With this edition Lohmann Villena adds an important title to his long list of publications on Peruvian history. His preliminary study (in French) not only presents the usual introductory subjects, but goes on to portray the whole intellectual milieu of Peru in the 1560s. Lohmann’s erudition is stunning. Anyone desiring to write the intellectual history of this crucial decade will find the bibliographical foundations laid here. The main characteristic of the time was a growing disposition to take stock of the Spanish colonial enterprise, an attitude manifested on the one hand in a crisis of conscience and on the other in efforts toward codification.
As Lohmann asserts, the Gobierno del Perú is the most impressive product of that ferment and a uniquely valuable source. Usually the historians of colonial Spanish America must draw either on official reports far removed from reality or on great masses of archival materials which are fresh and authentic but minute in scope. Here we have, for once, the work of a man with powers of close observation and also the legalist’s capacity for clear organization and synthesis. No one source can serve all purposes, but Matienzo ranges widely over the two main aspects of the highland Peruvian world, the Indian as well as the Spanish ; and he always prefaces his legal recommendations with a masterly and pertinent description. Of course, some abstraction is involved, but Matienzo’s eye for truth and detail yields to none, unless it be to Cieza de León. The book has relevance to all of Spanish America at the first stage of its maturity. Still one must use caution, for close reading reveals that Matienzo was speaking primarily of the Potosí-La Plata area, where he served on the audiencia. Many of his remarks are not applicable even to coastal Peru, much less to more remote regions.
Lohmann rightly maintains that this is essentially a first edition, since the garbled “edition” published long ago in Buenos Aires contained hardly more than half of the original. His editing is exemplary, and he uses modern orthography and punctuation except where pronunciation has changed. Experience shows that this procedure serves historians best. The only thing lacking is an index, a strange omission in view of the fact that Lohmann is undoubtedly the most meticulous Hispanist now living. The lack is serious, for both historians and anthropologists are now trying to reconstruct at least the bare essentials of colonial reality, and published documents or “chronicles” are among their basic materials. Without a good analytical index, scholars must read a chronicle all the way through for each new project or idea. The only humane alternative to indexing each document is a separate publication of indices, which perhaps some altruist will undertake.