Praeclara Ferdina[n]di.

Hernán Cortés

After the letters describing Columbus’s “discovery” of the New World, the letters that Hernán Cortés sent to Charles V following the Spanish invasion and conquest of Mexico (in 1519-21) represent one of the pillars of Americana collections. Between 1519 and 1526, Cortés sent five extended letters ("cartas de relacion") to the Holy Roman Emperor, combining the style of the personal missive with a ‘relation’ – a progress report in the form of a chronological narrative with suggestions for future action. Written in a style that was more persuasive than informative, Cortés’s goal was to defend his actions to the Spanish crown, given that the conquest of Mexico was accomplished without an official crown contract. The Latin translation of Cortés’s second letter (the first letter did not survive) gives an account of his first meeting with the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma II, and contains the first published plan of the Aztec city of Tenochtítlan (present-day Mexico City), which Cortés and his army attacked and destroyed in May 1521.

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