Guide to the Research Collections

- South America (Billings HCM-HLY)

South America (Billings HCM-HLY)

Approximately 26,400 volumes include general histories and works of description and travel, together with reprinted documents and archives.

Books of travel in South American countries frequently contain information of permanent interest. Even if popularly written, they may include interesting archaeological and ethnological observations; many such works are by professionally trained members of exploratory or scientific expeditions. A subject of related interest is geography: this group of works, although not large, includes such important series as the Boletim geográfico of the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica. The published accounts of scientific expeditions in the holdings on natural history are also useful, as are works related to mountains and mountaineering.

An important related subject is biography. In addition to individual biographies, the library maintains a good collection of South American biographical dictionaries. Current editions are kept in the reference collections of the Main Reading Room, and earlier editions are housed in the stacks.

The collection is rich in periodicals, including those which reprint documents and archives. Included are the serial publications of ministries and government departments such as the Brazilian Ministério das Relaç[omacr ]es Exteriores or the Uruguayan Archivo General. Various academies also issue important series, such as the Boletin (1912- ) of the Academia Nacional de la Historia, Caracas, or its Documentos para los anales de Venezuela (1890-1909) and similar series. Institutes are also active with such publications as the Revistas of the Instituto Arqueológico, Histórico e Geográfico Pernambucano (1863- ) or the Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro (1939- ). To these may be added the publications of two kinds of institutions not generally associated with the publications of national archives, such as the Memoria and the Revista of the Biblioteca Nacional of Argentina, and the documents series of the Museo Mitre of Buenos Aires.

The files of conventional historical periodicals are generally complete. Those devoted to contemporary matters date from the time of World War I, and the files are sometimes incomplete. The excellent collection of popular Hispanic-American periodicals contains additional material of interest to students of South American history.

Area Studies

The collections relating to the individual countries of South America are more or less equal in extent of coverage and importance of materials included; therefore only distinguishing features are noted in the following paragraphs. The library has sought to collect everything available relating to international affairs, and the coverage would seem to indicate boundary disputes as a major cause of negotiation. There are extensive writings, both official and unofficial, on such disputes as those between Venezuela and British Guiana, and Bolivia and Paraguay.

Large sets and collections are notable features of the various national historical sources. The extensive holdings of early Americana formed by James Lenox and continually augmented include many of the greatest rarities in the field represented not only in first editions but also in contemporaneous translations.


More than 2,790 titles represent area studies of the Argentine Republic. Of these, some 860 relate to history, and approximately 300 to description and travel. Best covered among the historical periods are the wars of independence (1810-17) and the period from 1817 to 1860. Among source materials are such works as Pedro de Angelis's Colección de obras y documentos relativos á la historia antigua y moderna de las provincias del Rio de la plata (Buenos Aires, 1836-37) and Documentos para la historia argentina contemporánea. Also of historical importance are the collected papers of three former presidents: the Escritos y discursos of Nicolás Avellaneda, the Archivo of Bartolomé Mitre, and the Obras of D.F. Sarmiento.


Brazilian area studies number over 3,400 titles. Of these, works specifically relating to description and travel number 647. There are more than 850 historical titles. In this collection is found an unusually large number of works concerning boundary disputes. The period of the Dutch Conquest (1624-54) is particularly well represented with contemporaneous books, pamphlets, and broadsides, as well as later materials.


Over 1,560 entries in the Public Catalog cover Chilean studies. Of these, about 200 titles represent description and travel, and 600 history. Historical coverage is best for the wars of independence and for the war with Peru (1879-82). Early works of travel include Alonzo de Ovalle's Relacion verdadera de las pazes que capitulò con el Araucano rebelado [Madrid, 1642], with other accounts by Frézier, Van Baerle, and John Byron.


Area studies number over 1,750 titles. Of these, 266 represent description and travel, and 640 history. The conquest of Peru receives the best coverage, followed by the wars of independence. One of the library's treasures, La Conquista del Peru (Seville, 1534), is one of two recorded copies of the second printed account of the conquest. The library has a copy of the first edition of Garcilaso de la Vega's Primera parte de los commentarios reales, que tratan del origen de los Yncas (Lisbon, 1609), along with a copy of the 1723 edition and numerous early translations. The collections of viceregal statutes and cédulas in the original or facsimile are fairly extensive. A number of documents in the Obadiah Rich collection of the Manuscripts and Archives Division relate to Peru, most of them being transcripts of archival material.


In this section of more than 1,000 area studies there are 124 works devoted to travel and 340 historical titles. The period of the discovery and German occupation of the country to 1556 receives good coverage, as does the period of the wars of independence. The attempted revolution of Don Francisco de Miranda of 1806 is documented through first editions of the eyewitness

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narratives of James Biggs, John Edsall, John H. Sherman, and Moses Smith.


