[Madrid. 1671]. 16 leaves. Folio. Dbd. Upper outer corners numbered in contemporary manuscript. Minute toning at foredge, primarily on first leaf. Overall very good. In a half morocco and cloth box. Item #WRCAM34482
The petition of Don Pedro Nuño Colon de Portugal, descendant of the explorer, Christopher Columbus, and sixth Duke of Veragua and Marquis of Jamaica, requesting that Mariana of Austria, Queen Regent of Charles II of Spain, make some compensation for the loss of income the Duke had suffered since the British took Jamaica in 1655. Jamaica had been the exclusive fief of the descendants of Columbus since 1536 when it was given as a reward to the family. This document is dated 1671 by the text at the top of the second leaf, where the Duke refers to Spain's cession of Jamaica to Great Britain "last year in 1670." Despite this date, some scholars assert a date of 1672. Since most of the text is devoted to the life of Columbus, the document is, by default, also one of the few early biographies of the explorer. In his argument the Duke puts special emphasis on the tremendous gain Spain received by virtue of his ancestor's discovery. In citing various sources he estimates that within the first 170 years after its discovery, the New World had produced for Spain some one billion, 190 million pesos. Despite these figures, the present heir to Columbus' titles and estates was reduced to an income of sixteen thousand ducats. The Duke mentions no specific amount of compensation that he would like for Jamaica, but points out that Puerto Rico is of approximately the same worth. The last four pages are a glowing description of Jamaica, its towns, people, products, etc., ending with an itemized accounting of just how much rent the island had produced annually for the Duke before the British occupation (40,950 pesos silver). Two years after this petition was printed, the Duke was made the 26th viceroy of New Spain - a fair reward for the loss of Jamaica. His term, however, was short. He reigned only six days before dying in Mexico City. "This is the final petition sent to the throne of Spain, and contains a long account of the various descendants of Columbus and their claims on Spain, an account of Jamaica, and a list of the various dues received from Jamaica" - Maggs. The previously mentioned biographical content of the present document is important. It is possibly an assimilation of the sixteen-page folio manuscript of the life of Columbus written by Juan de Solorzano Pereira, the famous Spanish jurist and fiscal of the Council of the Indies in 1628, responsible for the great work on colonial American law, the POLITICA INDIANA, published in 1629. In that manuscript Solorzano states that it was composed at the request of the Duke's branch of the Columbus family, forty-two years before the present document was printed. The Solorzano manuscript is described in the LeClerc catalogue of 1878 (item 137), along with other documents relating to the Duke's branch of the family. One of the earliest Columbus biographies, married to an eloquent plea by his impoverished heirs. Extremely rare. Palau locates only one copy of the original, at the Real Academia de la Historia. EUROPEAN AMERICANA locates two more (Huntington and British Library). Not on OCLC. The petition was reprinted by the Mill Press in San Francisco in 1992. PALAU 57250. BIBLIOGRAPHIA COLOMBINA, p.190. ENC. UNIV. ILL., Vol. 14, p.248 (Colon de Portugal); Vol. 57, p.198 (Solorzano Pereira). LeCLERC 137 (ref). EUROPEAN AMERICANA 671/85. MEDINA (BHA) 8141. MAGGS BIBLIOTHECA AMERICANA 429:322.