal Naval School at Cádiz, the collection provides over four centuries of examples for the study of the development of navigational charts. The 1559 manuscript chart on vellum of the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and North Sea coastlines drawn by the Mallorcan Mateo Prunes and Battista Agnese's 1544 vellum atlas of the world--with particularly early representations of the Western Hemisphere and a chart depicting Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe in 1519-1522 and strikingly detailed information on the Mediterranean world--are vivid examples of the collection's stunning quality.

Additional cartographic works from throughout the period of Hispanic and Portuguese expansion can be found in the Geography and Map Division. Extensive examples of Portuguese colonial maps make the Library of Congress one of the largest centers for cartographic research on that empire. Among outstanding works are Armando Cortesão's six-volume Portugaliae monumenta cartographica, maps published by the Agencia Geral do Ultramar, such as the Carta da Colônia da Guiné Portuguesa (1889), the Carta da Africa meridional portuguesa (1886), the Carta de Angola, contendo indicações de produção e salubridade (1885), and the unique 1630 manuscript atlas, Taboas geraes de toda a navegação divididas e emendadas por Dom Ieronimo de Attayde by João Teixeira, cosmographer to the King of Portugal, which contains charts of Brazil, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Americas, Europe, and the Mediterranean region. Teixeira's monumental work, which parallels Portuguese overseas efforts in the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries, was a major source of geographical information in the ongoing international rivalry between Portugal and Spain that had accelerated from the late fifteenth century. The provenance of the atlas is alone an interesting story. Spaniard Francisco de Seixas y Lovera (1650-1705/6), a Mexican viceroy, acquired the manuscript atlas from the Portuguese Royal Library and Archives "using intelligence and money." He presented this extremely valuable purchase to Spain's King Charles II (1661-1700) so that "his Majesty [could] use it in the Congresses against Portugal."

Thumbnail image of T-O Map. In Saint
Isidorus [Bishop of Seville]. T-O Map. In Saint Isidorus [Bishop of Seville]. Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX. Augsburg, Gunther Zainer, 1472. The T-O map shown here represents one of the earliest examples of medieval mappae mundi. Originally drawn between 622 and 633 as an illustration for Isidore's Etymologiarum..., the most famous of his thirty encyclopedias and historical works, this map has the distinction of being the first printed world map, appearing in 1472 in an incunabula volume housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Dividing the world into the three known continents (Europe, Africa, Asia), this scheme used the T to represent, horizontally, the Don and the Nile (or possibly the Red Sea), the traditional separation of Europe and Africa from Asia, and vertically, the Mediterranean Sea, giving the easterly orientation. The T also represented the tau cross, a mystical Christian symbol placing Jerusalem, their center of the world, at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical section. The O encircling the T portrayed the common ancient and medieval idea of a world surrounded by water. In the transitional period before Columbus's first voyage, it was not unusual to find all types of mappae mundi coexisting with the more realistic and practical portolan chart and the scientific work of Ptolemy. (Vollbehr Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division)

The OTTO VOLLBEHR COLLECTION of incunabula in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division and in the Law Library contains important early printed works, including the 1494 Basel edition of Columbus's 1493 letter of discovery and extremely rare imprints of Spanish legal interest, such as, Leyes del quaderno nuevo de las rentas delas alcavalas (Burgos, 1491), Leyes del Estilo (Burgos, 1498), and Repertorium de pravitate haereticorum (Valencia, 1494). The Library recently acquired another rare example of fifteenth-century printing, a work commissioned by King John II of Portugal, Vasco Fernandes de Lucena's Velasci Ferdinandi utriusique iuris Innocentium, viii. pontificem maximum de obedientia Oratio (Rome, 1488). That early account of Portuguese explorations and discoveries was presented to Pope Innocent VIII, thus informing the pontiff of the commencement of the European age of discovery. As the Library's 100,000,001st item, that invaluable treasure, in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, was acquired through a gift from Madison Council member John E. Velde, Jr.

For more than eight centuries, Sephardic Jews have spoken and written Spanish, even following their 1492 expulsion from Spain. The written form of their Ladino language uses Hebrew characters. One of the many interesting Luso-Hispanic collections in the library is a group of some six hundred Ladino volumes in the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division. Henry V. Besso's bibliography, Ladino Books in the Library of Congress (1963), lists nearly three hundred titles, the earliest of which is eleventh-century Bahya Ben Joseph Ibn Pakuda's Sefer Jovot ha-Levavot (El dover de los corasones), printed in Constantinople in 1550.

