Guide to the Research Collections

- South America (Billings HCM-HLY)
- Area Studies

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 capitulň 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.