The freshening breezes of the Enlightenment that swept across early Bourbon Spain stimulated reforms and scientific undertakings. Of particular renown was the La Condamine expedition to Ecuador to measure the arc of the meridian under French auspices. Two Spanish officers, Jorge Juan (1713-1773) and Antonio de Ulloa (1716-1795), highly competent and energetic young men, destined by their writings to bring greater celebrity and achievement to the endeavor, assisted in the scientific work during nearly a decade. Their participation resulted in the Relación histórica del viage a la América meridiana (1748) in five volumes, of which translations soon spread its fame throughout Europe. Upon their return to Spain two years earlier, the Spanish secretary of state ordered them to write a private report on “the natural, moral, and political history” of Peru and Ecuador, areas with which they were intimately familiar. This document, generally known as the Noticias secretas, was intended as a working paper for the king’s advisors rather than as a mere description of the abuses, corruption and misgovernment afflicting those realms. Under unclear circumstances a copy of this report, whose proper title was Discourse and Political Reflections on the Kingdoms of Peru, came into the possession of an Englishman, David Barry, who published it in 1826 in Spanish, thus rekindling the Black Legend of Spanish cruelty and obscurantism in America.

Professor TePaske has located five complete copies and one partial version of the Discourse in Madrid, and there is a sixth in the New York Public Library. He believes that one of the three copies at the Library of the Royal Palace is the original. All other editions of the Discourse, or Noticias secretas, follow the Barry text but, in the edition here under review, “except for the portions edited out, this is the first faithful rendering of the original document as drafted by Juan and Ulloa” (p. 32). In a concluding paragraph of his introduction he lists the textual omissions. The translation, in general, is excellent.

The three large volumes of the Relación histórica del viage a la América meridional are a splendid reproduction of the original five, with an admirable introduction by two Spanish scholars. Of the original four narrative volumes written by Ulloa, two each are bound together to form two stout tomes in the new edition, and Jorge Juan’s Observaciones astronómicas y phísicas forms a third volume. This handsome reproduction of the 1748 edition, and the skillful translation of the remarkable Discourse and Political Reflections on the Kingdoms of Peru, generally known as Noticias secretas, are attractive and notable additions to the historiography of colonial Spanish America, and clearly deserve a place in any library devoted to research and general studies.