Litterae annuae provinciae Paraquariae Societatis Jesu

Antwerp, Jean van Meurs, 1636.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo., pp. 168. Roman letter; few decorated initials; one blank corner of repair to title page, some age browning, occasional lateral underlining in red pencil. A good copy in contemporary vellum, early title inscription on spine and shelfmark on front cover, all edges red; lightly worn joints; front pastedown and endpaper from eighteenth-century Spanish manuscript letter; on title, two nineteen- and twenty-century library stamps and contemporary inscription ‘Del Diacceti Mon…bro’, probably member of the Florentine noble family; early account note on rear end paper verso.

First edition of this remarkable report from the Jesuit missions in Paraguay. Nicola Mastrilli (1568-1653), from Naples, was a prominent churchman of the New World. After joining the Jesuit order, he was sent to Peru, where he changed his surname into Durán and graduated at the University of Lima. He distinguished himself as a zealous preacher, directing in Juli (Bolivia) the first Jesuit mission deeply engaged with the evangelisation of the local population. In 1623, he was elected supervisor of the province of Paraguay and then of the whole Peru. His care for the Indians was all but common among the Spanish establishment and was questioned even by some members of his order.

These letters, addressed to the general of the Society, Muzio Vitelleschi, recorded the fast expansion of Jesuit activities in the southern region of the Spanish Viceroyalty, mainly between 1626 and 1627. They were written on Mastrilli’s behalf by his confrere and collaborator, the Belgian Jean Rançonier. As other contemporary reports from the Americas and the Levant, the letters met immediate success and were translated into French two years later.

Alden, 636/37; Medina, BHA 953; Sabin, 21407; Palau, 77442.


Print This Item Print This Item

BORDONE, Benedetto



Venice, Paolo Manuzio for Federico Torresani, 1547.


Folio, ff. (10), 74. Roman letter; title in black and red with printer’s device within elegant floral border with dolphins; few decorated and historiated initials; 120 woodcut maps, of which two full-page, eight double-page, one printed upside-down at f. xliir; tiny minor worm hole to title and first two leaves, a few spots at head of first double-page map, light water stain towards outer margin of one leaf. A very good, well-margined copy in early pasteboard; all edges mottled; two early ms shelf marks to title and price inscription to rear pastedown.

Third, most correct and complete edition of this curious and informative atlas of islands, first published in Venice in 1528. This is the first and only Aldine edition, issued at the expense of Federico Torresani, Aldus’s brother-in-law and younger son of Aldus’s partner Andrea Torresani. Despite not being presented as a product of the main branch of the Aldine press, it retains the accuracy and the typically elegant layout of the familial output. Unusually for Aldine books, it also enriched by numerous illustrations taken directly from the blocks used in the first edition, but appear particularly bright and neat in this copy. It may well be one of the last collaborations between Federico and Aldus’s main heir, Paolo, who remained in touch with his uncle even after the family quarrel and the consequent split of the partnership between the Manuzio and the Torresani about 1540.

Benedetto Bordone (c.1460-1530) was an eclectic Italian artist of the Venetian Renaissance. Born in Padua, he was a skilled miniaturist, editor and cartographer. He is very likely to be the artist behind the exquisite and ground-breaking illustrations of the Aldine Hypnerotomachia. One of his two sons was the famous scholar Giulio Cesare Scaligero, who later made up his surname claiming to be affiliated with the noble Italian family of Della Scala.

His most famous work was the Isolario, accomplished a few year before his death. It consists of a broad illustrated survey of the world’s islands and peninsulas as they were known in the early sixteenth century, including learned mythical and historical remarks, drawn especially from Greek and Roman authorities. The book opens with Bordone’s dedication to his nephew, who had travelled the world on board the Venetian and Spanish fleets, probably acting as a military physician. Isolario is an intriguing mix of pioneering intuition and folkloristic belief. In it, Bordone provides the first printed map of Japan, as an island named ‘Ciampagu’, and the earliest depiction of the globe as an oval (this was later developed by Karl Mollweide into the model familiar to us). The final Copia delle Lettere de Perfetto della India la Nova Spagna detta alla Cesarea Maesta rescritte offers the earliest printed account of Pizzarro’s arrival in Peru and it is not included in the princeps.

