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Patrimony Lost: Hispanic-American Treasures in Foreign Collections

  • W. George Lovell (a1)

The greatest thrill that any researcher can experience is coming across, quite unforeseen, priceless documents long given up as lost. In the case of myself and two close colleagues, Wendy Kramer and Christopher H. Lutz, the documents that have come to light and that have so delighted us include Libros de Cabildo numbers two and three of the city of Santiago de Guatemala, the capital of Spanish Central America. Libro Segundo is a register of events that took place between 1530 and 1541; Libro Tercero is a log spanning the years 1541 to 1553. Our incredulity at learning the whereabouts of these two volumes was matched, if not surpassed, by the anticipation of verifying their existence and thereafter consulting them, something that has not occurred (as best we can determine) in over a century. Far more than the minutes of mundane municipal affairs, these two Libros de Cabildo contain valuable information about Spanish conquest and colonization, and indigenous resistance to it, that will enhance considerably our understanding of the early colonial period, not only in Guatemala but throughout Central America. Furthermore, the Libros de Cabildo have proven to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg, for the cache of which they form part contains other treasures perhaps not quite so unique but nonetheless of significant historical worth.

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1. The Libros de Cabildo shed new light on a variety of topics. Throughout the Libro Segundo, for instance, in which the text of one folio is penned in code to obscure content from prying eyes, minutes of city council meetings record palpable tension, and marked dissention, among Spanish ranks, with fears openly expressed that native resistance was so fierce and widespread as to threaten the very presence of Spaniards in Guatemala. In an eerie indication of what was to occur on the night and in the early hours of September 10 and 11, 1541, when a thunderous mudslide destroyed the capital city of Santiago, then located on the lower slopes of Volcán Agua in the Valley of Almolonga, mention is made of earlier such incidents when heavy rain caused huge boulders and massive trees to be washed down from the upper reaches of the volcano into the heart of the city. For a dramatic account of tragedy that was forewarned but nonetheless occurred, see Rodríguez, Juan, Relación del espantable terremoto que agora nuevamente acontecido en las yndias en una ciudad llamada Guatimala (Madrid: Ediciones Cultura Hispanica, [1541, 1543] 1944). Libro Tercero begins three days after the devastation, in which many eminent Spaniards and an estimated 600 (or more) native inhabitants lost their lives. It records the decision to relocate the capital to the nearby valley of Panchoy, and spells out regulations concerning the layout in the new city of streets, plazas, churches, houses, and adjacent agricultural land. Pedro de Alvarado, the conquistador and later adelantado (supreme governor) who ruled Guatemala with an iron hand, had died waging war in Mexico in July 1541. Consequently, the pages of the Libro Tercero deal with the imposition of a new, post-Alvarado order, in which the crown sought to create a more stable, better organized, and less tyrannical regime.

2. For more extended discussion, see Kramer, Wendy, Lovell, W. George, and Lutz, Christopher H., “Pillage in the Archives: The Whereabouts of Guatemalan Documentary Treasures,” Latin American Research Review 48:3 (2013): 153167 ; and Kramer, Wendy, Lovell, W. George, and Lutz, Christopher H., Saqueo en el archivo: el paradero de los tesoros documentales guatemaltecos (Antigua, Guatemala: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica ; Ciudad de Guatemala: Centro de Estudios Urbanos y Rurales, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala; and Wellfleet, MA: Plumsock Mesoamerican Studies, 2014).

