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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/55

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INTRODUCTION. 36* Several large plumes of beautiful feathers of various colors, fretted with gold and small pearls. Several fans of gold and feathers mixed together ; others of feathers only, of different forms and sizes, but all most rich and elegant.* A variety of cotton mantles, some all white, others checquer- ed with white and black, or red, green, yellow, and blue ; on the outside I'ough like a shaggy cloth, and withii^ destitute of color or nap. A number of underwaistcoats, handkerchiefs, counterpanes, tapestries, and carpets, of cotton. The workmanship of these articles is described by Gomara as superior to the materials of which they were composed : " the colors of the cotton were extremely fine, and those of the feathers natural. In the art of casting metals the Mexican smiths far excel ours." But what seems most to have attracted the attention of Peter Martyr was the existence of books amongst the Mexicans, of which several specimens were contained in the list of presents. He compares them to tablets made to fold together, consisting of a great number of leaves, which being connected might be stretched out to a considerable length. The characters were entirely unlike those of the European languages, but re- sembled Egyptian hieroglyphics.! The paper, he says, was made of the inner bark of a certain tree, bruised in a mortar, and mixed with a species of gum ; but according to Gomara, it was formed of cotton and a species of paste, and sometimes of the leaves of the Metl, or American aloe.l A more modern writer, Clavigero, remarks, that he had seen several sheets of

  • Count Carli, the celebrated author of " Lettere Ameiicane," published at

Florence, has the following description of a Mexican fan : — " I saw," he says, " at Strasburgh, in 1760, in the possession of Father Le Fevre, a Jesuit, and a man of great respectability, a very ancient Mexican fan, made of linen [cotton] as fine as the most beautiful muslin known. On it were depicted a number of figures forming a mosaic. Never have I beheld any thing so beautiful, both for the art with which the native and splendid colors of the feathers were disposed, and for the beauty of the design. No artist in Europe could have done as well." t " Sunt characteres a nostris valde dissimiles ; * * * ^gyptias fere formas semulantur." "X)e Insulis nuper inventis" &c. p. 11. (Printed in 1521.) X Agave Americana.