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Simon Varey Papers Relating to Francisco Hernández 1992-2003
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Collection Overview
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The collection consists of materials stemming from Simon Varey's Hernández research, which culminated in the editorship of two volumes: 1) "The Mexican Treasury; the Writings of Dr. Francisco Hernández" (English translations of some of Hernández's primary texts, and an unraveling of the complex history of the discovery and dissemination of his writings); 2) "Searching for the Secrets of Nature; the Life and Works of Dr. Francisco Hernández" (interpretive essays by various authors, edited with Rafael Chabrán and Dora B. Weiner). The eminent physician Francisco Hernández was sent to New Spain in 1570 by King Philip II of Spain as the first "protomédico de las Indias", to gather scientific descriptions of indigenous natural history and medical practices. Purchase by the UCLA Biomedical Library in 1992 of Hernández' "Thesaurus" ("Rerum Medicarum Novae Hispaniae Thesaurus"), published in Rome in 1651, sparked wide scholarly interest in Hernández' life and work. Simon Varey joined a group of scholars at UCLA in the organization of a lecture series and two major conferences built around Hernández, and became a major force in the project to translate significant portions of the Hernández texts into English. The Varey papers include copies of 16th and 17th century texts, historical and contemporary commentaries, documents pertaining to New World natural history and the impact discoveries from the New World had on Europe, and extensive bibliographies and notes.
Simon Varey (1951-2002) excelled as teacher, writer, scholar, critic, editor, and great cook. He served for sixteen years as tutor, instructor, and professor of English at Cambridge University, the University of Utrecht, and at UCLA, publishing well-received works on Viscount Bolingbroke, Henry Fielding, and the 18th-century English novel. In 1990 he joined the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. In 1992, occasioned by the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World, the UCLA Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division bought the 1651 Rome edition of the writings of Francisco Hernández, a 16th century Spanish physician who was sent by Philip II to collect and report on the medical knowledge of the New World. This acquisition sparked Dr. Varey's and many other scholars' interest in Hernández' life and works, and led to a yearlong lecture series on "Medicine in the Age of Columbus," two conferences on "The Meeting of Two Cultures" at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda and at UCLA, and the resolve to translate and publish parts of the Hernández texts into English, which had never been done.
2 storage cartons, 1 document box (30 linear inches)
Publication Rights
The collection is open for research. Contact the History and Special Collections Division, Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, UCLA, for information.