Latin American History

Una traducción al español de esta guía de investigación está disponible aquí.


The Latin American holdings at Newberry Library emphasize the exploration, colonization, and early political and social developments of Central and South America, including geographical, navigational, and descriptive works, as well as maps and atlases. Special strengths include sixteenth- to eighteenth-century colonial and Jesuit history of Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela.

Attempting to include all phases of settler colonialism of the Americas, the Newberry has an abundance of primary source material documenting the British, French, Spanish and Portuguese Colonies. More than 50,000 volumes that relate to Latin America can be found within the Ayer Collection. Likewise, the Greenlee Collection of Brazilian and Portuguese History has a wealth of material for the study of Latin American history. A research guide for the Greenlee collection can be found online

Latin American holdings are particularly strong in Mayan and Mexican archaeological materials and linguistics, including printed and manuscript materials, manuscript reproductions and hundreds of thousands transcripts from different repositories, facsimiles of codices, grammars, and dictionaries. An online catalog of cartographic material is available through the Newberry Library Cartographic Catalog (NLCC).

A list of selected highlights for Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Bolivia, Panama, and Nicaragua may be found in the Latin American Material Bibliographic Guide.

Ayer Collection acquisitions are listed in the Newberry’s Online Catalog and in WorldCat. In addition, Ayer Collection acquisitions to 1978 are described in the Dictionary Catalog of the Edward E. Ayer Collection of Americana and American Indians (21 volumes, 1961-1980). Please call the reference desk at (312) 255-3506 with questions on our holdings, or Contact a Librarian with research questions.

The Newberry has also developed a policy regarding access to and treatment of Culturally Sensitive Indigenous Materials in the Library’s collections.

The D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies enacts programming, including fellowships and seminars, that allows participants to draw from the Newberry’s collections in their research.

To find books or manuscript material related to our Latin American materials in our collection, you can consult the research guides listed at the end of this guide under “research guides” or search by Subject in our catalog using the following headings:

  • American–Discovery and Exploration–Spanish–Early Works to 1800
  • American Indians and Indigenous Peoples
  • Conquerors–Latin America
  • Edward E. Ayer Collection (Newberry Library)
  • Indians, Treatment of–Latin America–Early works to 1800
  • Indians, Treatment of–Mexico.
  • Manuscripts, Spanish–Spain

You can also search by title or author, if any of these are known.

Much of the material that focuses on Latin America can be found by also just searching the Edward E. Ayer collection. To view these resources, search in the Newberry’s catalog under “Advanced Search” and set the “any field” to “author/creator” or “subject.” You may also search by language, title, or material type, if either of these is known.

If you look on the side bar you will have the options to limit your search to the following:

  • Edward E Ayer Manuscript Collection Newberry Library
  • Edward E Ayer North And Middle American Indian Linguistics Collection Newberry Library
  • Edward E Ayer Manuscript Map Collection Newberry Library
  • Ayer Edward Everett

Butler, Ruth Lapham. “Bibliographical Notes.” Hispanic American Historical Review 19 (1939): 106-108. Call number: F 96.004 and photocopy in checklist area. This article notes the acquisition of the William B. Greenlee Collection and lists the periodicals published in South American countries that are held in the Edward E. Ayer Collection.

Butler, Ruth Lapham. “Edward E. Ayer’s Quest for Hispano-Americana.” Inter-American Bibliographic Review 1 (1941): 81-90. Call number: Ayer 2 I596 and photocopy in checklist area.

Coale, Robert Peerling. “Evaluation of a Research Library Collection: Latin-American Colonial History at the Newberry.” Library Quarterly 35 (1965): 173-184. Call number: Z 007 .515 and photocopy in checklist area.

Coale, Robert Peerling. “An Evaluation of the Newberry Library Collections in the Colonial History of Mexico, Peru, Chile, and the Colombia/Venezuela Region.” Diss. University of Chicago, 1964. Call number: Ayer 290 C652 1964.

Laurenti, Joseph L. Hispanic Rare Books of the Golden Age (1470–1699) in the Newberry Library of Chicago and in Selected North American Libraries. American University Studies. Ser. II. Romance Languages and Literature; vol III. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. 229p. Call number: Ref Z 1029 L37 1989.

Matosas, A. “Algunos Datos Sobre la Newberry Library de Chicago.” Biblioteconomia 17 (1969): 2-6. Call number: this periodical is not in the Library’s holdings.

Butler, Ruth Lapham, comp. A Checklist of Manuscripts in the Edward E. Ayer Collection. Chicago: Newberry Library, 1937. Call number: Ref Z 6621.C53 A2 in checklist area.

Read about the modest beginnings of this great collection in Edward E. Ayer’s “How I Bought My First Book”.