Twelve of the illustrations relate to America, including a rather distorted New World with the Northern portion of South America and the North America as a huge island named as ‘Land of the worker,’ probably hinting at the growing slave trading in the area. Alongside the maps of Western Europe, Eastern Mediterranean Sea, British Isles and Sicily, Bordone also drew detailed plans of Venice and some of its lagoon islands, as well as of the lavish capital city of the Aztec empire (Tenochtitlan, modern Mexico City) before Cortez razed it to the ground in 1521. Finally, one can find sketchy depictions of: the Canaries; Madagascar and Zanzibar; Java and Sumatra (as ‘Iava minore’); Ceylon (‘Taprobana’); Cuba, Guadalupe, Jamaica, Venezuela and Brazil; Thailanda, mistakenly thought to be an island called Lochac. Far east, Bordone includes, for the first time in print, two legendary isles, one exclusively inhabited by women (‘Imangla’), the other by men (‘Inebila’).

Not in Brunet or Graesse. BM STC It., 120. Adams, B 2485; Renouard, 141:9; Mortimer It., 82; Harrisse, 221; Phillips 164; Alden, 547/2; Sabin, 6421.


Print This Item Print This Item



Sanctum Provinciale Concilium Mexici.

México, Juan Ruiz, 1622.


FIRST EDITION. Folio, ff. (6), 102, (1), 38, (1), missing final blank. Neat Roman letter; title with full-page engraved architectural border (outer edges frayed), secondary title within large woodcut frame, large decorated initials and elaborate hand- and tail-pieces in Spanish colonial style; light mostly marginal foxing to few leaves, light damp stain to lower gutter and foot of last gathering. A very good copy in contemporary limp vellum; a bit stained, reglued long since, spine holed; early shelf mark to front cover; unusual early monogram ‘AE LC OC’ branded on upper and lower edges; small “MM” ink stamps on verso of title and f. 52r; eighteenth-century handwritten monogram [RHPB?] at foot of first five leaves, the same hand annotating in Spanish in margins of gathering Hh and Kk; earlier extensive marginal annotations in Latin on first two leaves.

Extremely rare first edition of the decrees issued by the third Mexican Council of 1585 and approved by the papacy four years later. Gathered by the Viceroy and Archbishop Pedro Moya de Contreras, this highly influential assembly brought the decrees of the Council of Trent into the religious and social life of the New World, drawing up a legislation in use until the early twentieth century. Bishops attending the Council focused mainly on doctrine, the internal organization of the Mexican province, missionary activities and the rights of local people.

Their decisions were first recorded in Spanish and later translated into Latin, so as to be confirmed by the pope. Yet, the Roman cardinals’ committee in charge of approval rewrote a large part of the decrees, strictly sticking to those of the Tridentine Council. As a result, the final official text came out only in 1622. The printed marginalia of the volume refers constantly to the sources of the Mexican decrees. Along with canon law and papal bulls, they comprise the deliberations of the Council of Trent, of the five Synods held in Milan under Carlo Borromeo, as well as assemblies of the American and Spanish Church in Lima, Quiroga, Guadix and Granada. The final part of the book, and perhaps the most important, is devoted to the statutes of the recently-established Mexican Church.

The beautiful engraving of the title shows the personification of Faith and Church in a classical architectural frame. It is signed at the bottom by the Dutch artist Samuel Stradanus. Stradanus worked in New Spain from about 1604. His most prominent patron was the promoter of this belated first edition, Archbishop Juan Pérez de la Serna (1573-1627), whose arms appear at the head of the title.

Graesse, II, 245; Medina, México 343; Palau, 293978; Sabin, 48373. Not in JFB or Alden.


Print This Item Print This Item

ACOSTA, José de


De natura novi orbis … et de promulgatione Evangelii apud babaros.

Cologne, officina Birckmannica, 1596.


