The Tour of the world project:

Pedro Ordóñez de Ceballos,
El viaje del mundo (Madrid: 1614).

— About —

Uploaded on 1 January 2011 by .

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Pedro Ordóñez de Ceballos1

Most of what we know about Pedro Ordóñez de Ceballos (ca. 1555-1630) comes from his own writings.2 He tells us he was born in Jaén, where he spent his early childhood. At the age of nine, he moved to Seville, to study at the Jesuit school in the city. He remained there for eight years, before an incident with a lady, or – rather – with her jealous husband, forced him to flee. By his count, he was away for thirty-nine years, and travelled 30,000 leagues – some 100,000 miles, or 165,000 kilometres, over four times the circumference of the earth at the equator. His journey, he tells us, took him around Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, and parts of Asia – Japan, China, India, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Ill and exhausted, he returned to Jaén around 1597 to retire, and spent the last thirty or so years of his life writing books, telling the world about his adventures as a soldier, cleric, and explorer. His writings made him an instant celebrity. His books became bestsellers, he was given sinecures and honours, and he even became the subject of plays.3 Nevertheless, his story eventually faded into obscurity, and his books were not published again until the twentieth century.

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The book

This project is concerned with his main autobiographical text, the Viaje del mundo. It was published in Madrid in 1614, but flew off the shelves, and a new edition was published in 1616. A third edition appeared in 1691, six decades after the author’s death. This project uses a copy of the first edition which was kindly scanned and made available to me by the Colombian National Library in Bogotá, where it is held. All images remain their property.

This aims to be the first full translation of the book into English. Sections of it were translated and published in the seventeenth century. Book three was published in Dutch in 1621.4 Portions of the text were incorporated into Antonio de Herrera’s Descriptio Indiae occidentalis, and published in French and Latin in 1622.5 Herrera’s text was subsequently translated and republished. Sections of the Viaje del mundo were also translated into English and incorporated into Samuel Puchas’s 1625 Hakluytus posthumus.6

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The project

My transcription, translation, and analysis of the text will be published on this site. The text has some 600 pages, so the plan is to get through it in around a year, at the rate of two or so pages a day. Once the translation is complete, the idea is to publish it properly, electronically and perhaps also in print.

I came across Ordóñez and his remarkable travel account in my research on the New Kingdom of Granada, the territory broadly corresponding to that of modern-day Colombia, in the late sixteenth century. Ordóñez, as we shall see, was active in the region for a number of years, and in this time he witnessed a controversy that took place at the cathedral of Santa Fé, now Bogotá, and wrote about it in his book.

Ordóñez’s account was extremely useful for what I was researching at the time, but I realised that his book could be equally useful for those interested in a whole range of other areas. The problem, it seemed to me, was that it had never been translated in full, and so it was only really read by scholars of the Spanish siglo de oro, of Jaén and its people, and the odd historian of Spanish colonial expansion. Then I went to the Digital Humanities 2010 conference, and decided to try it myself, taking advantage of technology to make this an open, collaborative effort. It is also an excuse to learn TEI.

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A note on translations and transcriptions

In transcribing the original Spanish text, I have modernised and homogenised spelling and punctuation, so ‘viage’, ‘uiaje’ and ‘uiage’ all become ‘viaje’. In both the translation and transcription, I have largely retained contemporary names for places, specifying modern names in footnotes wherever possible. In the translation, I have tried to retain Spanish versions of names for people, except for those who are better known in English. So ‘Pedro Ordóñez’, not ‘Peter Ordóñez’, but ‘Philip II’, not ‘Felipe II’. I also translate expressions as found in the original text, even if the language is offensive to a modern reader. In English, as is probably already obvious, I use British spelling and punctuation. Do let me know if you spot any typos or mistakes.

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Comments and feedback

The whole project is work in progress, and comments are welcome. You can comment individual paragraphs, whole posts, or leave general comments.7 You can also or contact me.

Comments, suggestions and feedback on technical aspects of the site are also very welcome. This is the first time I have done something like this, and I am learning the technical side of things as I go along. A lot can no doubt be improved, so please feel free to let me know what you think. All contributors will of course be acknowledged, both on this site and also in the final edition.

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About me

My name is Juan Cobo Betancourt, and I am a doctoral student at the Faculty of History of the University of Cambridge. My research is concerned with the reception of Tridentine Catholicism in the New Kingdom of Granada. This is a side project, on which I work in my free time. You can find more information about me on my website,

  1. In the spirit of avoiding ‘spoilers’, this will start as a very brief biography, but will be expanded as the project progresses. Footnotes are made possible by Simon Elvery’s WP-Footnotes plugin.
  2. His exact date of birth is unknown, but it is generally agreed that was around 1553-1555. See A Vázquez de la Torre, ‘Un giennense que renunció a un trono: Pedro Ordóñez de Ceballos’ , no. 4 (1954): 115-143, 124; Isabel Balsinde, ‘El giennense Ordóñez de Ceballos, cronista universal,’ Boletín del Institutio de Estudios Giennenses , no. 187 (2004): 9-25; Miguel Zugasti, ‘El Viaje del mundo (1614) de Pedro Ordóñez de Ceballos o cómo modelar una autobiografía épica,’ Iberoromania 58, no. 2 (2003): 83-119, 85. A bibliography of works relevant to this project, including those cited in this page, can be found here, or from the table of contents.
  3. On the latter, see Miguel Zugasti, ‘Andanzas americanas de Pedro Ordóñez de Ceballos en dos comedias del Siglo de Oro,’ Teatro , no. 15 (2001): 167-196′.
  4. Pedro Ordóñez de Ceballos, Eyghentlijcke beschryvinghe van VVest-Indien (Amsterdam: Michiel Colijn, 1621).
  5. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas et al., Novus orbis, sive Descriptio Indiae occidentalis (Amsterdam: Michiel Colijn, 1622); Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas et al., Description des Indes Occidentales (Amsterdam: Michiel Colijn, 1622).
  6. Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus posthumus (London: W Stansby for Henry Fetherstone, 1625).
  7. This is possible because the site is now (as of January 2012) powered by CommentPress, a project of the Institute for the Future of the Book. []