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Colonial-Era Spanish Weights and Measures: Conversion Tables

 

The tables below present simplified conversions of colonial-era Spanish weights and measures both between and among each other, and into modern English and Metric systems.  I have compiled these conversion tables over the course of many years of research and using a wide range of diverse sources, but the tables should only be used as a general guide, and only with the awareness that the weights and measures frequently varied in both space and time throughout the colonial era, and thus may differ from the proportions presented below.  A handful of colonial-era books dealing with Spanish weights and measures are presented below as a starting point for additional research by those interested in the subject.

For a handful of the measures below, on a separate page I have posted tables of calculations for modern equivalences, which can be used for quick-conversions (these measures include the legua legal, the legua común, the vara, and the arroba (for weight and liquid volumes).

Weights / Medicinal Weights / Precious Metal Weights / Currency / 16th Century Monetary Values

Liquid Volume / Olive Oil Volume / Dry Volume / Shipping Volume (16thC) / Shipping Volume (palmeo) / Wine Container Volume

Large-Scale Lengths / Medium-Scale Lengths / Small-Scale Lengths / Land Area 

Weights (except medicines and precious metals)

Kilograms

Spanish Unit carga tercio quintal arroba libra marco onza ochava adarme tomin grano

138.028

carga 1 2 3 12 300 600 4,800 38,400 76,800 230,400 2,764,800

69.0139

tercio - 1 1.5 6 150 300 2,400 19,200 38,400 115,200 1,382,400

46.0093

quintal - - 1 4 100 200 1,600 12,800 25,600 76,800 921,600

111.5023

arroba - - - 1 25 50 400 3,200 6,400 19,200 230,400

0.46009

libra - - - - 1 2 16 128 256 768 9,216

0.23005

marco - - - - - 1 8 64 128 384 4,608

0.02876

onza - - - - - - 1 8 16 48 576

0.00359

ochava - - - - - - - 1 2 6 72

0.00180

adarme - - - - - - - - 1 3 36

0.00060

tomin - - - - - - - - - 1 12

0.00005

grano - - - - - - - - - - 1

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Medicinal Weights
Kilograms Spanish Unit

libra medicinal

cuarteron

onza

cuarta

dracma (ochava)

escrúpulo

óbolo

caractér

grano

0.34506 libra medicinal 1 4 12 48 96 288 576 1,728 6912
0.08627 cuarteron - 1 3 12 24 72 144 432 1,728
0.02876 onza - - 1 4 8 24 48 144 576
0.00719 cuarta - - - 1 2 6 12 36 144
0.03594 dracma (ochava) - - - - 1 3 6 18 72
0.00120 escrúpulo - - - - - 1 2 6 24
0.00060 óbolo - - - - - - 1 3 12
0.00020 caractér - - - - - - - 1 4
0.00005 grano - - - - - - - - 1

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Precious Metal Weights
Metric (grams) Spanish Unit marco onza de plata castellano de oro ochava de plata tomín de plata tomín de oro grano de plata grano de oro
230.0465 marco de oro/plata 1 8 50 64 384 400 4,608 4,800
28.7558 onza de plata - 1 n/a 8 48 n/a 576 n/a
4.6009 castellano de oro - - 1 n/a n/a 8 n/a 96
3.5945 ochava de plata - - - 1 6 n/a 72 n/a
0.5991 tomín de plata - - - - 1 n/a 12 n/a
0.5751 tomín de oro - - - - - 1 n/a 12
0.0499 tomín de plata - - - - - - 1 n/a
0.0479 grano de oro - - - - - - 1

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Currency Values in Common Spanish Colonial Usage
SSpanish Unit ducado peso real maravedís
ducado (accounting unit only)

1

1.38

11.03

375

peso (silver coinage @27.46g per peso)

-

1 8

272

real (silver coinage @3.43g per real)

-

-

1

34

maravedí (not in colonial circulation)

-

-

- 1

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Mid-16th-Century Gold Monetary Values in Spain and New Spain*
Monetary Unit maravedís other equivalences
doblón (Spain, 1550) 750  
peso de oro/castellano (New Spain, 1537) 500 8 tomínes de oro
castellano (Spain, 1488) 485  
peso de oro de minas (New Spain) 450 1 peso, 5 tomines, 3 granos de
oro de tepuzque
peso de oro ensayado (New Spain) 414  
dobla (Spain) 365  
escudo/corona (Spain, 1537) 350  
peso de oro común (New Spain) 300  
peso de oro de tepuzque (New Spain, 1536) 272  
tomín de oro (New Spain) 62.5  2 reales de oro
real de oro (New Spain) 31.25 1/2 tomín de oro
real/tomín de oro de tepuzque (New Spain, 1536) 34 12 granos de oro de tepuzque
blanca (Spain) 4.8  
 
  *IIt should be noted that gold coinage was not minted in New Spain until 1675, and the values for New Spain presented in this table were used as theoretical equivalents to the value of gold coinage used in Spain.  The stated values were instead applied to the silver coinage actually minted in New Spain after 1535 (coins of 1, 2, and 4 reales, and pesos amounting to 8 reales; see table above).  All values were based on equivalent numbers of maravedís (a basic unit of measure corresponding to copper and copper-alloy coinage normally only used in Spain; see table below for relative purities of metals).  During this period, the average peso of legal gold (93.7%, or 22.5 carats) was considered to be worth 450 maravedís and weighed 4.6 grams, while the average peso of legal silver (93.1%, or 11 dineros, 4 granos) was considered to be worth 272 maravedís and weighed 27.46 grams (making gold about 9.8 times more valuable than silver by weight).