The materials relating to the history of the Republic of Panama, the Panama Canal, and the Panama Railroad are important. A comparatively small number of popular histories and travel literature are classed under Panama in the American History Division; also included are such series as the Boletin of the Academia Paname&nmacr;a de la Historia and the Memorias issued by the Secretario de las Relaciones Exteriores. These items are considerably augmented by the historical treatises and printed documents in the larger collection relating to Colombia and the Central American countries such as the Elihu Root collection of United States documents (Series F). The numerous public documents of countries with economic or diplomatic dealings with Panama provide additional source materials. Political aspects of the Panama Canal and the Panama Railroad are extensively treated.

Public Documents

The official publications of the various South American governments form a generally strong collection, especially for the twentieth century. Some important series, particularly for the nineteenth century, are fragmentary; however, active attempts are made to complete back files. Official government gazettes are usually present, as are parliamentary proceedings and general economic and statistical publications. The following notes indicate the range of materials to be found in the collection.


The Diario de sesiones of the Cámara de Diputados is held from 1854 to 1950, with some earlier volumes; that of the Cámara de Senadores is fairly complete from 1854 to 1951. The Leyes nacionales sancionadas are complete from 1918 with scattered volumes from 1899 to 1909/10, and there are compilations for earlier periods. The Boletin oficial is complete from 1902. The Registro nacional covers 1873-1908.


Parliamentary proceedings and papers are fairly complete from 1900 to 1943. The Anuario administrativo is complete from 1856 to 1948 preceded by the Colección oficial de leyes (1825-57). The library currently receives the Gaceta oficial.


The Annaes of the Camara dos Deputados are complete from 1826 to 1922, for 1954, and from 1960 onward. From the Senado the file is complete from 1891 to 1914, with scattered early volumes from 1827, and from 1956 onward. The Diário oficial is available in an incomplete file from 1900 to date as is the Diário do Congreso which accompanies it. The Collecç[amacr ]o das leis commences in 1808 and is fairly complete. To this should be added the 26-volume "Collecç[amacr ]o authentica de todas as leys, regimentos, alvaras, e mais ordens, que se expediram para o Brazil desde o estabelecimento destas conquistas. Ordenada por Provizam de 28 de Março de 1754," in the Manuscripts and Archives Division. An extremely important printed collection in 4 volumes, "Codigo brasiliense" (Rio de Janeiro, 1808-21), is housed in the Rare Book Division; that division holds additional alvarás covering the treatment of Indians, the slave trade, and other subjects.


The Boletin of the Cámara de Senadores and that of the Cámara de Diputados are fairly complete from 1866 to 1945 and from 1866 to 1935 respectively; the earlier Sesiones de los cuerpos legislativos, 1811 á 1845 are complete from 1811 to 1841. The Boletin de las leyes is complete from 1924 to 1951 with a broken file from 1889 to 1902. The Recopilación de decretosleyes por Orden numérico arreglada por la Secretaria del Consejo de Estado is complete from 1821. The Diario oficial is available.


The Anales of the Cámara de Representantes and those of the Senado are complete from 1903 to 1945, superseded by the Anales of the Congreso from 1945 onward. The session laws are fairly complete from 1877 and the contemporary Leyes expedidas por el Congreso Nacional (under various titles) from 1821 as far as they have been published. The Diario oficial is complete from 1861. There is a good collection of public documents for the department of Antioquia.


The files are generally weak. There are scattered volumes of the Diario de debates of both houses of the Congreso. The file of the Anuario de legislación ecuatoriana is complete from 1896 to 1925. The Registro oficial is complete from 1920 including the Indice general y clave de legislación.


The government publications of Panama form an essentially strong collection. Although the file of the Anales of the Asamblea Nacional is fragmentary from 1908 to 1943, there is a more current file of the Diario de los Debates (1926-43). The Leyes expedidas and the Gaceta oficial are complete from 1904. Memorias of the various ministries, with few exceptions, are complete from their beginnings.


The files are not strong. The Diario de sesiones of the Congreso Nacional is complete from 1926, with scattered volumes for earlier years. It is preceded by the Diario of the Cámara de Diputados and of the Senate from 1872 to 1920. The Diario oficial is complete from 1918 to 1942 with a few issues before and a scattered file after. The Registro oficial is complete from 1869 to 1952 with an irregular file after that time.


The library holds material on the Viceroyalty of Peru both in original documents of the seventeenth century and for all periods in reprint form. Other compilations of earlier laws and decrees supplement the Leyes y resoluciones (fairly complete from 1860 to 1905); this collection is followed by the Anuario de la legislación peruana, complete from 1905 to 1925. The Diario de los debates for the Cámara de los Diputados is fragmentary, but there is a complete file for the Cámara de Senadores from 1872. There is an irregular file of El Peruano up to the time it ceased publication in 1961. The Rare Book Division has a file of the early Gaceta del gobierno (1821-26).


The Diario de sesiones of the Asamblea General is complete from 1830 to 1933; it is presently published in the Diario oficial, available in the library from 1959. The Diario of the Cámara de Representantes is complete from 1858. The files of the Colección legislativa and its continuation, Registro nacional de leyes, decretos y otros documentos, are almost complete from the earliest issue of 1825.


The Gaceta oficial is complete from 1902 with fragmentary files of other titles in the collection. Diarios of both houses of the Congreso are complete from 1932. The Recopilación de leyes y decretos lacks some volumes.

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