The concordances of texts by eleventh-century Spanish King Alfonso X from libraries in Paris, El Escorial, Madrid, the Vatican, and the British Library are found on 112 microfiches in the Microform Reading Room. That collection contains an early history of Spain, and works on astrology, games, and other topics. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division's copy of Isidore of Seville's Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX (1472) contains the first printed map, the seventh-century Spanish bishop's famous T-O world map.

The Archivo Biográfico de España, Portugal e Iberoamérica, also in the Library's Microform Reading Room, provides some two hundred thousand biographical entries on well-known Hispanic and Portuguese figures from the Roman period to the beginning of the twentieth century. The collection, on 1,143 microfiches, was compiled from 700 volumes of biographical references published between the seventeenth and the twentieth centuries. That rich biographical source is complemented by Alberto and Arturo García Carraffa's eighty-eight-folio Enciclopedia heráldica-genealógica de apellidos españoles y americanos (1919-1963) in the Library's general books collection. The Family History Library, a 2,020-microfiche catalog (now also on CD-ROM in the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room), identifies the thousands of reels of microfilm of governmental and church records from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries on the Luso-Hispanic world located in the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Thumbnail image of Contador maior i
texzorero Contador maior i texzorero. In Felipe Guamám Poma de Ayala. Nueva corónica y buen gobierno [facsimile of early seventeenth- century manuscript]. Paris, 1936. To keep an account of the numbers of men, cattle, and goods, the Inca of the Andean region employed quipucamayoc, experts who used a decimal system to collect data of interest to the state; the data were maintained on stringed devices called quipus. Guamán Poma de Ayala illustrates such a civil servant. Each expert passed on his information to his superior, who in turn did the same, until finally all the information came together in Cuzco. Poma de Ayala, a chronicler of the Inca, was a descendant of Túpac Inca Yupanqui, one of the Inca rulers. His manuscript, which was not uncovered until 1908 and only reproduced in a limited edition in 1936, was completed in 1587, when it was presented to the King of Spain. The work provides valuable ethnographic and social information about the Incan society and its relations, after conquest, with the Spanish administration. (General Books Collection)

Roman, customary, and Visigothic law, the influence of the Moors, and fueros provide the strands from which the legal mosaic of Spain and Portugal has been woven, and the Law Library holds noteworthy examples among its 1,500 rare book volumes. The thirteenth- century manuscript Fuero Juzgo, on vellum, is the Library of Congress's earliest work on Visigothic law. The Library also houses the milestones of the Spanish legal process, including the circa 1265 Siete Partidas (in a rare 1491 Seville printing), the 1310 Leyes de Estiló (in 1502 and 1540 Salamanca printings), the Ordenanças reales de Castilla (in 1566 and 1574 Salamanca editions), the 1505 Leyes de Toro (in a 1531 printing and 1527 and 1544 glosses), Fuero Real (in a 1501 Saragossa printing), and the official Recopilación de las leyes destos reynos hechos por mandado de la magestad catholica del Rey don Philippe segundo (in the first edition of 1567, and in 1571, 1581, 1640, and 1723 editions). All of these works are complemented by complete holdings of significant legal analyses. The Law of the Indies, which codified royal orders for Spain's colonies, issued by Castile and Aragón, begins the Library's comprehensive holdings of Spanish colonial legislation.

Along with comprehensive coverage of legislation existing at the national level, the Law Library holdings include the official gazettes of different regions and the fueros of Cataluña, País Vasco, Galicia, Aragón, Las Canarias, País Valenciano, Andalucia, Baleares, Extremadura, Castilla y Léon, Murcia, and Castilla La Mancha. Also found are modern civil, penal, criminal, and commercial codes which began to appear in Spain after 1880. That collection supports broad study of legislation, court reports, general works, legal education, jurisprudence and philosophy of law, legal history, civil law, commercial law, civil procedure, criminal law, constitutional law, administrative law, and labor legislation.

This collection contains historical landmarks of Portuguese jurisprudence, an excellent collection of colonial legislation, and comprehensive holdings of contemporary legislation issued at the national level. Within the Law Library collection are examples of such legal monuments as the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) through which Spain and Portugal divided the non-Christian world. Present, too, are laws passed by Philip II of Spain in his role as Philip I of Portugal during the Spanish captivity (1580 to 1640). Royal decrees are here accompanied by all of the country's constitutions. These include the liberal constitution of 1822 and the Salazar-influenced constitution of 1933.

