This book glows with the fully assimilated learning of the polymath Gerbi, whose command and understanding of the literature of various cultures enlightens every page. Neither a notice nor a full-fledged review could do justice either to the brilliance of the book or to the felicity of Moyle's translation. The book must be read to be appreciated.
In Nature in the New World (translated 1985), Antonello Gerbi examines the fascinating reports of the first Europeans to see the Americas. These accounts provided the basis for the images of strange and new flora, fauna, and human creatures that filled European imaginations.
Initial chapters are devoted to the writings of Columbus, Vespucci, Cortés, Verrazzano, and others. The second portion of the book concerns the Historia general y natural de las Indias of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, a work commissioned by Charles V of Spain in 1532 but not published in its entirety until the 1850s. Antonello Gerbi contends that Oviedo, a Spanish administrator who lived in Santo Domingo, has been unjustly neglected as a historian. Gerbi shows that Oviedo was a major authority on the culture, history, and conquest of the New World.
A fascinating work, it is divided into two parts: the first deals with eleven writers from Columbus to Verrazzano, while the remaining two-thirds of the book deal with the other treasure from the Indies—Oviedo's writings and observations. . . . This prodigiously learned work is full of good things.
This is an extraordinary work in excellent translation. . . . An expert will know what to look for and how to evaluate the entire volume. The grade it receives is bound to be high. Others may simply delight in the unexpected elements of quadrivium and trivium that continually jump from the pages of this book. . . . Thorough, valuable, and exciting.
It contains a wealth of detail, example, and documentation interspersed with passages of pithy insight that suggest important new approaches to the encounter of cultures and physical environments inaugurated by Columbus's first voyage of discovery in 1492.
Jeremy Moyle is a former professor of Italian at a number of universities in the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as a full-time translator and director of the English translation division at the EU Council of Ministers in Brussels.