BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle

De orbe novo

by Pietro Martire d' Anghiera


Though they are frivolous things, it may not be out of place to say something of their games. It is known that they have chess-boards, from the representations of them seen on their draperies, but the most popular game amongst them, as amongst the people of our own islands, is a game of tennis. Their balls are made of the juice1 of a vine that climbs over the trees, as hop vines clamber amongst the hedges. They cook the juice of these plants until it hardens in the fire, after which each one shapes the mass as he pleases, giving it the form he chooses. It is alleged that the roots of this herb when cooked give them their weight; at all events I do not understand how these heavy balls are so elastic that when they touch the ground, even though lightly thrown, they spring into the air with the most incredible leaps. The natives are most skilful players at this exercise, catching the ball on their shoulders, elbows, heads, rarely their hands, and sometimes their hips, if their opponents throw when their backs are turned. When playing tennis they strip, as do our wrestlers.

Instead of candles and torches, they burn pine resin, but do not use soot, grease, or oil. Neither do they make any use of wax, although they have both wax and honey, which they have only learned to use since our arrival. In the palaces of the king and the great lords, there are fires burning throughout the night. Servants appointed for the service take turns in feeding them by continually putting on wood, and in keeping the flame burning on a lofty copper candelabra. One of these candelabra stands in the vestibule of the palace, another in the first court which serves as a waiting-room for the courtiers, and the third is in the sovereign's sleeping chamber. Any one wishing to move about takes a torch in his hands, just as we do a candle. In the islands they use turtle fat for their candles, just as we use grease.

The common people restrict themselves to one wife, but the chiefs may keep as many concubines as they choose. Only the princes sleep in beds, the others upon masses of flowers thrown on the floor, or on cotton carpets, using cotton coverlets. Ribera has shown us a number of these covers.

1 Meaning rubber, of which mention is here made for the first time.

The natives are acquainted with figures and measures, but not with weights. I have already often said that they have books, of which a number have been brought here. * Ribera states that these books are not written to be read, but are various collections of designs the jewellers keep to copy in making ornaments, or decorating coverlets and dresses. Spanish needlewomen, as well as all women who do fine embroidery of roses, flowers, and other pretty designs in silk on linen, keep such models on stuffs which serve to train the young apprentices. I hardly know what to believe, because of the great variety one observes in these books, but I think they must be books whose characters and designs have a meaning, for have I not seen on the obelisks in Rome characters which are considered letters, and do not we read that the Chaldeans formerly had a similar writing?

/I remember to have written above that Muteczuma, at the suggestion of Cortes, had ordered his architects to build a palace near the sea, sixty leagues from the capital. Two hundred cocoa-trees and numerous measures of maize had been planted; ducks, geese, and domestic peacocks had been stocked there, and farm houses had been constructed near the residence. When the Spaniards were expelled from Temistitan, the barbarians massacred all our compatriots who had been left there, and carried off everything they found. ^

According to Ribera the following are the advantages of the drinkable and the salt water of the lake. The fish living in the salt water are smaller and have less flavour. When the salt-water current runs into the fresh, the fish of the former return to their native habitat as soon as they taste the fresh water, and the fresh-water fish do likewise when they taste the salt water. Ribera has informed us that the ancient rites have been modified, and how the natives conformed to the sudden changes in their ceremonies. He enumerated the idols the conquerors had destroyed, and informs us that human sacrifices are prohibited. The natives display a good disposition, and seem persuaded that it is no longer necessary to murder men to obtain heavenly favours. Nevertheless Ribera does not believe that it is yet the moment to change suddenly the hereditary practice. It is a good result to have obtained that the people of Tascalteca and Guazuzingo, as well as our other allies, no longer publicly give themselves up to these butcheries of human flesh; whether they abstain in secret or not, is not so certain. It is hoped that, little by little, these ancient ceremonies, will disappear. Priests, bells, and sacred vestments are wanted, all of which will be sent, and several thousand converts will kneel before the throne of Your Holiness.

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