1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
Gonzalo Oviedo y Valdes
GONZALO Fernandez De OVIEDO Y VALDES (1478-1557), Spanish historian, was born at Madrid in August 1478. Educated at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, in his thirteenth year he became page to their son, the Infante Don John, was present at the siege of Granada, and there saw Columbus previous to his voyage to America. On the death of Prince John (4th of October 1497), Oviedo went to Italy, and there acted as secretary to Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba. In 1514 he was appointed supervisor of gold-smeltings at San Domingo, and on his return to Spain in 1523 was appointed historiographer of the Indies. He paid five more visits to America before his death, which took place at Valladolid in 1557.
Besides a romance of chivalry entitled Claribalte (1519) Oviedo wrote two extensive works of permanent value: La General y natural historia de las Indias and Las Quinquagenas de la nobleza de Espana. The former work was first issued at Toledo (1526) in the form of a summary entitled La Natural hystoria de las Indias; the first part of La Historia general de las Indias appeared at Seville in 1535; but the complete work was not published till 1851-1855, when it was edited by J. A. de los Rios for the Spanish Academy of History. Though written in a diffuse style, it embodies a mass of curious information collected at first hand, and the incomplete Seville edition was widely read in the English and French versions published by Eden and Poleur respectively in 1555 and 1556. Las Casas.describes it as "containing almost as many lies as pages," and Oviedo undoubtedly puts the most favourable interpretation on the proceedings of his countrymen; but, apart from a patriotic bias which is too obvious to be misleading, his narrative is both trustworthy and interesting. In his Quinquagenas he indulges in much lively gossip concerning eminent contemporaries; this collection of quaint, moralizing anecdotes was first published at Madrid in 1880, under the editorship of Vicente de la Fuente.
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