Purchasers and users of this large and handsome volume will find photographic reproductions, not only of Cortes’s five historic relaciones to Charles V, but also those of Pedro de Alvarado describing the conquest of Guatemala, an account of the first Pizarro-Almagro reconnaissance toward Peru, dispatches written by Cortés for the Álvaro Saavedra Cerón expedition which followed that of Loaisa to the Moluccas from Mexico, and the instructions to the first five Franciscan friars bound for New Spain in 1523. Users will need to be acquainted with the sixteenth-century Spanish, and even Latin, script, for no translation or printed version accompanies these documents.

In the introduction by Charles Gibson, the well-known authority on early Mexico, there is a brief description of the documents and an explanation of why they are in the österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, the reason being that Kaiser Karl, the addressee, was a Hapsburg and spent as much of his early reign in northern Europe as in Spain. Professor Gibson also says, on the authority of Rudolf Payer von Thurn, former staff clerk of Franz Joseph, that Codex Vindobonensis, S. N. 1600, from which these documents were selected, passed some years of the nineteenth century in Mexico. They were sent by Emperor Franz to his brother Maximilian during the latter’s brief occupancy of the Mexican throne, and after Maximilian’s execution at Querétaro went through various Mexican hands before returning to Austria. They did not again become the property of the National Library until 1911.

Appended to Gibson’s introduction is a bibliography of 235 items including everything of importance ever written on the Aztec empire and its overthrow by Cortés. The bibliography will prove useful to the historian whose book supersedes the last full-scale work on the conquest by Ángel de Altolaguirre y Duvale in 1954. That same historian must use the Vienna documents reproduced here, as they differ in some particulars from the published versions altered or miscopied by clerks and scribes.