3. For elaboration, see Codding, Mitchell A., “A Brief History of the Library of the Hispanic Society of America,” in The Hispanic Society of America: Illuminated Manuscripts, Codding, Mitchell A. and O'Neill, John, eds. (Madrid: Brizzolis, SA, 2006), 923 ; O'Neill, John, “Archer M. Huntington, La Hispanic Society of America y sus fondos americanistas,” in Aproximaciones al americanismo entre 1892 y 2004, Vila, Pilar Cagiao and Tristán, Eduardo Rey, eds. (Santiago de Compostela: Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, 2006), 143155 ; and O'Neill, John, “La biblioteca y el archivo documental de la Hispanic Society,” in El tesoro arqueológico de la Hispanic Society of America (Seville: Fundación Cajasol, 2009), 195208 . Codding, Mitchell A., ed., Tesoros de la Hispanic Society of America: visiones del mundo hispánico (Madrid and New York: Museo Nacional del Prado ; and the Hispanic Society of America, 2017) showcases the institution's treasures in a sumptuous manner, the dividend of an extraordinary exhibition mounted in Madrid's Museo del Prado that drew widespread attention and considerable acclaim. The exhibition, curated as the Tesoros de la Hispanic Society of America, which is also the name of the exhibition catalogue, featured some 250 works of art or scholarly artistry. Among them are the Mapamundi of Giovanni Vespucci, the nephew of Florentine explorer, navigator, and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, drafted in Seville in 1526; the Zapotec codex known as the Árbol genealógico de Macuilxochitl (1580), a genealogical tree depicting a succession of twelve ruling couples in San Mateo Macuilxochitl (Oaxaca, Mexico) from the thirteenth century to a generation following the Spanish conquest; and the Mapa del Tecuichitle, a cartographic accompaniment to a relación geográfica that documents the Mixtón War of 1539–42, which marked a considerable reversal in the forward movement of the Spanish conquest of Mexico. It was in this war that Pedro de Alvarado lost his life.

4. See for example Asselbergs, Florine, Los conquistadores conquistados, el Lienzo de Quauhquechollan: una visión nahua de la conquista de Guatemala, Eddy H. Gaytán, trans. (South Woodstock, VT: Plumsock Mesoamerican Studies ; Antigua, Guatemala: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica; and Puebla: Secretaría de Cultura de Puebla, 2010); and Lovell, W. George and Lutz, Christopher H., with Kramer, Wendy and Swezey, William R., “Strange Lands and Different Peoples”: Spaniards and Indians in Colonial Guatemala (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013).

5. For context and discussion, see Carmack, Robert M., Quichean Civilization: The Ethnohistoric, Ethnographic, and Archaeological Sources (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973), 85 . Bauer, Arnold J., in The Search for the Codex Cardona: On the Trail of a Sixteenth-Century Mexican Treasure (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009) writes about his adventures in the archives with allure and erudition. So too does Mackenthun, Gesa in “The Conquest of Antiquity: The Travelling Empire of John Lloyd Stephens,” in American Travel and Empire, Castillo, Susan and Seed, David, eds. (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press 2009), 99128 , with respect to “the invention and discovery of antiquity.” For Mackenthun, “the conquest of antiquity” is exemplified by the life and works of the American adventurer cum diplomat cum archaeologist, John Lloyd Stephens (1805–1852). See also Aguirre, Robert D., Informal Empire: Mexico and Central America in Victorian Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005); and Kramer, Lovell, and Lutz, “Pillage in the Archives,”155–159.

6. Hiersemann, Karl W., Middle and South America, the West Indies, and the Philippines: A Catalogue of Choice and Valuable Autographs, Manuscripts, and Printed Books, Catalogue 418 (Leipzig: Karl W. Hiersemann, Bookseller and Publisher, 1913).

7. O'Neill, “Archer M. Huntington,” 145.

8. Olbrich, Wilhelm, Hundert Jahre Hiersemann, 1884–1984 (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1984), 26 .

9. Codding, “History of the Library,” 18.

10. O'Neill, “Archer M. Huntington,” 144.

11. O'Neill, “Archer M. Huntington,” 145; O'Neill, John, “Don Manuel Pérez de Guzmán, Marqués de Jerez de los Caballeros, bibliófilo y académico,” in Boletín de la Real Academia Sevillana de Buenas Letras 37 (2009): 341 .

