Title: Historical researches on the conquest of Peru, Mexico, Bogota, Natchez, and Talomeco
Author: Ranking, John
Publication date: London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1827
Library: Columbia University (Butler Library)
Call number: 985 R16
Submitted by: Tara Key
This book made quite a splash when it came out in 1827, when Ranking famously placed elephants in the New World! In a nutshell, he claimed that in 1274, Mongols tried to invade Japan and were kept from success by a raging storm. As a result, some of these ships (loaded with elephants, apparently, ended up in the New World, as detailed in the writings of Garcillasso de la Vega, Spanish soldier and poet:
“‘I shall relate what Pedro de Cieza de Leon told me that he had heard in the province where the giants arrived. They affirm, said he, in all Peru, that certain giants came ashore on this coast, at the Cape, now called St. Helen’s, which is near the town of Puerto Viejo. Those who have preserved this tradition from father to son, say, that these giants came by sea, in a kind of rush boats, made like large barks; that they were so enormously tall, that from the knee downward, they were as high as common men; that they had long hair, which hung loose upon their shoulders; that their eyes were as large as plates, and that other parts of their bodies were big in proportion; that they had no beard, that some went naked, others were covered with the skins of wild beasts and that they had no women with them. After having landed at the Cape, they established themselves at a spot pointed out to them by the inhabitants, and dug very deep wells through the rock, which to this day supply excellent water. These giants lived by rapine, and desolated the whole country; they say, that they were such gluttons, that one would eat as much meat as fifty of the native inhabitants; and that for a part of their nourishment they caught a quantity of fish with nets. They massacred the men of the neighbouring parts without mercy, and killed the women by their brutal violations… I have heard Spaniards say, that they have seen bits of their teeth, by which they judged that a tooth weighed more than half a pound.”
Ranking quotes this passage, and adds, in a note, “The elephants would, no doubt, be defended by their usual armour on such an extraordinary occasion, and the space for the eyes would appear monstrous. The remark about the beards, &c. (many of the Mongols have no beards…) shows, that the man and the elephant were considered as one person.’”
Well…they were rather large bones….
By 1899, the theory has fallen into the bin of “Some Cranks and their Crotchets,” an article written for the Atlantic Monthly about follies and lunacies. But, earlier, Joseph Smith and his son, influenced most likely by the publication of Ranking’s book, took Ranking’s elephants seriously, mentioning their existence twice in the Book of Ether, and that fact is, to this day, one of the flashpoints for Mormon Church debunking sites and books.
The book is inscribed by the author to Sir George Abercrombie Robinson, Baron. Robinson was the East India Company Director 1808-29 and was a member of Parliament from 1812-1818.