Hernán Cortés manuscript stolen from Mexico’s General Archive is auctioned in NYC


Rare Mexican historical documents auctioned in New York

The auction originally included an Hernán Cortés manuscript that was stolen from Mexico’s General Archive

Swann Auction Galleries auctioned nearly 100 Mexican documents, including the first edition of the Náhuatl-Spanish dictionary “Manual Vocabulary of the Spanish and Mexican Languages” by Pedro Arenas, a “Complaint Between Indigenous Nobles on Land in Cholula” and a document from the “Inquisition that Forbids Several Books from the French Enlightenment.”

The sale of the documents was done during the “Printed & Manuscript Americana,” and auction that was going to sell the “Request that, about the provisions brought by Cristóbal de Tapia, was done by Hernando Cortés, general captain and highest justice in New Spain, Pedro de Alvarado, Bernardino Vázquez de Tapia, and Cristóbal Corral, in front of Hernán Sánchez de Aguilar, public scribe and of the council of the Segura de la Frontera villa, Coyoacán, December 12, 1521,” a manuscript that was part of the Jesuit Hospital Fund 1520-1925 that was stolen from Mexico’s General Archive-

However, the auction sold other historic documents, such as the first edition of the Náhuatl-Spanish dictionary “Manual Vocabulary of the Spanish and Mexican Languages” written by Pedro Arenas in 1611 and that was purchased for USD $22,000.


In the catalog, the Mexican documents were classified from lot 265 to 268 under “Mexican Cookery” from lot 269 to 330 as “Mexican Imprint;” from lot 332 to 346 as “Mexican Manuscripts;” from lot 347 to 361 as “Mexico,” and from lot 362 to 364 as “Mexican Treaties.”

The archives under “Mexican imprint” included lot 332. It was a “Compilation of Religious Opinions Titled ‘Frequent Questions’” that was comprised in a group of 20 and 10 pages with dates from 1572 and 1626. The document was sold for USD $1,200.


Lot 335, which was sold for USD $1,600, was a document about a “Complaint Between Indigenous Nobles on Land in Cholula” from 1632 in which María de San Pablo alleged that her sister-in-law, Josefa Angelina, was illegally occupying some land.


Lot 346 was sold for USD $600; it was the deeds of a mine in Zacatecas with a hand-drawn map. In its description, Swann Galleries said the document from 1820 had “minor wear.”


The document on “Inquisition that Forbids Several Books from the French Enlightenment” was classified in lot 318 and was sold for USD $2,000. Its description mentions that it included three pages signed by Juan Mier y Villa “and three other inquisitors with manuscript signatures,” from September 4, 1789.


Lot 317 was sold for USD $500; the “Regla de N.P.S. Augustin” “Rule of Saint Augustine” is a Mexican printing of the Rule of Saint Augustine, along with the regulations for the Order of Saint Augustine that was active in Mexico since 1533. The document concludes with a detailed report about the patients at Augustinian convent hospitals in Mexico from 1768 to 1773.

The auction took place on Thursday amid the controversy caused by the complaint filed by the INAH regarding the Hernán Cortés paper that was stolen from the AGN.

The auction originally included 368 lots, however, the document about the Spanish colonizer was removed, as well as two other lots.

The illegal extraction of the Cortés manuscript was pointed out by researchers Sebastián van Doesburg, Rodrigo Martínez Baracs, María del Carmen Martínez Martínez, and Michel Robert Oudijk, so the INAH filed a complaint before Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (FGR).

EL UNIVERSAL requested the INAH for information on the total number of lots included in the complaint, however, the institute said “We cannot give interviews on an open investigation file nor provide information linked to this investigation.”

Source: El Universal

Mexico Daily Post