Metal Type Legal Alloy Equivalent Percentage
oro 22.5 carats gold 93.7% gold
plata 11 dineros, 4 granos silver 93.1% silver
vellón (maravedís before 1602) 4 granos silver (variable) 1.4% silver (variable)
cobre (maravedís after 1602) no alloy 100% copper

For details on the various types of gold currency measures, see the following:

Riva Palacio, Vicente
1888  México a través de los Siglos, historia general y completa del desenvolvimiento social, político, religioso, militar, artístico, científico y literario de México desde la antigüedad más remota hasta la época actual, Volume 2: El Virreinato, pp. 241-248.  Barcelona: Espasa y Compania.  https://archive.org/details/mexicotravsdeloss02riva

Orozco y Berra, Manuel
1854  "Monedas en Mexico."  Entry in Diccionario universal de historia y de geografia, obra dada a luz en España por una sociedad de literatos distinguidos y refundida y aumentada considerablemente para su publicacion en Mexico con noticias historicas, geograficas, estadisticas y biograficas sobre las Americas en general y especialmente sobre la Republica Mexicana, Volume 5, pp. 907-960.  Mexico City: Imprenta de F. Escalante y C.a. https://books.google.com/books?id=btVAAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP9#v=onepage&q&f=false



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Liquid Volume (except Olive Oil)
Spanish Weight(Libras @16 oz) Spanish Volume (Pies Cúbicas) Liters Spanish Unit bota pipa moyo

arroba (cántara)

cuartilla

azumbre cuartillo copa
1,020 lbs.  6,959.95 483.99 bota 1 1.071 1.875 30 120 240 960 3,840
952 lbs.  6492.73 451.5 pipa - 1 1.75 28 112 224 896 3,584
544 lbs. 3712 258.13 moyo - - 1 16 64 128 512 2,048
34 lbs. 1,237.333 16.133 arroba (cántara) - - - 1 4 8 32 128
8 lbs., 8 oz. 309.333 4.033 cuartilla - - - - 1 2 8 32
4 lbs., 4 oz. 154.667 2.017 azumbre - - - - - 1 4 16
1 lb., 1 oz. 38.667 0.504 cuartillo - - - - - - 1 4
4.25 oz. 9.667 0.126 copa - - - - - - - 1

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Olive Oil Volume
Spanish Weight(Libras @16 oz) Spanish Volume (PulgadasCúbicas) Liters Spanish Unit

quintal

arroba menor (cántara)

cuartilla

terrazgo

libra

panilla

onza

2,656.25 lbs. 9,666.667 125.63 quintal 1 10 40 100 250 1,000 4,000

26.5625 libras (26 lbs., 9 oz.)

966.667 12.563 arroba menor (cántara) - 1 4 10 25 100 400

6.64 libras

241.667 3.141 cuartilla - - 1 2.5 6.25 25 100

2.656 libras

96.667 1.256 terrazgo - - - 1 2.5 10 40

1.0625 libras

38.667 0.504 libra (cuartillo) - - - - 1 4 16

4.25 onzas

9.667 0.126 cuarterón (panilla) - - - - - 1 4

1.0625 onzas

2.417 0.0314 onza - - - - - - 1

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Large Dry Volume
Spanish Volume (Pulgadas Cúbicas) Liters Spanish Unit cahíz fanega
media fanega
cuartilla
celemín (almud)
medio celemín
cuartillo
51,873 666.012 cahíz 1 12 24 48 144 288 576
4,322.75 55.501 fanega - 1 2 4 12 24 48
2,161.38 27.751 media fanega - - 1 2 6 12 24
1,080.69 13.875 cuartilla - - - 1 3 6 12
360.23 4.625 celemín (almud) - - - - 1 2 4
 180.11 2.313 medio celemín - - - - - 1 2
90.06 1.156 cuartillo - - - - - - 1

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Small Dry Volume
Spanish Volume (Pulgadas Cúbicas) Liters Spanish Unit cuartillo
medio cuartillo
ochavo
medio ochavo
ochavillo
90.06 1.156 cuartillo 1 2 4 8 16
 45.03 0.578 medio quartillo - 1 2 4 8
22.51 0.289 ochavo [ochavillo] - - 1 2 4
 11.26 0.145 medio ochavo - - - 1 2
5.629 0.072 ochavillo - - - - 1

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Shipping Volume (16th century)
Metric Volume Spanish Unit tonelada pipa codo de
Malaga cubico
codo de
Sevilla cubico

