Descripção do reino de Portugal



Duarte Nunes de Leão

author biography Duarte Nunes de Leão, probably Jewish, was born in Évora (Portugal), between 1528 and 1530, and died in Lisbon in 1608. He concluded the law degree at the University of Coimbra and later was a prosecutor and judge at Casa da Suplicação. He also participated in a new edition of the Ordenações Filipinas, ordered by King Philip I of Portugal. Thanks to his humanistic education he stood out as a jurist, historian and linguist. In this context, he wrote several books about these subjects, namely Ortografia da Língua Portuguesa (1576), Origem da Língua Portuguesa (1606) and Descripção do Reino de Portugal (1610). After Alcácer Quibir’s battle and the death of King Sebastian, he witnessed the Portuguese Kingdom’s political problems which ended up with Spain’s annexation of Portugal in 1580. Duarte Nunes de Leão defended the Spanish domain. However, his possible Jewish origin and his books, which overestimated the Portuguese language and culture, may have caused some of the political persecutions that he faced.

Editor: Lisboa, Jorge Rodriguez
Year of edition: 1610

Descripção do reino de Portugal is a book about physical geography which exalts the national richness and the Portuguese identity since biblical times. It is divided into 92 chapters and starts by presenting Portugal. The country is also compared to Spain, once the first became part of the later in 1580. The book also highlights the valour of Lisbon and its seaport, as an important metropolis of all Spain. Then he describes the country judicial and administratively, considering the districts and provinces. He dedicates some chapters to the history of the Lusitanian people once Portugal was part of this ancient province of Lusitânia, the root of the Portuguese alma mater. 

The geographical description of the country is focused on the mountains, rivers, fountains and mining, where he observes the extraction of gold, silver, precious stones, iron and other stones, particularly marble. Among all the production activities he emphasises ceramics, the textile industry and salt extraction. The intense Portuguese commerce developed in the Atlantic Routes was also a concern of the author.

He considers the agricultural production abundant, particularly the production of wine, olive oil, fruit, vegetables and wheat. Duarte Nunes de Leão also highlights the big amount of livestock breeding and the large quantity of fish. In the religious field, he lists Portuguese and foreigners’ saints who died in the country. Finally, he emphasises the values and virtues of Portuguese men and women.


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