New World Texts as Sites of Encounter, 1492-1800
The arrival of Europeans to the American continent beginning in the late 15th century gave rise to unprecedented encounters and shook the foundations of Western and Amerindian societies. For Spanish chroniclers and historians, the existence of an entire continent unmentioned in the Bible and by Classical authorities challenged accepted truths, ranging from the configuration of the Earth and the skies to the ontological nature of its inhabitants. At the same time, indigenous cultures and societies suffered profound ruptures, adapted and often resisted as they negotiated identities and persisted under colonial rule.
This exhibit examines early New World textual encounters between Europeans and Amerindians through selected rare books and original manuscripts from The Latin American Library’s special collections. We focus specifically on how disparate conceptions of language and writing played out as ideological and discursive features within key texts. Reflecting the Library’s collection strengths, the exhibit focuses most prominently on Mesoamerica.