12. For details of Huntington family history, father and son in particular, see Proske, Beatrice Gilman, Archer Milton Huntington (New York: Hispanic Society of America, 1963); and Codding, Mitchell A., “Archer Milton Huntington, Champion of Spain in the United States,” in Spain in America: The Origins of Hispanism in the United States, Kagen, Richard L., ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 142170 . Bennett, Shelley M., The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library Press, 2013), elaborates at even greater length.

13. Francisco Rodríguez Marín to Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, in O'Neill, “Pérez de Guzmán,” 342. His precise words are: “Escribo a usted afligidísimo por una triste noticia, por una gran pérdida para nuestras pobres letras. La biblioteca del Marqués de Jerez ya, desde esta tarde, no es suya: la ha vendido, toda entera, a Huntington. ¡Qué gran desgracia! ¡Como si se hubiera tragado el mar ese tesoro, peor [sic], puesto que irá a parar a Nueva York! . . . ¡Más daño nos ha hecho Mister Huntington sólo que todos sus paisanos!”

14. Menéndez Pelayo to Rodríguez Marín, November 6, 1900, in O'Neill, “Pérez de Guzmán,” 342. His precise words are: “[N]uestro amigo el Marqués de Jerez trata de enagenar [sic] o ha enagenado [sic] ya su singular y maravillosa colección de libros de literatura española. Mayor desastre y más irremediable sería este que los de Cavite y Santiago de Cuba. Yo no tengo relación directa ni indirecta con el señor Huntington, y confieso a usted que le miro con profunda antipatía, porque ha venido a despojar a Espanã de sus mejores libros, haciendo como alarde de su riqueza.” The allusion to “Cavite y Santiago de Cuba” refers to two naval battles that saw Spain defeated by the United States in the Spanish American War, resulting in the loss to Spain of its last two colonies, Cuba and the Philippines.

15. Codding, “History of the Library,” 17–18.

16. Mayer, August L., Handzeichnungen Spanischer Meister: 150 Skizzen und Entwürfe von Künstlern des 16. bis 19. Jahrhunderts (New York and Leipzig: Hispanic Society of America and Verlag Karl W. Hiersemann, 1915).

17. Van Meer has a long-standing interest in Mesoamerican culture and civilization, the Zapotec calendar more specifically. Two of his articles focus on nineteenth-century collecting practices that saw many emblematic artifacts from Mesoamerica taken to Europe, where to this day they are displayed in museums in Austria, Germany, and other countries. See Van Meer, Ron, “Philipp Joseph Becker: A German Businessman and Collector in 19th-Century Mexico,” in Baessler-Archiv: Beiträge zur Völkerkunde 53 (2005): 2741 ; and “The Forgotten Collector: Josef Anton Dorenberg (1846–1935),” in Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Ethnographischen Sammlung Sachsen 45 (2010): 77–101.

18. See Wagner, Regina, Los alemanes en Guatemala, 2nd ed. (Guatemala: Edición de la Autora, 1996), for the German presence in Guatemala in general; and Wagner, Regina, The History of Coffee in Guatemala (Guatemala City: ANACAFE, 2001) for the formative role of German investment in the coffee economy.

19. Seler, Eduard, The Ancient Settlements of Chaculá in the Nentón District of the Department of Huehuetenango, Republic of Guatemala. Weeks, John M., ed. (Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos, [1901] 2003), 1 . For an account of Kanter's notable collection—and its sad pillage and demise—see Navarrete, Carlos, Las esculturas de Chaculá, Huehuetenango, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Cuaderno 31 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1979).

20. Seler, Eduard, “De México a Guatemala por tierra,” in María Teresa Sepúlveda y Herrera, Eduard Seler en México (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, [1897] 1992), 68 , his words rendered in Spanish as “el tiempo más grato y alegre de todo nuestro viaje, sin molestias de ningún género a hacer excavaciones y exploraciones.”

21. Seler-Sachs, Caecilie, 1900, Auf alten Wegen in Mexiko und Guatemala: Reiseerrinnerungen und Eindrücke aus den Jahren 1895–1897 (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1900), 261292 .