8vo., pp. (16), 581, (3). Roman letter, little italic. Jesuit device on title; slightly yellowed, occasional oil mark in margins; tiny burn mark affecting one letter on p. 1 and 373; few unprinted words completed in contemporary manuscript and later pencil at bottom of pp. 126 and 274. A good copy, in an early seventeenth-century English brown calf, blind-tooled plain style, probably Cambridge, multiple ruled borders with saw tooth edge, double fillet, central undecorated frame with fleurons at corners; a bit scratched and worn; rebacked, spine part remounted, all edges red; pastedowns from an early Roman letter edition of the King James Bible (2nd Maccabees, III, 1-21 and III, 25-40; IV, 1-2).

Third unaugmented edition of these pioneering treatises on the geography, anthropology and evangelisation of South America, previously published in Salamanca in 1588/ 1589 and 1595. José de Acosta (1540 – 1600) was among the first Jesuit missionaries to embark for the Spanish New World. He spent much of his life in Peru. The main settlement of the order was at that time in the village of Juli, on Lake Titicaca. Here, a college was set up to study the languages of the natives, while the newly-funded Jesuit printing press issued the first printed book of the Americas in 1577. Later, Acosta moved to Lima and taught theology at the university.

In the Third Council of Lima (1582 – 1583) reorganising the American church, Acosta took a very active part and became its official historian. Following an adventurous journey through Mexico, in 1587 he head back to Spain, where he was appointed head of the Jesuit college in Valladolid and later Salamanca. A prolific writer, he is mostly famous for his very successful Historia natural y moral de las Indias. This knowledgeable, realistic and detailed description of the New World was sought after and soon translated into Italian, French, German, Dutch and English. The Natura novi orbis opening this edition represents the early draft of the Historia. In it, Acosta provided the first account of altitude sickness, which affected him while crossing the Andes. He also divided the Amerindians into three categories, acknowledging the Incas and Aztecs as fairly advanced societies in the civilisation process.

The second part comprises a very innovative essay on evangelisation. Acosta struggles to demonstrate to his contemporaries that Amerindians were part of the original God’s plan for mankind and thus were not inferior creatures undeserved of being Christianised and saved. In grounding his argument, the idea that the first inhabitants of America migrated from the biblical world (specifically from Asia), played a crucial role. Indeed, he was the first writer to postulate the existence of a land bridge at the northern or southern extremities of the two continents, long before the discovery of the Bering Strait. In his missionary zeal, Acosta was much concerned with the preparation and morality of priests, who he encouraged to study the aboriginal languages as an essential part of their duties.

‘One of the earliest writers who have treated philosophically of America and its production.’ J. Sabin, A Dictionary of Books Related to America, I, p. 17.

BM STC Ger., p. 2; Adams, A 124; Brunet, I, 41; Graesse, I, 15; Leclerc, 4; Palau y Dulcet, I, 1979; Sabin, I, 120. Not in JFB nor in Alden.


Print This Item Print This Item



La prima parte dell’Istorie del Peru.

LOPEZ DI GOMARA, Francesco. Historia delle nuove Indie Occidentali.

LOPEZ DI GOMARA, Francesco. Historia di Don Fernando Cortes.

Venice, Camillo Franceschini, 1576.


8vos. i) (xii)] 215 (i) Italic letter, woodcut printer’s device to title page, large historiated woodcut intials. Title page repaired in gutter, very small tear to blank lower edge narrow repair to mid-foredge and upper outer corner, repaired clean tear to last touching device without loss. ii) ff (viii) 306. Italic letter, woodcut printer’s device to t-p, woodcut initials. Slight age yellowing, very occasional foxing, contents leaf torn without loss in gutter. iii) ff. (viii), 343. Italic letter. Printer’s device on title, large historiated woodcut initials and headpieces. Very light age yellowing. Good copies in crushed crimson modern morocco, panel ruled in triple-blind with gilt corner fleurons and gilt-stamped border, 3 ornaments to central panels. Spines gilt in 5 compartments with classical motifs of harps, columns and figures, a.e.r. In marbled box.