1.518 m2

tonelada 1 2 20.125 24

0.342 m2

pipa - 1 5.625  6.35

0.0091 m2

codo de Malaga cubico - - 1 1.1289

9.1 cm2

codo de Sevilla cubico - - - 1

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Shipping Volume (for palmeo system)
Metric Volume Spanish Unit tonelada frangote palmo
cúbico
pulgada  cúbica
@40/vara

1.518 m2

tonelada 1 4.436 166.375 166,375

0.342 m2

frangote - 1 37.5 37,500

0.0091 m2

palmo cúbico - - 1 1,000

9.1 cm2

pulgada cúbica @40/vara - - - 1

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Wine Container Volume (rough conversions)

Liters Arrobas Spanish Unit

pipa

barril

anclote

frasquera

botija

443.66 27.5 pipa 1 6 12 12 24
72.60 4.5 barril - 1 2 2 4
36.30 2.25 anclote - - 1 1 2
36.30 2.25 frasquera - - 1 1 2
20.17 1.25 botija - - - - 1

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Large-Scale Lengths
Meters Miles/Feet Spanish Unit grado legua común legua legal milla estadio cordel (cuerda) percha estadal
73,141.25 45.448 mi. grado 1 13.16 17.5 52.5 420 1750 14,583.3 21,937.5
5,572.67 3.463 mi. legua común - 1 1.33 4 32 133.33 1111.11 1,668
4,179.50 2.597 mi. legua legal - - 1 3 24 100 834 1,251
1,393.17 0.866 mi. milla - - - 1 8 33.33 278 417
174.14 0.108 mi. estadio - - - - 1 4.17 34.75 52.125
41.80 0.026 mi. cordel (cuerda, cadena) - - - - - 1 8.33 12.5
5.8232 19.103 ft. percha de Paris - - - - - - 1 1.74
3.3436 10.97 ft. estadal - - - - - - - 1

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Medium-Scale Lengths
Meters Feet Spanish Unit estadal braza paso vara codo de ribera codo pie de Paris/ Rey pie
3.3436 10.97 ft. estadal 1 2 2.4 4 6 8 10.334 12
1.6718 5.485 ft. braza (estado, toesa, orgya) - 1 1.2 2 3 4 5.167 6
1.3932 4.571 ft. paso - - 1 1.667 2.5 3.333 4.306 5
0.8359 2.742 ft. vara - - - 1 1.5 2 2.584 3
0.5573 1.828 ft. codo de ribera - - - - 1 1.333 1.722 2
0.41795 1.371 ft. codo - - - - - 1 1.292 1.5
0.3235 1.0613 pie de Paris/Rey - - - - - - 1 1.1612
0.2786 0.914 ft. pie - - - - - - - 1

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Small Scale Lengths

Cm. Spanish Unit pie palmo mayor (cuarta) xeme (sexma) coto (octava) palmo menor/de ribera (dozava) 16 ava 24 ava pulgada dedo grano linea punto
27.86 pie (tercia) 1 1.333 2 2.666 4 5.333 8 12 16 64 192 2,304
20.90 palmo mayor (cuarta) - 1 1.5 2 3 4 6 9 12 48 144 1,728
13.93 xeme (sexma) - - 1 1.333 2 2.666 4 6 8 32 96 1,152
10.45 coto (octava) - - - 1 1.5 2 3 4.5 6 24 72 864
6.97 palmo menor/de ribera (dozava) - - - - 1 1.333 2 3 4 16 48 576
5.22 16 ava - - - - - 1 1.5 2.25 3 12 36 432
3.48 24 ava - - - - - - 1 1.5 2 8 24 288
2.32 pulgada - - - - - - - 1 1.333 5.333 16 192
1.74 dedo - - - - - - - - 1 4 12 144
0.44 grano - - - - - - - - - 1 3 36
0.15 linea - - - - - - - - - - 1 12
0.0125 punto - - - - - - - - - - - 1

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Large Land Areas

Hectares/Ares Spanish Unit

caballería

yugada

fanega de trigo

fanega (1/26/ 1801)

fanega (avg.)

aranzada/ fanega de cebada

arpen (Paris)
33.54035 h. caballería 1 1.2 50 52 60 75 118
27.95029 h. yugada - 1 41.7 43.3 50 62.5 98.6
0.670807 h. fanega de trigo - - 1 1.04 1.20 1.5 2.34
0.643975 h. fanega (1/26/1801) - - - 1 1.15 10.41 2.27
0.559006 h. fanega (avg.) - - - - 1 1.25 1.97
0.447205 h. aranzada /fanega de cebada - - - - - 1 1.58
0.159373 h. arpen (Paris) - - - - - - 1

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Small Land Areas

Hectares/Ares Spanish Unit

arpen (Paris)

celemín

cuartillo

estadal cuadrado

vara cuadrada

pie cuadrado

0.159373 h. arpen (Paris) 1 5.27 21.1 253 4,055 36,494
0.053663 h. celemín - 1 4 48 768 12,288
0.013416 h. cuartillo - - 1 12 192 1,728
0.111798 a. estadal cuadrado - - - 1 16 144
0.00698 a. vara cuadrada - - - - 1 9
0.000776 a. pie cuadrado - - - - - 1

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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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