Alexandro Malaspina to his brother Azzo Giacinto (*)

Cádiz, December 26, 1788

    Young Ala (1) will join me on this voyage. Tell his relatives that all of us here are happy that I will have him with me throughout; and tell Abbot Ximénez that the excellent principles of his education stand out clearly at all times.

    N.B. The expedition will begin towards the month of July and will be composed of two corvettes commanded by the Cavalier Malaspina.  Given this, as well as his particular circumstances, it is requested that before that time his books be forwarded to Mr. Carlo Longhi (2) in Genoa, and here is the relevant paragraph:

    Immediately send to me by way of Genoa a selection of good Italian political books, in particular Filangieri's Leglislation (3), American Letters by Carli (4), the histories of Chile and of Mexico recently written by two ex-Jesuits (5). Include with those any books which might prove useful for my specific study of politics and commerce or which are currently required for physics, electricity [...] (6) and its benefit, and any investigations of curiosities. Direct everything to the Greppi House and send a list to me in advance so that I can obtain here the relevant permissions from the Inquisition (7). I would like to have everything at the beginning of May (8).


(*) Text published in: D. MANFREDI, Alessandro Malaspina e Fabio Ala Ponzone. Lettere dal Vecchio e Nuovo Mondo (1788-1803), Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, pp. 151-152. 0riginal now lost; copy in ACAM. Azzo Giacinto copied these short extracts from the letter and forwarded them - inserting his own comment (which appears in italics) - to Ramón Ximénez.
[Editing Criteria]

(1) Alexandro refers to Fabio Ala Ponzone, Guardiamarina of the Royal Armada. The Malaspina and Ala Ponzone families were distantly connected.

(2) The Genoese Carlo Longhi had a commercial establishment in Cádiz.

(3) G. FILANGIERI, La scienza della legislazione, Naples, 1780.

(4) G.R. CARLI, Le lettere americane, Cremona, Manini, 1781-83. The first edition (without the author's name) mentions  Cosmopoli (for either Florence or Cremona) as the place of printing, and dates from 1780.

(5) J.I. MOLINA, Compendio della storia geografica, naturale e civile del Regno del Chile, Bologna, 1776; ID., Saggio sulla storia naturale del Chile, Bologna, 1782; F. J. Clavijero, Storia antica del Messico, Cesena, 1780-81.

(6) Two words illegible.

(7) It could be said that Malaspina, necessarily mindful of his bad experience with the Inquisition seventeen years earlier (see D. MANFREDI, L'Inchiesta dell'Inquisitore sulle eresie di Alessandro Malaspina, La Spezia, Centro Alessandro Malaspina, 1987. pp. 23), prefers to submit the books to the incompetent judgment of an Inquisitor, rather than to risk not receiving them.

(8) On March 7, 1789 Ramón Ximénez wrote to Fabio: "... I am going to Genoa by way of Florence, there to see your younger sisters again and to augment the selection of books that you have made. They will be sent to the Cav. Alexandro Malaspina. His brother has given me the responsibility of getting hold of and forwarding some books he wanted, such as the Filangieri, Lettere americane by Carli, Saggi sulla storia naturale e civile del Chili by Abbot Molina, the Storia antica del Messico by Clavigero etc. ... your father wishes that you obtain from him whatever books he believes suited to your circumstances, your understanding and your need. Make him your master in everything, place yourself in his hands and thank God that in him He has provided you with an enlightened, honest and sensitive friend, who desires nothing else than your good, and that you develop into an independent and educated officer ..." (draft autograph in ACAM). On the question of the essay by Clavijero, it should be emphasised that it was also in the Ala Ponzone library; Ambassador Bernardino Osio kindly informs us that the name of Gian Francesco Ala Ponzone is included in the  list of those associated with the work. The presence in such a list of other aristocratic Cremonese - such as Giambattista Biffi, Antonio Maria Botta, Carlo Albertoni and Alessandro Schinchinelli - leads us to believe that Ximénez was active in procuring signatories to the essay of his comrade.

Italian text courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy; notes by Dario Manfredi; translation by John Black.

Updated: June 5, 2018