Spanish Colonial Weights and Measures

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Weights and measures used in Spain and its overseas empire during the colonial era were in most cases quite different from those in use today (the metric system was officially adopted in Spain in 1849). Moreover, weights and measures were far from standardized throughout much of the period, and varied from region to region and city to city. Beyond this, measurements stated in historical documents frequently reflect indivualized perceptions and imprecise measuring instruments or standards (such as the length of a pace or the width of a palm). Despite this, however, historical and archaeological research into Spanish Florida relies in many cases on as accurate an understanding of colonial-era weights and measures as possible, and for this reason I have conducted considerable research over many years into this subject, compiling and distilling primary and secondary sources into some basic conversions between and among different historical units, and in comparison to modern units of measurement. For further reference, at the bottom of this page is a listing of a handful of digitized colonial-era books dealing with the subject, providing a starting point for additional research by those interested in the subject.

Tables of Spanish Colonial Weights and Weasures: (minimum screen width 1100 pixels wide) A comprehensive set of tables listing the relative values of most weights and measures during the Spanish colonial era, as well as their modern equivalents.

Quick Conversion Tables for Basic Colonial Measures: (minimum screen width 650 pixels wide) Quick reference tables with conversions between several basic distance and weight/volume measures, with values ranging from 1-100 (these measures include the legua legal, the legua común, the vara for distances, and the arroba for weight and liquid volumes).


Selected Colonial-Era Books on Spanish Weights and Measures

Arithmetica demonstrada theorico-practica, para lo mathematico, y mercantil: explicanse las monedas, pesos, y medidas de los hebreos, griegos, romanos, y de estos Reynos de España, conferidos entre si, by Juan Bautista Corachán (Jayme de Bordazar, 1699 - 494 pages).

Breve cotejo y valance, de las pesas y medidas de varias naciones, reynos y provincias, comparadas y reducidas à las que corren en estos reynos de Castilla: declarase tambien la ley, peso y valor de algunas monedas hebreas, griegas, romanas y castellanas, y de otros reynos y señorios, by José García Caballero (La imprenta de la viuda de Francisco del Hierro, 1731 - 308 pages).

Proporcion de monedas, pesos, i medidas: con principios practicos de arithmetica, i geometria, para su uso, by Antonio Bordázar de Artazú (en la imprenta del autor, 1736 - 176 pages).

Tratado general de monedas, pesas, medidas y cambios de todas las naciones reducidas a las que se usan en España, by Tomás Antonio de Marien y Arróspide (Imp. de D. Benito Cano, 1739 - 523 pages).

Arte util, y compendioso para facilitar el methodo de las quentas de compras, ventas, censos, alcavalas, pesos, medidas, y reducciones de monedas, segun las pragmaticas que se observan en este Reyno de Castilla, y otros: añadido nuevamente las faltas del oro, by Antonio Rodriguez (1740 - 240 pages).

Memoria elemental sobre los nuevos pesos y medidas decimales: fundadas en la naturaleza, by Gabriel Ciscar y Ciscar (Imprenta Real por Pedro Pereyra, Impresor de Cámara de S.M., 1800 - 58 pages).

Reducción completa y recíproca de las monedas, pesos y medidas de Castilla con las de Cataluña, Aragón, Valéncia, Mallorca, Navarra y otras provincias, by Antonio Brusi (1823 - 380 pages).

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