Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes (August, 1478-1557), Spanish historian, was born at Madrid. Educated at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, in his thirteenth year he became page to their son, the Infante Don John, was present at the siege of Granada, and there saw Columbus previous to his voyage to The Americas.

On the death of Prince John (October 4 1497), Oviedo went to Italy, and there acted as secretary to Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba. In 1514 he was appointed supervisor of gold-smeltings at San Domingo, and on his return to Spain in 1523 was appointed historiographer of the Indies. He paid five more visits to America before his death, which took place at Valladolid in 1557.

Besides a romance of chivalry entitled Claribalte (1519) Oviedo wrote two extensive works of permanent value: La General y natural historia de las Indias and Las Quinquagenas de la nobleza de Espańa. The former work was first issued at Toledo (1526) in the form of a summary entitled La Natural hystoria de las Indias; the first part of La Historia general de las Indias appeared at Seville in 1535; but the complete work was not published till 1851—1855, when it was edited by JA de los Rios for the Spanish Academy of History.

Though written in a diffuse style, it embodies a mass of curious information collected at first hand, and, the incomplete Seville edition was widely read in the English and French versions published by Eden and Poleur respectively in 1555 and 1556. Las Casas describes it as "containing almost as many lies as pages," and Oviedo undoubtedly puts the most favourable interpretation on the proceedings of his countrymen; but, apart from a patriotic bias which is too obvious to be misleading, his narrative is both trustworthy and interesting. In his Quinquagenas he indulges in much lively gossip concerning eminent contemporaries; this collection of quaint, moralizing anecdotes was first published at Madrid in 1880, under the editorship of Vicente de la Fuente.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.