i) Pedro Cieza de León (1518-1584) served in the Indies under Pizarro and lived for 17 years in Peru. His ‘Istorie’ is based on this long stay and his travels from place to place in the “Great Kingdom”. Divided into 122 chapters it begins with the discovery of the Indies and the foundation of Panama, then describes historical events and geographical characteristics of the various provinces which Cieza visited, and offers a fascinating account of the habits of the indigenous peoples. “One of the more important sources for the early history of Peru. The author describes Peru’s resources, vegetation and Indian tribes from personal experience, and also comments on Spanish administration of the region” JFB C256 on the second edition. Cieza never published a sequel to this ‘Prima Parte’ (though according to Sabin p.73 it exists in ms.). Nonetheless, these two related essays by the Spanish-American historian Francisco Lopez de Gomara are habitually treated as the second and third parts, the first being a history of the Western Indies, the second of Mexico.

ii) Important early essay by Spanish-American historian Lopez de Gomara on the history of the New West Indies, “covering the discovery, early exploration and first settlement of the New World by the Spaniards,” (Sabin on 1564 ed). Beginning with a discussion of the nature and location of the ‘Antipodes’ – meaning those places on the opposite side of the world – the text moves on to discuss the life and times of Christopher Columbus and a wealth of information on the religions, customs, geographies and appearance, of i.a. Honduras, Cuba, Venezuela, Peru and Nicaragua. The text discusses the division of territories between the Spanish and the Portuguese, the lives and achievements of the principal conquistadors, conflicts and allegiances with the natives including the Incas and reports mass deaths amongst the local population due to the introduction of alien germs such as smallpox. Although Francisco López de Gómara (c. 1511-1566) never actually visited the New World, through his close acquaintance with Cortés and leading conquistadors he had unparalleled access to first-hand testimony and documentary sources making this work “indispensable to the student of Spanish affairs after the conquest” (Sabin) and a prime resource for 16th century Latin-American history.

iii) Continuation of Gomara’s history of the West Indies, dealing primarily with the conquest of Mexico and focused on the personality of Hernán Cortés, leader of the Spanish expedition. Cortes’ audacious adventures against Montezuma’s Mexican empire from 1518 onwards aroused great interest in his native Spain, and won rich and extensive colonies for Charles V. The work contains a considerable amount of biographical, anthropological and topographical information, in addition to a detailed and lively account of Cortes’ voyage and campaigns against the Aztecs, culminating in Spanish dominance over the former Aztec Empire. It concludes with a Nahuatl vocabulary and some general information on Aztec social customs, religious practices and cosmographical theories.

i) “One of the most remarkable literary productions of the age of Spanish conquest in America” (Markham) “the only book which exhibits the physical aspect of the country as it existed under the elaborate culture of the Incas” (Prescott II.328) in Sabin vol. 3-4 p.72. Sabin vol. 3-4 p74: “inconnue aux bibliographes.” BM STC It. 184. This ed. not in Alden or JFB. Medina I:257. Palau 54649.

ii) BM STC It. 184. Sabin vol 7-8, p.130. JFB L489: “This edition follows closely the text of the 1564 edition.” Alden I 576/19. Palau 141181. Medina I:270-71. Streit II:931.

iii) BM STC It. 184. Sabin vol 7-8, p.130. This ed. not in JFB. Alden I 576/20. Palau 141174. Medina I:271. Streit II:932.


Print This Item Print This Item



The Pleasant Historie of the Conquest of the Weast India [by] Prince Hernando Cortes.

London, Henry Bynneman, 1578.


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp. (xii) 405 (iii). Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on title page, woodcut ornamental initials throughout, occasional ornaments. Ownership inscriptions of ‘Will Sand’? and of the English Dominican ‘John Martin’ (1677-1761: Gillow IV, 491) to blank portion of title page; early purchase inscription and bibliographical note of ‘John Packenham’ to fly. C18? ink stamp of ‘Sir Thomas Gage, Bart. of Hengrave’ to verso of title page. Bookplates of ‘Boies Penrose’ and ‘Frank. S. Streeter’ to front pastedown and fly respectively. Inner margins of first gathering strengthened, oil stain along fore-edge throughout, intermittently affecting text, darker at end. A few printed marginalia a little shaved. Paper flaw to upper corner of one leaf, affecting one or two letters, small tear to blank portion of title page. Still a good copy in gilt calf, original spine, renovated c. 1700, all edges red.

