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This webpage reproduces an article in
Hispanic American Historical Review
Vol. 17 No. 3 (Aug. 1937), pp352‑353

The text is in the public domain.

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p352 Varnhagen and His
Historia Geral do Brasil

A welcome republication is the fifth volume of the third edition of Varnhagen's Historia Geral do Brasil antes de sua Separação e Independencia de Portugal. This volume has just been issued by the Companhia Melhoramentos de São Paulo, and was edited by Dr. Rodolpho Garcia, director of the Biblioteca Nacional. This completes the publication of the revision of the classic begun in 1906 by the late João Capistrano de Abreu, in collaboration with Dr. Garcia.

Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen, Viscount of Porto Seguro, died in 1878 at the age of fifty-nine after years of indefatigable collecting of materials on the history of Brazil, most of which were gathered during his diplomatic service in South America and Europe.

Varnhagen was born in Sorocaba, of German parentage. Original to the finger tips, he brought to light data and documents and clarified many obscure points in his country's history. Dr. Garcia credits him with more than one hundred publications upon a variety of subjects. He popularized the name of Caramarú, discovered the resting place of the mortal remains of Cabral, wrote a Historia da Independencia and a treatise upon Os Hollandezes do Brasil, as well as books and papers upon various literary and economic aspects of Brazilian life.

His greatest work, the Historia Geral do Brasil, appeared in two editions during his life: the first in Madrid, the first volume in 1854 and the second in 1857; and the second edition in Vienna, the year before his death. To keep down the price of the second edition, which was in two large volumes totaling 1,220 pages, the author took no royalties from the publishers, the house of Lammert.

The present edition is embellished with pictures and maps. In his prefatory biographical and bibliographical sketch Dr. Rodolpho Garcia summarizes Varnhagen's places as a Brazilian historian thus:

He was a prodigious worker and his capacity has never been surpassed by any other Brazilian. He was not a compiler but used for the most part new and upbraided materials. His History owes nothing to Rocha Pitta or Southey, his predecessors. Southey's History will always be valuable for its form, its p353conception, and its insight; but Varnhagen, coming later, better equipped for research, and more at home in the geographical sense, covered a wider field and was surer of his statements.

No other scholar was more familiar with Varnhagen's work than José Capistrano de Abreu. In 1906, he prepared a revision of the first volume, greatly enriched with his own commentaries and notes. But a fire in the Casa Laemmert destroyed not only all copies of this volume but the manuscript of Capistrano's revision of the second. The editor determined to do the work over again and had the good fortune to obtain the collaboration of Dr. Garcia, known for his work in philology and history. The Companhia Melhoramentos de São Paulo, publishers of Capistrano's edition of the Historia do Brasil of Frei Vicente de Salvador, undertook the publication of the third edition.

The first volume did not appear until 1927 and Capistrano died that year, leaving Dr. Garcia to continue the work alone. In 1930, the second volume left the press, to be followed by the third in 1932 and the fourth in 1934. The revision originally contemplated only four volumes but the addition of so much new material necessitated a fifth. The latest volume has a foreword by the eminent historian, Affonso de Taunay, director of the Ypiranga Museum, São Paulo.

Dr. Rodolpho Garcia occupies the Varnhagen chair in the Brazilian Academy of Letters which was founded by Manoel de Oliveira Lima and held by two notable contributors to Brazilian historiography, Alberto de Faria and Rocha Pombo.

Frederic William Ganzert

University of Utah,
Salt Lake City.


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