Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cortes in Gansevoort Melville's Index Rerum

Looking over my research notes from a visit way back when to the Berkshire Athenaeum, I am reminded that the 1837 Index Rerum of Herman's older brother Gansevoort Melville contains multiple entries on Hernán Cortés and the Spanish conquest.  Gansevoort made several entries from book 5 of William Robertson's History of America, a work then available to the Melvilles in the library of the Albany Young Men's Association. The first page of the 1837 Catalog of Books shows item number
1049 America, Robertson's, 2 vols.
References to Robertson on the celebrated action by Cortes of scuttling his fleet appear in Gansevoort Melville's Index Rerum under the headings "Courage" and "Resolution":

Courage   remarkable of Cortes in destroying his fleet before marching to Mexico
Resolution   bold & determined, & unconquerable of Cortes in destroying his fleet
Gansevoort was not blind to the atrocities committed by conquistadors. Another entry, under the heading "Cruelty" in his 1837 Index Rerum:
Cruelty   of the Spaniards in Mexico—bloody—unnecessary & revolting—
 Too bad we don't have this many volumes of Todd's Index Rerum owned by Gansevoort Melville...

 Only two are known to have survived.

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