Xavier Agenjo Bullón
Project Director of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation

If Ignacio Hernando de Larramendi (Madrid, 1921-2001) were alive, it would be he who would be writing this introduction to one of his most important works and of greatest repercussion in the knowledge of the history of the culture of Latin America, and even of the United States. In addition to a wide range of contributing factors that allowed Spain, in 1492, not only to lead, for geographical and nautical, as well as spiritual reasons, the Discovery of America but in an astonishingly short time it evangelized America, studied it, took western civilization to it without destroying the pre-Columbian one but on the contrary, founded cities, traced paths, studied flora and fauna, provided law and created international law, and completed this with the feat by Elcano to the first, and there can be but one, encirclement of the Earth.

Portada de But if he is no longer with us, his work is, and especially one of them, Así se hizo MAPFREwhose foreword was signed in 1999 and completed in May 2000. In it, he describes in detail and with rigour and without rhetorical adornment, among other subjects, his activity related to America, with the MAPFRE America Foundation and the two hundred and fifty works that make up the MAPFRE 1492 Collections.

In this work, which is practically exhausted as it is a required reading in some economics faculties and business schools, Ignacio Larramendi finds space to detail in various parts of his book the reason for and the how of this truly extraordinary publishing adventure, due to the immense effort it involved and the magnificent results obtained, which received the simple title of the MAPFRE 1492 Collections.

The collections had a coda outlined and organised by Larramendi and completed by the Foundation that now bears his name. It consisted of the publication of Tres grandes cuestiones de la historia de Iberoamérica (Three great questions on the history of Latin America), which includes 51 works in a record that is included in the book. Those who took part in the editing work can only be admired for the titanic effort involved in reconciling the work of 350 academics from all over the world, most of them at the height of their professional careers, having only on the direct advice of Professor José Andrés Gallego, the invaluable help of José Luis Catalinas, recently retired General Director of the MAPFRE Foundation, and the quiet and constant work of Dori [full name]. The small group of people who advised or simply commented on the development of the collection and its various themes could only show their amazement at the cruising speed of that giant company. Some of those who collaborated in this initiative also participated in the efforts of the National Commission for the Commemoration of the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America.

In Así se hizo MAPFRE, we find on page 104 a section entitled "Obsesión por América" (Obsession for America), of which two sentences should be highlighted.

"Within my impatience has been the irresistible tendency, to call it something, not to settle into a comfortable routine; perhaps this was the reason for my permanent concern for America, for doing something relative to its improvement, for contributing in some way to making the American phenomenon better known and the generous contribution, even at times cruel and contradictory, of Spain in that continent".

With this premise in mind, Don Ignacio continues:

"Along these lines, I felt it was essential that, on the occasion of the celebrations of the 5th Centenary of the Discovery or Encounter in America, MAPFRE and I should make contributions that would stand out and that could be remembered a hundred years later. I had several ideas and thoughts, perhaps not very advisable, which were finally reflected in the creation of the MAPFRE America Foundation in 1988, with the intention of dedicating myself exclusively to its objectives, since I also believed in retrospect and objectively that Spain's performance in America has been highly commendable".

When they finished, the MAPFRE 1492 Collections were, at least in their spirit, continued by a gigantic task carried out consecutively by three institutions, the Tavera Institute, the Tavera Foundation and the MAPFRE-Tavera Foundation. The work began to be developed in a digital environment, as it was characteristic of Ignacio Larramendi and even one of its basic management principles to make the best use of the new technologies available. This is how the Tavera Classic Collections were created: 74 discs that allow access to some 1846 works, all of them produced by DIGIMAP, first, and DIGIBIS, later, and managed consecutively by Joaquín van den Brule and Tachi Hernando de Larramendi, without forgetting the computer contributions of the then very young Jesús L. Domínguez Muriel.

In addition to the Tavera Classics, an excellent reference library was created, managed by Ignacio González Casasnovas and automated by DIGIBIS, although it is not yet available, and several works that could be described as outside the collection that perhaps reached their peak with the digitization of the Handbook of Latin-American Studies from the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, a publication whose digital production was carried out by DIGIBIS with Joaquín van den Brule at the head of the company at that time. It seems astonishing even today, twenty years later, that from Spain it was possible to carry out a computer work for the extraordinary Library of Congress which honours this in recognising it in the Handbook of Latin American Studies page of the Hispanic Division.

The Latin-American works continued with a new project: the FHL Virtual Libraries, within which the Polymath Virtual Library dedicates a collection to Latin American polygraphs and another to Brazilian polygraphs. The immense work by Alfonso Reyes and Andrés Bello is now available, which was first created on CD-ROM and is now accessible from the Website in the Polymath Virtual Library thanks to the work of the DIGIBIS company and the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation, then still the Hernando de Larramendi Foundation, under the presidency of Lourdes Martínez Gutiérrez, widow of Ignacio Larramendi, who after his death continued the work her husband had begun.

Cultural patronage

Portada de As can be seen, Ignacio Hernando de Larramendi was a great cultural patron and not only in the American sphere. The best source of information for this facet of his personality and his professional tasks was the publication Mecenazgo cultural de Ignacio Hernando de Larramendi y Montiano: crónica y testimonios (Cultural Patronage of Ignacio Hernando de Larramendi y Montiano: Chronicle and Testimonies), published by the MAPFRE-Tavera Foundation in 2002, the year after his death. This contains a chronicle of his work over the course of its first sixty-three pages, an extremely effective and orderly chronicle, which once again brings us back to the most direct voice of the protagonist of all these activities.

