The commemoration of the four-hundredth anniversay of the death of Bartolomé de Las Casas in 1566 has brought forth many fruits: a new edition of his 1552-1553 treatises; discussions of his place in history carried on in many parts of the world, including Seville, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Havana, and Dubuque, Iowa; and an enormous number of publications about this controversial Dominican defender of the American Indians, ranging from a volume of the collected articles of Marcel Bataillon to whole issues of reviews devoted to the subject such as the Neue Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft in Switzerland and the Marxist Historia y Sociedad in Mexico. Indeed, such a flood of material has been stimulated by the quadricentennial and by the vigorous attack on Las Casas by Ramón Menéndez Pidal that a large, new bibliography has been prepared by Raymond Marcus of the University of Rouen, listing only the items which have come out since the issuance of the standard bibliography in 1954. And the end is not yet in sight, for other volumes are about to appear or are in the planning stage.

This posthumous work by Henry Raup Wagner is part of the flood of material. For one who, like the reviewer, discussed historical questions with Wagner in San Marino during the last years of his life, the volume brings vividly to mind his erudite and somewhat opinionated pronouncements. For in the text and the footnotes we hear again his confident voice on all the many disputed points in the life and writings of Las Casas—the voice of an independent researcher, more at home in the minutiae of bibliography than in the larger questions of history.

It is a unique effort, as original in its way as the biography which Agustín Yáñez wrote backwards, the first chapter depicting the death of Las Casas and the last chapter his birth. For Wagner has followed the long and tangled story of Las Casas’ life almost as though he were a lone pioneer on the trail. In fact, no subject in Latin American history has been more thoroughly studied. Wagner leans heavily on Remesal, Fabié, and a few other well-known sources, but his references to other writings are very limited. As his editor states: “Wagner ignored the work of other scholars to an absolute fault” (p. xviii). He went even farther: “Modern writers ignored the fresh documents, avoided critical study . . . used secondary sources and continued to copy old errors as if they had not been exposed” (pp. xxii, xxiv).

This handsomely produced volume abounds with personal views and conjectures. Wagner’s convictions lead him even to criticize Las Casas, who “made a grave mistake” in not accompanying Captain Ocampo to the mainland in 1521 (p. 65), and in 1522 “made a great mistake in becoming a friar . . ., [for] his new state gave him little opportunity to effect his chief purpose, the liberation of the Indians” (p. 70). Even more remarkable is Wagner’s reliance on his own analysis of Las Casas’ writings and of some other historical documentation, a method clearly inadequate to treat such complicated events as the decreeing of the New Laws or the Valladolid disputation with Sepúlveda.

The editorial work by Helen Rand Parish leaves something to be desired. She could not have been expected to examine Wagner’s interpretations in the light of the numerous pertinent publications, for this would have resulted in another book. And besides Wagner had insisted that his study was to be published just as he left it about 1947. However, she did not have to add her own dubious allegations. How many historians will agree with the statement that Wagner’s presentation “changes the whole story” and is “completely unbiased and free from misconceptions” (p. xix) ?

The editor also adopts the tactic of exalting Wagner’s contribution by disparaging the writings of others, whom she lumps together as “the younger Lascasistas,” who “have been like the blind men describing the elephant” (p. xx). This charge adds an unconscious note of humor, for these young fellows average about 70 years of age. They do not always agree with each other’s interpretations, but they discovered, edited, and analyzed the most important new Las Casas documentation that has appeared in the last 35 years. If Wagner or his editor had read their writings—and the publications of Venancio D. Carro, O.P., Edmundo O’Gorman, and others not mentioned in this volume—surely the picture presented would have been different in some respects.

This addition to the Las Casas commemoration seems to me, therefore, an important but imperfect monument to an outstanding bibliographer of the twentieth century. Valuable as it may be to have the personal views of such a learned man as Wagner, this detailed biography will probably be challenged at many points in years to come, a hallowed tradition in Las Casas studies since the sixteenth century.

The text is preceded by a memoir of George P. Hammond, “Henry Raup Wagner, 1862-1957,” and is followed by a useful “Narrative and Critical Catalogue of Casas’ Writings.”