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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Span 52

José Augusto Escoto Cuban history and literature collection


Autograph manuscripts, correspondence, historical documents, printed items, and other materials pertaining to various aspects of Cuban history and culture. Included throughout are clippings, drawings, lithographs, portraits, photographs, sketches, individual issues of journals and newspapers, decrees, orders, obituaries, pamphlets and leaflets.


  • Creation: circa 1574-1922
  • Creation: Majority of material found in circa 1715-1850

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in Spanish, a few in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the documents in this collection are in fragile condition, and copying restrictions may apply.


25 linear feet (101 boxes)

This collection contains autograph manuscripts, correspondence, historical documents, printed items, and other materials pertaining to various aspects of Cuban history and culture. Language is primarily Spanish, though there is a scattering of English-language materials. Included throughout are clippings, drawings, lithographs, portraits, sketches, individual issues of journals and newspapers, decrees, orders, obituaries, pamphlets and leaflets.

The "Correspondence" series is primarily personal in nature, and concerns literary, political, personal and family matters. The writers are mostly Cuban, although some are of Spanish and other nationalities, with letters originating in Cuba, Spain, the United States, and Mexico. There are large groups of correspondence among members of the Guiteras (Antonio, Calixto, Eusebio and Pedro José) and Milanés (Carlota, Federico and José Jacinto) families, as well as the collected correspondence of Tomás Gener.

The "Literary materials" series contains items by and about mostly 19th-century Cuban (and some Spanish) authors. A large number of these are poetry and drama, although novel and story fragments, translations, and other prose pieces are also present. This section includes both materials by each author and materials that document the author's life and works. Much of this material is autograph manuscript, but some are manuscript copies, often by Escoto or in unidentified hands. Also included are translations, lectures, transcriptions, and biographical miscellany. Of note are numerous compositions by and materials about the poets José María Heredia, José Jacinto Milanés, Federico Milanés, and Plácido. Portraits of many of these writers are also included in the form of lithographs, engravings, and printed items.

The "Historical Materials" series contains manuscript and printed matter relating to the intellectual and political history of (chiefly) 19th-century Cuba, up until the Spanish American War of 1898. Notable strengths of this section include works by early Cuban historians such as Antonio Guiteras, José Antonio Saco and José María de la Torre. These concern various Cuban independence movements and conspiracies of the mid-19th century, slavery, Jesuits, trade and demographic statistics, political administration, schools and other cultural institutions. Notable 16th-century and 18th-century pamphlets and documents concern the history of the Catholic Church in Mexico; others concern the Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru.

Subjects used to group the "Historical materials" series are: censorship, church, cities and towns, commerce and industry, conspiracies, history of Cuba, history of Mexico, history of Spain and Spanish colonies (Dominican Republic, Argentina, Panama and Peru), immigration, inquisition, Jesuits, land tenure, laws and legislation, military, piracy, political parties and elections, printing and publishing, public finance and taxation, schools and education, slavery and slave trade, statistics, theater, weights and measures, and miscellany.

The following subject terms have been noted throughout the finding aid: arrest, censorship, census, cities and towns, coins, commerce, commercial courts, commercial laws, conspiracies, conspiracy, conspirators, crime, crimes, customs, desertion, detention, education, elections, electoral census, electoral districts, geographical divisions, geography, government, immigrants, industry (agriculture, cotton, honey, ice, mining, rum, salt, tobacco, timber, wax), Inquisitions, Jesuits, Jesuit priests, judges, laws and regulations, mail steamers, military personnel, national defense, Negro Conspiracy, piracy, pirates, police, political administration, political parties, politics, population, ports, printing press, political prisoners, prisoners, prisons, public administration, publications, school, schools, Siege of Havana, slave owners, slave trade, slavery, slaves, societies, statistics, statutes, stock exchange, tariffs, taxation, taxes, territorial divisions, tithes, Título de Castilla, torture, troops, and weights and measures.

A small amount of the string used in the bindings of volumes has been retained in the Curatorial File.

Biographical / Historical

José Augusto Escoto (1864-1935) was the editor of the Revista histórica, crítica y bibliográfica de la literatura cubana (Matanzas, 1916-1917) and other works on Cuban history and literature, as well as the librarian of the Biblioteca Pública de Matanzas, Cuba. Many of the literary and historical materials in this collection are accompanied by envelopes addressed to Escoto from dozens of correspondents, attesting to the diligence with which he pursued his collecting. Some documents are copies in his hand of documents from various Cuban archives. The emphasis of Escoto's collection on materials by and about 19th-century Cuban literary figures probably relate to the publication of his literary journal, or possibly intended for an unpublished encyclopedic work.

A number of materials in this collection were compiled by Antonio López Prieto (1847-1883), known for his anthology of Cuban poets Parnaso cubano: colección de poesías selectas de autores cubanos, desde Zequeira á nuestros dias (Havana, 1881). His bound volumes of manuscript and printed historical and statistical documents concern Mexico as well as Cuba. These volumes include several apparently unpublished compilations of statistical and census data and original statistical charts. Originally classified as a supplement to the Escoto collection, these materials have been incorporated into the larger collection.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Literary materials
  3. III. Historical materials

Please note that item number 975 was inadvertently skipped in this finding aid.

Physical Location

b, pf, oversize pf

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Thomas Barbour (AB 1906); received: 1929.

Purchased by Thomas Barbour from the library of José Augusto Escoto of Matanzas, Cuba, ca. 1917.

The former MS Span 52.1 is now processed into this collection.

Separated Materials

A few printed items have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately in HOLLIS. These include mostly 18th-century and 19th-century Cuban pamphlets, as well as some Spanish and Mexican monographs.

Processing Information

Processed by: Lynn M. Shirey.

Final processing of this collection was completed in 2004 and a completely new arrangement was established. Earlier, incomplete lists and finding aids included a manuscript list by José Augusto Escoto; manuscript catalog cards with Spanish language subject headings, prepared by Araceli García Carranza; and Dr. Enildo A. García The Escoto Collection at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 1988 (bound volume plus microfilm of volume).

Processing Information

This finding aid was revised in 2024 to address outdated and harmful descriptive language. Multiple instances of the term "Negro conspiracy" were changed to "La Escalera Conspiracy". During that review, it was decided that some of the potentially harmful and problematic term describing Black peoole is in a formal title of a publication, or document. In order not to censor history or make searching difficult, the title has been left as-is. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Escoto, José Augusto, collector. José Augusto Escoto Cuban history and literature collection, circa 1574- 1922 (MS Span 52): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description
Cataloging funded by Harvard University David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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