[Codex Zempoala], ca. 1720. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1472

Cortez, Hernan, [Mexico City and the Gulf of Mexico], 1524. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer 655.51 .C8 1524d

Bertonio, Ludovico, Vocabulario de la lengua Aymara: primera parte, donde por abecedario se ponen en primer lugar los vocablos de la lengua Española para buscar los que les corresponden en la lengua Aymara, 1612. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer 1471 .A98 B54 1612

Reynoso, Diego de, Arte y vocabvlario en lengva mame … Pub. par le comte de Charencey. Con licencia en Mexico: por Francisco impressor del secreto del S. Oficio, 1644. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer 871 .M153 R3 1644

[Map of lands in the Tultepec and Jaltocán regions adjacent to the Hacienda de Santa Inés (Mexico)], 1569. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT drawer Ayer MS 1801 map1

Portuguese Pamphlets. Lisboa, etc., 1541-19–. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: Greenlee 4504 .P855

Documents relating to land sales in Tlaxcala and Puebla, Mexico, primarily the San Juan Mixco hacienda, 1683-1823. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT folio Ayer MS 3264

Report of a council meeting of bishops and priests in Mexico City to discuss their ministry to the Indians [manuscript] 1539 April 27. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1275 no.2

Documents to support the claim of José María Lizaula to a pension granted to the heirs of the Emperor Moctezuma [manuscript] 1531-1885. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1168

[Manuscritos en mexicano] [manuscript] 1580-1856. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1481

Sahagún, Bernardino, Siguense veynte y seis addiciones desta postilla: las quales hizo el auctor della despues de muchos años que la avía hecho, ante que se imprimiese/oquimochi huilli yn fray Bernardino de Sahagun, 1560-1579. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1486

Ximenez, Francisco, Arte de las tres lenguas kakchiquel, quiché y tzutuhil, ca. 1700-1703. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1515. More information about the Popol Vuh can be found here.

Waldeck, Frédéric de. [A collection of Waldeck’s original artwork of Mesoamerica]. Location: Special Collections 4th floor. Call number: VAULT oversize Ayer Art Waldeck.


The Edward E. Ayer transcription collection consists of various selected typewritten copies of manuscripts held at various archives in Spain, Mexico, the Philippines, and Texas. This is a very rich source of material for individuals interested in the early history of Latin America, the Southwest, and the Philippines and a good portion of the transcripts remain untranslated and/or unpublished.

Archivo Nacional de Cuba. Call number: Ayer MS 1076 (11 vols.)

Mexican Archives. Call number: Ayer MS 1136 (137 boxes)

Spanish Archives. Call number: Ayer MS 1236 (352 boxes)

Archivo General de Indias. Call number: Ayer MS 1896 (26 vols.)

Matamoros Archives. Call number: Ayer MS 1132 (69 vols.)

Finding Aids for Ayer Collection Manuscripts

  • Full catalog records with name and subject access are included in the Newberry Library’s online catalog and OCLC’s WorldCat.
  • Brief citations for manuscripts acquired before 1937 are included in A Check List of Manuscripts in the Edward E. Collection compiled by Ruth Lapham Butler (Chicago: Newberry Library, 1937).
  • Manuscript collections dating from 1700 and containing five or more items are listed both by author and primary subject in the Newberry’s Modern Manuscript Collections, 1700-present.
  • Inventories for selected manuscript collections are available in the Library.

David Tilden Brown Papers, 1848-1850. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1819

Seymour, Ralph Fletcher, 1876-1966: [Mexican Watercolors], ca. 1909. Call number: VAULT.oversize Ayer Art Seymour

Weatherwax, John M., (John Martin), 1900-1984: John M. Weatherwax Popol Vuh project correspondence, 1931-1975. Call number: Ayer Modern MS Weatherwax

Waldeck, Frédéric de. Papers, 1825-1867. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1268.

All of these collections are located in Special Collections on the 4th floor.

The Edward E. Ayer Digital Collection features several thousand digitized images and texts selected from the Newberry’s Ayer Collection, one of the strongest on American Indians in the world.

Ayer Digital Collection

The Newberry Library’s Digital Collections for the Classroom website is an educational resource designed for teachers and students featuring primary sources from the Newberry’s holdings, contextual essays, and discussion questions. Newberry Teacher Programs collaborates with scholars, university faculty, and classroom teachers to develop the collections in this growing resource for classroom use.

Art and Exploration in the American West and Mexico

Caste and Politics in the Struggle for Mexican Independence

Perspectives on the Mexican Revolution

Benson Latin American Collection: The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection is part of the University of Texas Library system, located in Austin, Texas, and named for the historian and bibliographer, Nettie Lee Benson. It is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Latin American materials.

Yale University Latin-American Collection: Although Yale’s concentration of Latin American research material is housed in Sterling Memorial Library, there are important collections in the Divinity, Law, and Beinecke Libraries. Smaller collections are found in the Music, Art, and Medical Libraries, and the Peabody Museum.

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