22. Sepúlveda y Herrera, Eduard Seler en México, 16. Her precise words are: “No permaneció Seler inmune a la enfermedad del ‘coleccionismo’ que ataca a casi todos los estudiosos de la arqueología; obsesionado por formar colecciones de estudio ‘completas’, y de aumentar los acervos del Museo Etnográfico de Berlín, no desaprovechó la oportunidad de recoger cuanto objeto arqueológico [que] encontró a flor de tierra.” The words she attributes to Seler, rendered in Spanish, are: “Venimos al país a estudiar sus antigüedades, es decir para hacer colecciones de ellas.”

23. Seler, as cited by Sepúlveda y Herrera, “Seler en México,” 16, his words rendered in Spanish thus: “En la mayor parte de las regiones recorridas por nosotros tuvimos que limitarnos a ver, a tomar notas y a coleccionar piezas que la casualidad o excavaciones accidentales han hecho aparecer. El poco tiempo de que podía yo disponer, las restricciones impuestas por las autoridades a las excavaciones arqueológicas y la prohibición legal de exportar antigüedades, frenaban nuestro ardor y propensiones de coleccionistas.” Mexico's restrictive clamp-down appears not to have had a Guatemalan equivalent.

24. See Urschel, Donna, “Love and War: Shell Pendant Reveals Clues to Ancient Toltec Culture,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin 68:2 (2009), for further praise of Seler on the part of Coe.

25. Sepúlveda y Herrera, “Seler en México,” 16–17. She states that “las colecciones arqueológicas reunidas por Seler pasaron a formar parte de los acervos del Museo de Berlín. Pero muchos de los manuscritos, mapas y documentos de la época colonial por él adquiridos, se perdieron durante los bombardeos de la Primera Guerra Mundial.” Sepúlveda y Herrera may have meant “los bombardeos de la Segunda Guerra Mundial,” as it was during World War II, not World War I, that the elegant Seler mansion at Kaiser-Welhelm Strasse 3 in Steglitz was destroyed. It housed not only a library but a studio where Caecilie indulged her passion for photography. For confirmation of the destruction of the property, see the introductory remarks to Seler, Eduard and Seler-Sachs, Caecilie, Cartas de viaje desde México, Gerardo Hugo Álvarez García, trans. (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, [1889] 2008).

26. Van Meer, Ron, “The History of a Falsified Mesoamerican Pictorial Manuscript: The Codex Moguntiacus ,” Indiana 27 (2010): 212 .

27. Sepúlveda y Herrera, “Seler en México,” 7.

28. Regarding Seler's exploits in Oaxaca, for example, Sellen, Adam T., Re-evaluation of the Early Archaeological Excavations from Oaxaca: A Trip to the Seler Archives in Berlin (Los Angeles: Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, 2006), is most incisive. Sellen's two-week sojourn in Berlin, spent combing through “copious documentation,” allowed him “to recuperate provenience and contextual data for artefacts that over time have been divorced from this vital information.” Some 13,000 objects from Mexico and Guatemala found their way into the Ethnologisches Museum as a result of the six field excursions undertaken between the years 1887 and 1911 by Seler and his wife, Caecilie.

29. The museum's website ( offers a comprehensive virtual tour, but nothing compares with seeing its collections in situ. The Mesoamerican gallery is a notable highlight. There, surrounded by artistic expressions from all over the region, the beauty of some Maya pieces is spectacular. While perusing a museum catalogue, I was struck by one object in particular, a Chamá-style painted vase dating to late Classic times (AD 700) that had been found in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, by Erwin Paul Dieseldorff, a German coffee planter and ardent archaeologist. A photograph of this vase appears, in color, as plate 21 in the volume on Maya art by Grube, Nikolai and Gaida, María, Die Maya: Schrift und Kunst (Berlin and Cologne: SMB-Du Mont, 2006). When I went to look at the vase, all I found was an empty space in the display case where it was supposed to be. Maria Gaida, curator for Mesoamerican holdings, informed me that it had been missing since the end of World War II, when the fall of Berlin to the Red Army coincided with widespread looting. In 1991-92, Gaida noted, 55,000 objects taken to the Soviet Union were returned to the Ethnologisches Museum, but the painted vase was not among them. How many artifacts the museum was relieved of is not known. For a Dieseldorff-Seler connection, in which the two men collaborated with Ernst Förstemann to analyze Chamá-style ceramics at length, see Dieseldorff, Erwin Paul, Seler, Eduard, and Förstemann, Ernst, “Two Vases from Chamá,” in Mexican and Central American Antiquities, Calendar Systems, and History (Washington, DC, Government Printing Office, 1904).