Rare and important early history of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, by Hernán Cortés’ private chaplain, and the first edition of Thomas Nicholls’ first English translation. Francisco López de Gómara (c. 1511-1566) never actually visited the New World, but through his close acquaintance with Cortés and leading conquistadors he had unparalleled access to first-hand testimony and documentary sources. His La conquista de Mexico, the second part of a more ambitious Historia general de las Indias, was first published in 1553. It was a popular work, translated into many languages, including an early rendering into Nahuatl, an indigenous language of the conquered Aztec Empire.

The present English edition, dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham, was translated from the Italian version of Agostino de Cravaliz. Some contemporaries accused the work of inaccuracy, unjustifiable sanitisation and aggrandisation of Cortés’ role. It was perhaps for this reason that Prince Philip (later Philip II of Spain) quickly ordered all the copies of the work that could be found to be gathered in, and imposed a heavy fine on anyone who should reprint it. This proscription was rescinded in 1727 through the efforts of Don Andreas Gonzalez Martial, who included Gómara’s work in his collection of early historians of the New World. Although López de Gómara’s reliability may be called into question, his works nevertheless remain a valuable and oft-cited record of the conquista.

The account is focused on the personality of Hernán Cortés, leader of the Spanish expedition to Mexico. The reader is given a considerable amount of biographical information, doubtless coloured by the author’s friendship with the subject. In addition to a detailed and lively description of the voyage to the New World and the various campaigns against the Aztecs, culminating in the assertion of complete Spanish dominance over the former Aztec Empire, López de Gómara provides much additional anthropological and topographical information. The Aztec people and their mores were clearly a source of fascination to a contemporary European audience. The Emperor Montezuma, we are told, “went alwayes very net and fine in hys attire. He bathed him in his hotehouse foure times everye day. … He eate alwayes alone, but solemnelye and with great abundance.” The work concludes with a Nahuatl vocabulary (including the numbers, days of the week, and so forth) and some general information on Aztec social customs, religious practices and cosmographical theories.

The various ownership inscriptions include the great American collector Frank Streeter, and Boies Penrose (1860-1921), a lawyer and Republican Senator from Philadelphia. A noted bibliophile, Penrose was also a colourful public figure, famous for observing that “public office is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” The ink stamp of ‘Sir Thomas Gage, Bart. of Hengrave’ may not be securely identified: the name was a common one in the Gage family. One notable Sir Thomas Gage (1719-1787) was British Commander-in-Chief in the early days of the American War of Independence, but as second son he did not inherit the Baronetcy.

STC 16807; Alden 578/41; Church 123; JCB (3) II, 271; Sabin 27751; Streit II, 948.


Print This Item Print This Item

ZARATE, Augustin de


The strange and delectable History of the discoverie and Conquest of the Provinces of Peru…

London, Richard Ihones, 1581


FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. [viii] 88 (1-12 unnumbered) [iv]. Black letter. Title within woodcut frame, flanked by Moses with the two Tablets of the Law, and King David (McKerrow and Ferguson 117), 7 half-page woodcut illustrations, including of the ‘Riche Mines of Potossi’, local animals, construction work for a new city, and a horned man (two repeated), woodcut initials throughout. Blank fore-edge of A3 restored, one leaf holed at gutter with loss of a few letters, general age-yellowing, a few leaves lightly browned, some running titles and outer edges a little shaved. A good copy in blind tooled diced Russia c1800, covers with gilt lozenge, neatly rebacked, a.e.g. Contemporary marginalia, ex-libris of Boies Penrose on fly, gilt leather ex-libris of Rt. Hon. Thomas Grenville on upper pastedown, 17thC shelfmark in blank upper portion of title.

FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF ONE OF THE EARLIEST ACCOUNTS OF THE DISCOVERY AND CONQUEST OF PERU. Zarate was sent to Peru by the Emperor Charles V in 1543, as a tax collector to implement the Emperor’s ‘New Laws’. He was in Lima at the time of Gonzalo Pizarro’s revolt, and the work concludes with Pizarro’s execution and the subsequent incorporation of Peru into the Spanish Empire in 1548. The first edition, in Spanish, appeared at Antwerp in 1555. This edition is a translation of the first four books of the first edition, with the addition of ‘The Discovery of the ritche Mynes of Potosi and how Captaine Carauajall toke it into his power’. The work includes descriptions of the ‘people and things beyond the Equinoctiall lines’, including Christian and Indian settlements in the mountains of Peru, as well as the history of the Kings of the Incas, but mostly focuses on the course of the Conquests: the towns and villages taken by, and the battles fought by Pizarro and Diego de Almagro.

