Brown University Library

Three for Three Million
The Paul R. Dupee Jr. '65
Mexican History Collection

The acquisition of the Dupee Mexican History Collection is an important step toward the John Hay's goal of providing research materials that reflect the growing internationalization of Brown University, that build upon existing library strengths, and that form a chronological and intellectual continuum with the holdings of the John Carter Brown Library whose collections are confined to the colonial history of the Western Hemisphere. Until the donation of the Dupee collection, the only substantial collection at the John Hay focusing on Latin America was the library of George Earl Church, who made his career as a mining engineer in Latin America. Church's books were largely eighteenth and early nineteenth century monographs on politics, history, and science with substantial attention to contemporary scholarship in anthropology and the native peoples of this hemisphere. They were studies of Latin America, not primary materials generated by Latin American politicians, generals, and authors.

Map of Gavelston Bay. Portulano de la América Setentrional, Madrid, 1809

The donation of Daniel B. Schirmer's Collection on the History of American Imperialism in 1994 marked the beginning of our efforts to expand the Library's nineteenth century Latin American holdings. The Schirmer Collection, dealing with the debate within the United States during and after the Spanish-American War over the appropriate relationship between the English-speaking and Spanish speaking Americas, is an important complement to the John Hay Collection and its resources for the study of American diplomacy at the turn of the twentieth century. And the presence of the Schirmer collection convinced the Library of its special obligation to provide students, faculty, and other researchers with broader and better balanced opportunities for studying the Western Hemisphere in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as in the centuries of exploration and colonization.

The Dupee Collection enables Brown to continue meeting this responsibility. With but one exception, the Dupee Collection's more than 340 books, broadsides, pamphlets, and periodicals were published after the Mexican republic secured its independence in 1821. (The exception is the splendid Portolan atlas of New Spain, Portulano de la América Setentrional [Madrid: 1809].) Most are Spanish-language sources written by Mexican citizens and published in Mexico. The bulk of the materials falls into the period 1821-50, covering the first decades of Mexican independence and that nation's war with the United States.

Title page. Portolan Atlas

The Dupee Collection brings the John Hay's Latin American holdings to life for students and senior scholars alike. The collection's nearly 200 broadsides chronicle Mexican partisan politics, religious and anti-clerical debates, popular literature and drama, domestic revolutions and armed conflict with the United States. It contains basic records of the Mexican republic previously absent from Brown's holdings - statutes, executive decrees, the documentary framework necessary for the study of a nation's history and culture.

Together with the broadsides, newspapers, and pamphlets, these official records provide an extraordinary opportunity for teaching and research in Mexican studies here at Brown. Students can become familiar with the various formats in which Mexican politicians, economists, dramatists, and clerics of the early and mid-nineteenth century debated the fate of the struggling new republic while investigating the personalities and issues involved.

The Dupee Collection helps us fill the gap in resources for Mexico's history and reminds us, as well, of the interdependence of Mexican-United States experience. The 1809 Portolan atlas that begins the collection (see illustrations above), chronologically, charts the harbors and bays of modern Texas and the lands of Arizona and New Mexico, then, and for decades thereafter, part of colonial and republican Mexico.

Another treasure of the collection is Jose Maria Alvarez's Instituciones de derecho real de Castilla y de Indias (Taos, 1842), a rare survival from the first press in New Mexico. Mexican political dissenters like Vicente Rocafuerte routinely disguised the locations of their presses by substituting American cities in the place of publication on the title pages of books and pamphlets. Interest in the new Latin American republics was so strong in English-speaking America that a New York publisher like White, Gallaher, & White could publish a Spanish edition of Hernando Cortes's letters with the knowledge that a strong local market existed. And perhaps the pervasive exchange of ideas is nowhere more apparent than on the title page of the 1833 Mexico City pamphlet Memoria para los Soldados Mexicanos. In his search for a decorative military device, the printer decorated the page with a woodcut of the seal of the State of Georgia.

Thus the advent of the Dupee Collection marks something more than a renewal of the John Hay Library's commitment to supplement the collections of the John Carter Brown Library in the history of the American republics. It is a sign of Brown's recognition that the multi-national heritage of all these republics, English-speaking and Spanish speaking, are a matter of pride and interest to the university community and to the nation.

For a half century, Brown has proudly pioneered in the inter-disciplinary study of American Civilization. With the donation of the Dupee Collection, that study at Brown can become what it always deserved to be, that of La Civilización Americana.

Historia de Méjico
New York, 1823.

Cortes presenting treasure to the king.
U.S. edition of Cortes's letters.

Memoria para los Soldados Mexicanos
Mexico, 1833

Woodcut of the seal of Georgia, in an 1883 
Mexican patriotic pamphlet.


Mexican History Collection: Selections from the Exhibition

 

By Mary-Jo Kline
Curator, American History


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