30. Mazariegos, Oswaldo Chinchilla, “Las esculturas de Cotzumalguapa en el Museo Etnográfico de Berlín,” in X Simposio de Investigaciones Arqueológicas en Guatemala, Laporte, Juan Pedro and Escobedo, H., eds. (Guatemala: Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología, 1997), 214226 . Chinchilla Mazariegos offers a detailed discussion of the stelae of Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa and how they made their way from Guatemala to Germany. I took the stelae, positioned near the entrance to the Mesoamerican gallery in the Ethnologisches Museum, to be replicas when I first saw them, only for closer inspection to reveal that in fact they are the originals. Seler's acquisitions deserve similar painstaking scrutiny, and, as Sellen has shown in his Early Archaeological Excavations with regard to Oaxaca, would surely yield fruitful results. Edward T. Heyn, writing from Berlin on October 10, 1902, and published in The New York Times nine days later, offers some trenchant observations, made in anticipation of Seler's visit to New York to attend the International Congress of Americanists later that month. “He [became] Director of the American department of the Museum der Völkerkunde in 1891,” Heyn states, noting that same year “Prof. Seler was commissioned by the German Government to attend the American historical exhibition in Madrid, and by order of the royal library of that city wrote an explication of Mexican pictures brought to Europe by Alexander von Humboldt. The work was published in honor of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. In 1895 he made a second trip to Mexico and Guatemala at the expense of the Duke of Loubat. He visited the state[s] of Oaxaca, Tehuantepec, and Chiapas. In Oaxaca he found most valuable remains of Zapotec and Mixtec antiquities. While the former are not new to the modern ethnologist, the latter have opened up an entirely foreign civilization. Seler's visit to Guatemala is also of great interest. The large collections of antiquities he brought back were divided between the Berlin Museum and the New York Museum of Natural History.” Heyn concludes: “The May[a] people, fortunately for us, have not disappeared in the dark chaos of prehistoric ages, for not only are records written by them [still in existence], but their Spanish conquerors have also given an account of them. Seler's excavations have helped to complete our knowledge of the high state of civilization of these people.”

31. Olbrich, Hundert Jahre Hiersemann, 10; and Zobeltitz, Fedor von and Breslauer, Martin, “Als Einführung,” in Werden und Wirken: Ein Festgrüss [für] Karl W. Hiersemann, Breslauer, Martin and Koehler, Kurt, eds. (Leipzig: Verlag von K. F. Koehler, 1924), 118 .

32. Hiersemann, Middle and South America, 1.

33. Hiersemann, Middle and South America, 32. The entry in the original reads: “Sin duda D. Pedro de Alvarado fue uno de los aventajados conquistadores, quien peleó en Cuba, México, Guatemala, Yucatán y aun en el Perú. Amigo de Cortés, tomó parte en la organización de expediciones extendidas en el mar Pacífico, y fué para ir á las Islas Molucas, cuando murió el 5 de julio de 1541.” Recinos, Adrián, Pedro de Alvarado, conquistador de México y Guatemala (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1952) remains the best study to date of Alvarado and his exploits. The conquistador's hold on Guatemala is examined at length in Lovell, W. George, Lutz, Christopher H., and Kramer, Wendy, Atemorizar la tierra: Pedro de Alvarado y la conquista de Guatemala, 1520–1541 (Antigua, Guatemala: Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica and Guatemala City: F & G Editores, [2016] 2017).