The translation is by Thomas Nicholas, a translator for the Levant Company, who lived for many years in the Canary Isles, until imprisoned by the Spanish Crown in 1560 on charges of ‘heresy’. Finally released years later following the intercession of Elizabeth I, he returned to England, where he published three translations, presumably done during his imprisonment.

Thomas Grenville (1755-1846), MP and bibliophile was the son, and brother of Prime Ministers. He bequeathed his celebrated library of more than 20,000 volumes to the British Museum. De Ricci remarks of him that he was “a true bibliophile, in the highest sense of the word. He had a feeling for quality equal to that of Cacherode and there is hardly an items in his collection the condition of which was not capable of satisfying the most exacting collector” (de Ricci, English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts 1530-1930, p. 114).

Rare. Only one other copy has sold at auction in over thirty years, and RLG records only four (Harvard, Cambridge, New York Historical Society and Yale).

STC 26123; JCB (3) I: 287; Sabin 106272; Alden 581/70; not in JFB.


Print This Item Print This Item


Historia dell’India America detta altramente Francia antartica, di M. Andrea Tevet tradotta di francese in lingua iataliana, da M. Giuseppe Horologgi

Venice, Gabriel Giolito de’Ferrari, 1561.


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo. pp (xxxii) 363 (iii). (lacking last blank) Italic letter. Woodcut device on title, head of title with woodcut ornament, larger device on recto of last leaf, charming historiated woodcut initials, headpieces and ornaments, “FF. 300 de Giovanni Romani da Casalmaggiore an 1780” on fly “De Capuccin di Casalmaggiore” in slightly earlier hand, in lower blank margin of title. Age yellowing, some browning to a few leaves, minor marginal foxing in places, minor occasional marginal water-stains, the odd marginal ink stain and thumb mark. A good copy, in contemporary vellum over boards, manuscript title on spine, small slit to vellum on spine.

First edition of the Italian translation by Giuseppe Horologgi of Les Singularitez de la France Antarctique, first published at Paris in 1557, a most important first hand account of Thevet’s journey to Brazil. Thevet, a Franciscan, accompanied Villegagnon on a French expedition in 1555 to establish a colony on the coast of Brazil. This important narrative of that unsuccessful venture contains one of the earliest descriptions of tobacco and its use by the Indians, as well as descriptions of Peru, Cuba, and Canada, the latter account derived from Jacques Cartier. Giolito reissued this translation in 1584. An English translation appeared in 1568. Thevet’s first travels occurred in about 1550, when he accompanied the Cardinal Jean de Lorraine on a journey into Italy and the Mediterranean basin. His experience as a traveler attracted the attention of Nicolas Durand, Chevalier de Villegagnon, who was preparing to found a colony in what is today Brazil. He asked Thevet to accompany the expedition as its confessor. Thevet fell ill during the voyage and had to return to France after only ten weeks in Brazil. Using his own observations, however, combined with information gained from other travelers, Thevet quickly produced his ‘Singularitez de la France Antarctique’ on his return. Thevet writes here in detail of that attempt to form a colony, and includes vivid descriptions of the manners and customs of the natives whom he met. It seems probable, however, that his accounts of North America, which form a large portion of this book, and which he claims are based on first hand knowledge, derived mainly from conversations with Jacques Cartier, Sebastian Cabot, and the Sieur de Roberval. Nevertheless he gives one of the earliest descriptions of Canada, one of the earliest accounts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and one of the earliest discussions of the customs and ceremonies of the Indians, including a marvelous description of tobacco-smoking (p. 333). André Thevet traveled extensively and wrote prolifically. Few sixteenth-century writers covered more territory or wrote more ambitiously. While today Thevet is seen largely as a compiler and editor of experiences that belonged to others, his work on Brazil remains important to those studying the first encounters with the New World. A good, unsophisticated copy of this important work.

