(1680 – 1764)
Venegas entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) at Tepotzotlán in 1700, was ordained in 1705, and served from 1714 to 1724 as a professor of theology at the Colegio Máximo of San Pedro y San Pablo in Mexico City. For reasons of health, he was appointed administrator to the Jesuit hacienda of Chicomocelo, where he prepared medications and dedicated himself to writing. In 1731 he authored the classic Manual de Parrocos, and in 1734 he completed a biography of the Jesuit Juan Bautista Zappa. Inspired by the expansion of the Jesuits in Sonora, Pimería Alta, and California, Venegas sought to serve in the California enterprise, but was turned down because of his delicate health. Thus, the first historian of California never set eyes on the land.
Biographical references: ABE: I 1001,295-301; II 934, 46; III 428, 259. Biographie Universelle: 43, 109. WBI.
1. Spanish, 1757 [First edition].
[Maltese Cross] | Noticia | De La California, | Y De Su Conquista | Temporal, Y Espiritual | Hasta El Tiempo Presente. | Sacada | De La Historia Manvscrita, Formada | en Mexico año de 1739. por el Padre Miguèl Venegas, | [...2 lines of titles and memberships...] | Añadida | De Algunos Mapas Particulares; | y uno general de la America Septentrional, Assia Oriental, y Mar | del Sùr intermedio, formados sobre las Memorias | mas recientes, y exactas, que se publican | juntamente. | Dedicada | Al Rey N.tro Señor | Por La Provincia De Nueva-España, | de la Compaña de Jesus. | Tomo Primero. | [rule] | Con Licencia. En Madrid: En la imprenta de la Viuda | de Manuel Hernandez, y del Supremo Consejo de la Inqui- | sicion, Año de M.D.CCLVII.
3 vols. [Vol 1] 4°: , 240 p. [Vol 2] 4°: , 564 p. [Vol 3] 4°: , 436 p., engraved head- and tailpieces in text, 4 copper-engraved folding maps
Rare. A cornerstone to the literature of California, this is the first natural and political history of that land. In his research for the book, Venegas employed a sophisticated historical methodology, collecting original manuscripts, reports, official documents, and memoirs-in short anything dealing with California. In addition, he wrote letters and sent questionnaires to the many missionaries advancing into the country asking for their observations and experiences. Decisively in 1735, high officials of the Jesuits ordered that all archival material relevant to California be provided to Venegas.
By 1739, Venegas had finished his ten volumes of manuscript, but because the work revealed the weakness of Spanish defenses in California, it was stored away until 1749 when it was sent for revision and publication in Madrid. This task was given to the Jesuit savant Andrés Marcos Burriel at Toledo in 1750. Burriel retrieved additional material from the archives of the Society of Jesus to augment Venegas's text with events that occurred since 1739, as well as geographical data from the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris. By 1754, Burriel had finished his revisions and additions, submitting his manuscript of 1,150 pages and four maps for licensing to be published. Finally, in 1757, the Noticia de la California appeared in bookseller's stalls in Madrid.
The first section treats the geography and native inhabitants of California. The second portion gives the history of attempts to occupy the land before the Jesuits. The third part describes the work the Jesuits had done in California. The final section, provided by Burriel, comprises documentary appendices, and is illustrated by three of the four maps. a description of the natural history of the land is included and includes information on the soil, mountains, harbors, lakes, rivers, seas, animals, botany, mineralogy, fish, etc. The book was an immediate success, with translations prepared in English, Dutch, French and German.
Second edtion, 1943: The text, reset with new errata, was published by México City, Editorial Layac, 1943.
Facsimile reprint, 1979: W. Michael Mathes, Vivian C. Fisher & E. Moisés Coronado, eds., Obras Californianas del Padre Miguel Venegas, S.J. La Paz, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, 1979. 5 vols. [AzU F864 .V292 1979].
Bibliographical references: BL. LKG: XIV 903.