34. Hiersemann, Middle and South America, 33. The entry in the original reads: “Los volúmenes llevan un sello italiano, muy curioso, del siglo XVII, con la inscripción ‘Giovan Batta. Bombozzo in Crema,’ lo que prueva que los libros fueron desde tres siglos enajenados al archivo de la ciudad de Guatemala, donde pararon originariamente.”

35. Gavarrete, Juan, Catálogo de las obras impresas y manuscritos de que actualmente se compone la Biblioteca de la Sección Etnográfica del Museo Nacional (Guatemala: Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País, 1875).

36. Exposicion Hispano-Americana, Catálogo general de la Exposición Hispano-Americana de Madrid, 1892, Vol. 1 (Madrid : Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1893).

37. Shortly before his death on September 12, 2014, I had occasion to speak with the noted historian and genealogist of Guatemala, Ramiro Ordóñez Jonama. He made some off-handed remarks about the fate of the Libros de Cabildo at a book launch we were attending, which took place on July 26. He followed these up, on August 8, 2014, with an email regarding the Libro Segundo, making specific reference to Beatriz de la Cueva, the wife of Pedro de Alvarado. Sharing what he had to say with mutual friend and colleague Jorge Luján Muñoz, Ordóñez Jonama informed us: “Some 40 years ago, during a conversation I had with Don Edgar [Juan] Aparicio (1910–1982), he told me that Doña Beatriz de la Cueva had signed herself as ‘la sin ventura’ (The Unfortunate One) in the Libro Segundo de Cabildo de la Ciudad de Guatemala. He also told me that the book was lost, and that it had been lent, in confidence, to Dr. Guillermo Salazar, who wished to consult it for a work he was writing. However, Salazar was an opponent of the regime of Manuel Estrada Cabrera, and for political reasons, had to flee Guatemala precipitously. He headed for Mexico, and it was never established whether he took the book with him or left it behind in Guatemala, perhaps in the care of a trusted friend or a member of his family. Although Salazar was able to return to Guatemala, he never offered any satisfactory explanation, and there the matter has rested. This little tale has always stuck in my mind, with a feeling of frustration and sadness. One might suppose that, while in exile, Salazar sold the book to obtain some necessary resources, and that the book had thus ended up in the hands of some bibliophile or collector. But this is mere conjecture.”

I had earlier told Luján Muñoz about my conversation with Ordóñez Jonama, which prompted him to propose to Ordóñez Jonama that “since he had gathered novel, hitherto unknown information, it would be worthwhile to write an article about it.” Ordóñez Jonama declined Luján Muñoz's overture, considering what he had to relay no more than an “anecdote” that “did not warrant writing an article.” He was content to close our exchange by stating that I could make use of what he had told me as best I saw fit. “It's what don Edgar Juan Aparicio y Aparicio told me about the Libro Segundo de Cabildo de Guatemala, which has fortunately reappeared.” In his remarks, he made no reference to the Libro Tercero de Cabildo. The man who Aparicio y Aparicio implicates, Guillermo Salazar, was one of the student activists who, in 1898, founded the satirical newspaper No Nos Tientes. President Manuel Estrada Cabrera, heavy-handed ruler of Guatemala from 1898 to 1920, banned the paper in 1908 for its anti-government rhetoric. Salazar fled to Mexico, supposedly to escape the retribution of Estrada Cabrera, in the early 1900s, perhaps (as Ordóñez Jonama suggests) taking the Libro Segundo de Cabildo with him.

38. See Codding, Tesoros de la Hispanic Society, 254. Van Meer is convinced that the handwriting on Figure 10 is not that of Eduard Seler, a view supported by comparing it with the handwriting featured in Figure 6, which is known to be his. The Hiersemann-Seler connection alluded to earlier resulted in at least part of Seler's library being acquired by Hiersemann, as von Zobeltitz and Breslauer, in Breslauer and Koehler, Werden und Wirken, 11, diligently record. This transaction took place in 1921, one year before Seler's death. Cards in the Zettelkatalog in Leipzig also indicate that Seler purchased books from Hiersemann, as did Lehmann, who sold him items too.