BM STC It C16th p. 668. Sabin 95336. Brunet V: 814: “Cette traduction ne se trouve pas facilement”. Church 112. Borba de Moraes II, p. 858. Alden 561/52. Arents 9. Mcgill 833 (Fr. edn.)


Print This Item Print This Item

NIEREMBERG, John Eusebius


Historia Naturae Maxime Peregrinae.

Antwerp, Plantin, Balthasar Moretus, 1635.


FIRST EDITION. Folio pp. (viii) 502 (cvi), last blank, text in double column. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Title in red and black with Plantin’s finely engraved device, woodcut compass device on verso of last, woodcut initials and tail pieces. Text illustrated by 69 beautiful woodcuts, 54 of animals and 15 of plants, often signed C.I., autograph “Labouritte 1778” on pastedown, the initials ‘M M’ with shelfmark beneath, early C18th library stamp “Ex Musaeo J. P Borin” beneath that, contemporary manuscript ex libris “R. L. M. Colleg soc.tis Jesu Mons” at head of title page. General even browning (as usual), some light mostly marginal water staining in places, the odd spot or mark. A good copy, in contemporary vellum over boards, stubbs from an early antiphonal leaf, corners and extremities a little worn.

First and only edition of Niermberg’s important and encyclopaedic natural history, devoted for the most part to the flora and fauna of the New World, and particularly Mexico. There had been earlier accounts of the natural history of the New World, mostly in passages of travel books, but this was the first attempt to order them, and can properly be described as the first American Natural History. Many species are described or illustrated here for the first time, and in supplying the indigenous names for the plants and animals described, the work is an important linguistic source for the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. There is also much information on the culture and rites of the Aztecs and Incas, and of Mexico before the conquest.

Nieremberg’s sources are various but it seems certain that much of this work is derived from manuscripts brought back by Francisco Hernandez, who had made a large compendium of Aztec flora and fauna, using a group of Aztec artists and draughtsmen. This work is all the more important in that the original drawings were destroyed along with a large part of the famous library at the Escorial, and perhaps the charm of the boldly stylised illustrations reflect their manuscript origin. The woodcuts were made by the Flemish artist Christoffel Jegher who worked as Ruben’s engraver and extensively for the Plantin-Moretus publishing house. They include the raccoon, rattlesnake, dodo, toucan, birds of paradise, water lily, coconut tree, cactus, iguana, amongst others, a great deal of them in their first representation in a printed work.

The text is scientifically organised by genus: plants, fish, birds, minerals etc. with much technical observation of animals, minerals, and plants and their properties. There is also a chapter on tobacco and its therapeutic use. The book ends with two fascinating chapters on Nieremberg’s observations on miraculous events in Europe and the Holy Land, followed by an extensive and very useful index. Nieremberg was a noted theologian and prolific writer, born of German parents in Madrid in 1595, who taught humanities and natural history for sixteen years at the Imperial College, having joined the Society of Jesus in 1614. His writings on occult philosophy and natural magic were influential. The book is dedicated to Gaspar de Gusman, Count of Olivares, Grand Chancellor to the Indies.

Palau 190738. Brunet IV pp. 76 “on y trouve des particularités importantes qui n’étaient pas encores connues alors.” Sabin 55268 “the greater part of this work relates to the natural history of Mexico, or New Spain, it also contains some particulars relative to Mexico before the conquest”. Wellcome 4546. Nissen (2 vol.) 2974. Arents 3278. Pritzel 6701. Alden 635/94. Not in JFB.


Print This Item Print This Item

DE BRY, Theodor


Americae Nona & postrema Pars.

Frankfurt, Apud Matth. Beckerum, 1602.


