Volume 36, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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The Historias naturales written during the Spanish Siglo de Oro as well as related texts of this time do not only delineate the way of life, customs, and history of the indigenous people of the Americas. In these works the graphical means of expression were also reported on, albeit more sporadically. Using José de Acosta’s (1539–1600) Historia natural y moral de las Indias (1590) and Gregorio García’s (c.1575–1627) Origen de los Indios del Nuevo Mundo (1607) as examples, the present article points out that these early texts anticipate elementary insights of todays’ graphemics. Both authors distinguish between the logographic methods used in pinturas respectively figuras, on the one hand, and letras which function phonographically, on the other. They discuss the advantages and disadvantages concerning these two principles of writing and in agreement they both determine letras as generally superior. Acosta even goes so far as to integrate his observations about writing into his theory about cultural development. He regards the existence of lettering as a major mark for the third and hierarchically highest stage of cultural development.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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