Thumbnail image of Descripción
de las Yndias Ocidentalis Descripción de las Yndias Ocidentalis [printed map]. In Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas. Description des Indes Occidentales. Amsterdam: M. Colin, 1622. This map describes the extent of Spanish possessions in America. The 1494 lines of demarcation, agreed upon by Spain and Portugal as a result of the Treaty of Tordesillas, divide America from Europe on the east and from Asia on the west. This map was part of the multivolume historical work by Herrera, Spain's official historian, Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las islas y tierra firme del mar océano (1601-1615). The work relates events of discovery, pacification, and settlement by Spaniards in America between 1492 and 1555. He availed himself of all the documents in the possession of the crown and the Council of the Indies, using them so extensively that for almost two centuries his work constituted an easy means of access to numerous unpublished documents and manuscripts. Copies of the Historia general are located in the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division. (Vault Map Collection, Geography and Map Division)

For Portuguese colonial legislation, the Law Library has the Political, Civil and Criminal Statute of the Natives of Guinea, Angola and Mozambique (1929) and the revised Statute of the Portuguese Natives of the Provinces of Guinea, Angola and Mozambique (1954). Among its holdings of labor legislation are the Regulations on Native Labour (1911) and General Regulations on Native Labour in the Portuguese Colonies (1914). In the collection with the official gazette are the Boletin Geral das Colónias and the Boletin Geral do Ultramar and primary sources encompassing Portuguese legal publications issued during the twentieth century colonial period including the Nova Legislação Ultramarina (1953-1969), Legislação mandada aplicar ao Ultramar Português (1926-1963, 1965-1966), and Legislação Portuguesa (1909-1931).

For the study of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division has a collection of 16-mm prints of newsreels and documentaries, constituting part of an extensive collection of German films, produced from 1933 to 1945. Among documentaries held about the Spanish Civil War are Alkazar (German-language version, 1939), Bethune (Canada, 1964), Between the Wars, no. 12: The Spanish Civil War (U.S., 1978), Los Canadienses (Canada, 1976), Deutsche Freiwillige in Spanien (Germany, 1939), The Good Fight (U.S., 1984), Heart of Spain (U.S., 1937), Helden in Spanien (Germany, 1938), Im Kampf gegen den Weltfeind (Germany, 1939), Madrid: Tumba del Fascio: Segunda Jornada (Spain, 1936), Sierra de Teruel (France/Spain, 1938), The Spanish Civil War, Granada TV (England, 1983), The Spanish Earth (U.S., 1937), and The Twentieth Century: War in Spain, CBS-TV (U.S., 1960). The Manuscript Division has papers of the pool of British insurance companies involved in providing coverage for businesses in civil war-torn Spain and copies of the minutes of the Junta de defensa de Madrid of General José Miaja Menant, the Republic's commander in the 1936 defense of Madrid, who coined the term "fifth column." The Microform Reading Room's holdings of the Gibbs Archives consists of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century business records of a British firm with substantial interests in Spain. A collection of related materials is found in the GARY YANKER POSTER COLLECTION and in Lot 3929 in the photographic collection of the Prints and Photographs Division, as well as in books and periodicals in the general books collections of the Library of Congress.

Thumbnail image of 1936 18 de Julio
1937. Color lithograph
poster Bardasano, José. 1936 18 de Julio 1937. Color lithograph poster, 1937. The bitter conflict between republican and nationalist forces during the first year of Spain's Civil War (1936-1939) is reflected in this poster. It marked the first anniversary of the date on which nationalist leader General Francisco Franco launched his military campaign against the Spanish Republic. The poster appeals to the indignation of the republican side toward foreign and foreign-backed aggressors. It had been hoped that within the year the Franco-led nationalists would be defeated. (Poster Collection, Prints and Photographs Division)

The SPANISH CIVIL WAR: FO 849, FOREIGN OFFICE, INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR THE APPLICATION OF THE AGREEMENT REGARDING NON-INTERVENTION IN SPAIN 1936-1939 COLLECTION (twenty-four reels of microfilm) is in the Microform Reading Room. It contains the British Foreign Office's File 849 comprising the stenographic notes of the meetings of the International Committee for the Application of the Agreement Regarding Non-Intervention in Spain, the International Board for Non-Intervention memoranda (March 1937-March 1939), and other bodies formed to deal with intervention at the time of the Spanish Civil War.

Previous Table of Contents Next

Hispanic Reading Room

Library of Congress Home Page

Library of Congress Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian ( July 15, 2010 )
Legal | External Link Disclaimer