39. Regarding the whereabouts of other missing documents, for instance Libros de Cabildo numbers five (1562–1571), six (1571–1577), and eight (1589–1599), we are as much in the dark as before. However, a register found by Miguel Alberto Paredes Vides, director of the Archivo Histórico Municipal de la Ciudad de La Antigua Guatemala, indicates that in 1835 books six and eight (but not book five) formed part of a run of Libros de Cabildo then in the archive's holdings. See “Por orden del Gobierno de 1 de mayo de 1835 se mandaron volverse los libros de actas desde el año de 1530 hasta 1775” (Gobierno de la República de Guatemala, 1835), an inventory found by Paredes that spans the years from 1530 to 1775 and lists 48 Libros de Cabildo in all. After that inventory was made, the Libros de Cabildo, like so many other documentary treasures, became an endangered species. The loss of Guatemalan national patrimony, in which the complicity of Guatemalan nationals is manifestly clear, despite the best efforts of others to prevent it, is discussed at length in Kramer, Lovell, and Lutz, “Pillage in the Archives” and Saqueo en el archivo. It saddens me immensely – see Lovell, W. George, Conquest and Survival in Colonial Guatemala: A Historical Geography of the Cuchumatán Highlands, 1500-1821 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, [1985], 2015), 92 and 150 for two specific instances – to return to Guatemala for research forays in the Archivo General de Centro América, only to find that documents I had consulted on previous visits could no longer be located.

First expression of thanks goes to our Dutch colleague Sebastián van Doesburg for alerting Christopher H. Lutz to the bounty of Guatemalan colonial documents housed at the Hispanic Society of America in New York, the Libros Segundo y Tercero del Cabildo de Santiago in particular. Chris generously shared the revelation with Wendy Kramer and me. Wendy and Chris have forged ahead, in collaboration with Jorge Luján Muñoz, Edgar Chután, Guisela Asensio Lueg, and Mayda Gutiérrez Rodríguez, in transcribing and preparing for publication an edition of the Libro Segundo del Cabildo. Work on the Libro Tercero del Cabildo continues apace. So unique are these two sources that their appearance in transcribed book form is sure to attract the attention not only of those who study Guatemala but also other scholars of colonial Spanish America, far and wide. My concern in this article is not with the contents of the find but with the events whose trajectory led us to the two tomes—and to countless other documentary and archaeological treasures that were removed from Guatemala to form part of foreign collections. At the Hispanic Society, Mitchell A. Codding and John O'Neill have been most accommodating. Much of the material O'Neill oversees and deals with as archivist and librarian has yet to be properly identified and inventoried. One may request to consult certain items, for instance, by the number and description given them in printed sales catalogues. For those items acquired by purchase from Karl W. Hiersemann more than a century ago, one consults the catalogues prepared by the Leipzig book dealer himself. Making a functional inventory of Hispanic Society holdings is a work in progress, an undertaking that external funding may be the best means of advancing. Another Dutch colleague, Ron van Meer, has proven pivotal in assisting me move the locus of inquiry from the upper reaches of Manhattan to Germany, Berlin and Leipzig specifically. In Berlin, Viola König and María Gaida of the Ethnologisches Museum were very helpful, as were (in Leipzig) Thomas Döring, Steffen Hoffmann, and Marcel Schneider of the Bibliotheca Albertina, and Bruno Schelhaas of the Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde. All visual images were photographed by me in the course of my forays. As always, Maureen McCallum Garvie was editor and muse beyond compare. I am also indebted to Juan Marchena Fernández for the opportunity to present Saqueo en el archivo: el paradero de los tesoros documentales guatemaltecos (2014) at the forum Mundos Indígenas na América (Séculos XVI–XVIII), held at the Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in February 2015. My remarks at the book presentation resulted in Pablo Ibáñez Bonillo encouraging me to delve further and say a bit more. Research funding from the Killam Program of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Queen's University's Office of Research Services is gratefully acknowledged.

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