Thus, when the author took stock of his life in Así se hizo MAPFRE, he himself refers (page 167) to the 245 volumes of the MAPFRE 1492 Collections and other very important contributions such as

  • Colección documental del Descubrimiento (Documentary collection of the Discovery) in collaboration with the Royal Academy of History and the Superior Council of Scientific Research.
  • Catálogo concordado de la biblioteca de Hernando Colón (Agreed catalogue of the library of Hernando Colón) in collaboration with the Cabildo Cathedral of Seville.
  • Facsimile of the bibliographic repertoire of Hernando Colón Abecedarium B and its Supplementum

and, in another area, Investigaciones sobre pobreza en Buenos Aires y Lima, (Research on poverty in Buenos Aires and Lima), in collaboration with the Institute for the Environment and Development.

The Americanist circle is completed

In 1995, Ignacio Larramendi created another new foundation, the Tavera Historical Foundation, in order to achieve greater efficiency in the achievement of his own goals, which had been expressed in the bylaws of the still then Hernando de Larramendi Foundation, transforming the Tavera Historical Institute for this.

It is therefore essential to refer to the Tavera Historical Foundation, created on 12 March 1996 with the support of other top-level foundations such as the Ramón Areces Foundation and, at that time, the Hernando de Larramendi Foundation itself.

This is why, in a certain sense, it can be said that this site that the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation has created online for the MAPFRE 1492 Collections with an IT solution created by DIGIBIS, a company of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation, arrives to close the circle, twenty-five years after the vision, initiative and results, especially the results, of this great businessman and man of culture, who was Ignacio Hernando de Larramendi y Montiano.

MAPFRE 1492 collections on this site

We do not know if the complete works will ever be published electronically, since the copyright situation and the fact that they have been published later, in corrected and enlarged editions, by other publishers makes the task difficult.

What is unquestionable is that if the step of publishing on the Web were taken, these works would be immediately collectable byHispana or by OAIster, forming ipso facto part of the WorldCat, they would be recorded in Registry of Open Access Repositories and in OpenDOAR and, naturally, would be harvested by Europeana from where they would be semantically linked, which is more than likely, with the very welcome Digital Public Library of America which promoted by the University of Harvard and supported in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives and Record Administration promote with the enormous strength of the United States the technical principles and ideals expressed in Linked Open Data. That is to say, any work published or re-published by the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation, thanks to DIGIBIS and the different programmes that this company has been developing, ensures maximum visibility and dissemination to any author on the World Wide Web.

At the moment we offer, arranged in their respective collections, the titles that gave form and content to these collections, as well as the index and introduction of each one of them. Which we believe can be of great help to scholars of these issues.

The Polymath Virtual Library as a natural continuation of Ignacio Larramendi's projects

A circle has been closed, but in reality it is a ring of a spiral since, as a complement to everything that he explains in Asi se hizo MAPFRE, and whilst the book was being proofed, Ignacio Hernando de Larramendi wanted to point out in the epilogue (page 762), those different projects of that which was then called the Hernando de Larramendi Foundation and of the Polymath Virtual Library, of which Ignacio Larramendi himself says: "is the project to which I am going to devote the most personal attention;” this continues advancing, although certainly not at the pace that Ignacio Larramendi himself would have provided.

In a certain sense, a large part of the current activities and extensive projects of the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation are a precipitation of the detailed analysis that Ignacio Larramendi dedicates in Así se hizo MAPFRE to the MAPFRE America Foundation, the Tavera Historical Institute and to the Tavera Historical Foundation. Thus the Tavera Historical Projects, p 126, were in the end published, as the already mentioned Tres grandes cuestiones..., The Tavera Classics were published as as have already been said; the REFMAP Reference Centre has been automated, although it is not accessible on the Web, and the Latin-American polygraphs have been added to the Ignacio Larramendi Polymath Virtual Library.

Portada de It is significant that the last epigraph that Ignacio Larramendi dedicates to the last stage of his life in Así se hizo MAPFRE is dedicated to DIGIBÍS, a company founded in 1997, and which, as the author mentions at the time of writing the book, has Joaquín van den Brule, Tachi Hernando de Larramendi (daughter of Ignacio Larramendi) and Jesús L. Domínguez Muriel as the mainstays of its initiatives. He cites as the "latest project of this company, of which I am proud, the CD-ROM with the complete works of Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, to which I have already referred, and I consider it not only a cultural achievement but also a technological achievement".

In fact, DIGIBIS has enabled not only this, but also many other cultural and technological achievements, and it is no less true to have managed to recover, together with the Ignacio Larramendi Foundation, this data from the MAPFRE 1492 Collections in order to breathe as much new life into them digitally as possible. The booklets and what is offered from them can be harvested worldwide. What has been sown is now multiplying on the net and will help scholars of Latin American language and culture, who, as statistics show and as Ignacio Larramendi accurately predicted in his Utopía de la nueva América (Utopia of the New America), are numbered in their millions all over the world, so they can have more instruments to study this true civilization which, in Toynbee's terms, is destined to be one of the most important in the 21st century.

Madrid, 10 February 2013