The present chapter, like that immediately preceding from the pen of Bernal Diaz, although in strict language neither a journey nor a voyage, records in every step of the conquerors a new discovery of coasts, islands, rivers, districts, and tribes, that had never been visited before. In conformity with our uniform desire to have recourse upon all occasions to the most authentic original authorities for every article admitted into this collection, so far as in our power, the work of Zarate has been chosen as the record of the discovery and conquest of Peru, in preference to any modern compilation on the same subject. As we learn from himself, Zarate was a person of rank and education, who went into Peru in 1543, only eighteen years after the first movements of Pizarro and Almagro towards the discovery of that extensive country, and only eleven years after its actual invasion by Pizarro in 1532. From the illustrious historian of America, Dr William Robertson, the work which we now offer to the public for the first time in the English language, has the following high character: “The history of Zarate, whether we attend to its matter or composition, is a book of considerable merit, and great credit is due to his testimony.” Besides this general eulogy; in his enumeration of six original authors whom he had consulted in the composition of that portion of his History of America which refers to Peru, he clearly shews that Zarate alone can be considered as at the same time perfectly authentic and sufficiently copious for the purpose we have at present in view. The substance of his account of all the six is as follows.
“Two of the more early writers on the subject of the discovery and conquest of Peru, Francisco de Xeres, the secretary of Pizarro, and Pedro Sanchez, an officer who served under the conqueror, break off almost in the introduction to the narrative, going no farther into the history of the conquest than the death of Atahualpa in 1533, only one year after the invasion of Peru. The third in point of time, Pedro Cioca de Leon, only two years earlier in his publication than Zarate, gives nothing more than a description of the country, and an account of the institutions and customs of the natives. Zarate is the fourth. The fifth, Don Diego Fernandez, solely relates to the dissentions and civil wars among the Spanish conquerors. The sixth and last of these original authors, Garcilasso de la Vega Inca, the son of a Spanish officer of distinction by a Coya, or Peruvian female of the royal race, gives little more than a commentary on the before mentioned writers, and was not published till 1609, seventy five years after the invasion of Peru by Pizarro.”
In the Bibliotheque des Voyages, VI. 319. mention is made of a Description of Peru as published in French in 1480, and said to be a very rare work: Rare, indeed, if the imprint be not an error, fifty-two years before the actual invasion and discovery. In the same useful work, the performance of Zarate is thus characterized. “The author has not confined his views to the history and conquest of Peru, but has given us a statement of the natural features of the country, an account of the manners of the inhabitants, and a curious picture of the religious opinions and institutions of the Peruvians.”