2. English, 1759 [English transl.].
A Natural and Civil | History | of | California: | Containing | An accurate description of that Country, | Its Soil, Mountains, Harbours, Lakes, Rivers, | and Seas; its Animals, Vegetables, Minerals, | and famous Fishery for Pearls. | The | Customs of the Inhabitants, | Their Religion, Goverment, and Manner of Living, | before their Conversion to the Christian Religion by | the missionary Jesuits. | Together With | Accounts of the Several Voyages and attempts made for | settling California, and taking actual Surveys of that | Country, its Gulf, and Coast of the South-Sea. | Illustrated With | Copper Plates, and an engraved Map of the Country and | [ONE UNREADABLE LINE] | Translated from the original Spanish of Miguel Vene- | gas, a Mexican Jesuit, published at Madrid 1758. | [rule] | In Two Volumes. | [rule] | Vol. I. | [double rule] | London, | Printed for James Rivington and James Fletcher, | ... 1759.
2 vols. [Vol 1] 8°: , 455,  p., engraved frontispiece. [Vol 2] 8°: , 387,  p., engraved frontispiece, one folding engraved map, 2 plates.
Very scarce. A famous work containing a History of California from its earliest discovery. It gives accounts of the various voyages and expeditions there, the attempts made at settlement, and the surveys made of its interior and coastline.
Facsimile reprint, 1966: A Natural and Civil History of California ... Ann Arbor, Michigan, University Microfilms, Inc., 1966. 2 vols. , 455,  p., engraved frontispiece.; , 387,  p., engraved frontispiece, one folding engraved map, 2 plates. Published as: March of America Facsimiles, No. 38. [AzSU Hayden, F864 .V53 1966].
Bibliographical references: NUC.
3. Dutch, 1761-2 [Dutch transl.].
Natuurlyke en burgerlyke historie van California behelzende eene naauwkeurige beschryving van dat gewest ... uyt het oorsprongkelyk Spaans van Miguel Venegas, Jesuit te Mexico, te Madrid in 't jaar 1758 uytgekomen, in 't Engels, en nu in 't Nederduyts vertaald door J.J.D. Te Haerlem, Gedrukt by Johannes Enschedé, 1761-2.
2 vols. Very scarce.
Bibliographical references: Ward & Carozzi, Geology Emerging, 1984: no. 2240.
4. French, 1767 [French transl.].
Histoire | Naturelle Et Civile | De La | Californie, | Contenant | Une description exacte de ce Pays, de son | Sol, de ses Montagnes, Lacs, Rivieres, | & Mers, de ses Animaux, Vègetaux, | Mineraux, & de sa fameuse Pecherie des | Perles; les Moeurs de ses Habitans, leur | Religion, leur Gouvernement, & leur | facon de vivre avant leur conversion au | Christianisme; un detail des différens | Voyages, & Tentatives qu'on a faites | pour s'y etablir, & reconnoitre son Golfe | & la Cote de la Mer du Sud. | Imrichie le la Carte dese Pays & des Mars | Traitaire de l'Anglois, par M.E.**, | Tome Premier. | [ornament] | A Paris, Chez Durand, Libraire, rue Sainte-Jacques | à la Sagete. | [double rule] | M. DCC. LXVII. | Avec Approbation & l'privilege du Roi.
3 vols. [Vol 1] 12°: xxi, folding map, 1-360 p. [Vol 2] 12°: viii, 1-375 p. [Vol 3] 12°: viii, 354, 2 p.
Very scarce. Translation by M.A. Eidous of Noticia de la California (Madrid, 1757).
Bibliographical references: Sabin, Dictionary, 1868-1936: no. 98843.
5. German, 1769-70 [German transl.].
Natürliche und bürgerliche | Geschichte | von | Californien | nebst einer neuen Charte dieses Landes und der benachbarten | Meere. | Aus dem Englischen übersetzt | und herausgegeben | von | Johann Christoph Adelung. | [...one line of memberships...] | [double rule] | Erster Theil. | [rule] | [vignette] | [ornate rule] | Lembo, | in der Meyerschen Buchhandlung, 1769.
Very scarce. Translation by Johann Christoph Adelung of Noticia de la California (Madrid, 1757).
Bibliographical references: Ward & Carozzi, Geology Emerging, 1984: no. 2241..