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. Five parts in one. pp. (viii), 362, (ii), last blank: pp. (ii) 56: ff. (i), XXV: pp. 100: ff. (i) XIV, (i), last blank. )(4, A-Z4, 2A-2X4, 2Y6, 2A-2G4, 2a-2e4, 2f6, 3A -3L4, 3M6, 3a-3d4. Roman letter, some Italic. First title within fine engraved architectural border, a Native American man and woman at sides, another above, flanked by penguins, a llama below, second title with engraving depicting Sebald de Weert’ flotilla, woodcut ornaments to third and fifth title, fourth title with engraved portrait of Van Noort, with world map, flanked by a Native American and a Pacific Islander, engraved arms on dedication leaf with the arms of Ludwig of Hesse, those of Christain II Duke of Saxony tipped in over, full page engraved map of Magellan Straits, thirty-nine half page engraved plates numbered IXXV and I-XIV with explanations, many hand-coloured, large foliated woodcut initials and headpieces, booksellers note tipped in on pastedown with book plate of John Jay Paul beneath. Light age yellowing, slightly heavier in places, the occasional minor marginal spot, blank corner of S3 expertly repaired. A very good, clean copy with excellent impression of the plates, in late C19th tan crushed morocco by W. Pratt, large gilt arabesques to covers, title gilt on spine, lower joint repaired, crack to top of upper joint, head and tail of spine and corners slightly chipped, all edges gilt.

First Latin edition of the ninth volume in the monumental collection of voyages, the ‘Grand Voyages’, by De Bry including the work of Acosta on America, and the highly important Pacific voyages of Oliver van Noort and Sebald de Weert, rarely found complete. De Bry died in 1598, however the publication of his hugely ambitious illustrated series of voyages was continued by his widow and two sons, who issued parts seven, eight, and this the ninth and “postrema pars”. The series was however continued to a total of thirteen parts, though part ten was not published until 1619. The ‘Grand Voyages’ was described by Boies Penrose as “the cornerstone of every library of Americana.”

The first work included in this ninth volume is the seven books of Acosta’s ‘Historia Natural y Moral De Las Indias’ (first published Seville, 1590), one of the most important works on the Indians of Mexico and Peru. Acosta’s was a Jesuit missionary who spent time in the missions of both countries from 1571 to 1588, and his ‘Historia Natural’ provided a most important and influential picture of the Spanish occupation of the New World. Acosta’s work “operated more strongly than any other in opening the eyes of the rest of Europe to the great wealth that Spain was draining from America.” Streeter. The Historia also described Inca and Aztec customs and history, and gives much information on such things as winds and tides, lakes, rivers, plants, animals, and mineral resources in the New World. “By the end of the century Spanish knowledge of America had been brilliantly summarized by Jose de Acosta, sometimes know as the American Pliny. Although Acosta’s ‘Historia Natural y Moral De Las Indias’ has been recognized as the most useful and the most learned of the early commentaries, one cannot say that its truly central place in American cultural history has been widely appreciated” Theodore Hornberger. The fourteen De Bry engravings which relate to this section show in great and vivid detail the customs of the Aztecs and Incas and their often violent confrontation with the Spaniards and includes engravings of Indians working Potosi mines, Aztec religious ceremonies, games, llamas as beasts of burden, human sacrifice and burial rites. They are some of the most extraordinary early anthropological illustrations of Native Americans and their customs.

Another of the voyages in this volume recounts the extraordinary circumnavigation made by Van Noort, the first by a Dutchman, and the fourth recorded circumnavigation. Lach describes the van Noort account as containing “the earliest first-hand Dutch descriptions of the Ladrones (Marianas), the Philippines, and Borneo.” “Van Noort describes the Ladrones very much as did the earlier Spanish writers: the people are superb swimmers, incorrigible thieves, live without law, hold women in common, and subsist on bananas, coconuts, sweet potatoes and sugar cane, which they gladly trade for pieces of old iron. The Dutch writer reports on the visible damage suffered by many of the islanders from the Spanish pox (syphilis) (…) the Dutch were impressed and somewhat bewildered by the vast number of Philippine islands. To thread their way from the San Bernadino Straits to Manila they seized both native canoes and a Chinese junk to obtain pilots. They notice the usually naked and tattooed natives, the houses on stilts, and the many boats and ships which bring what is called tribute from the outlying islands to the Spanish at Manila. From a captured Chinese pilot they learned much about Manila’s size and fortification and about its large Chinese settlement. Luzon is thought to be larger than Scotland and England combined.” Lach. This description of his voyage was one of the first publications to inform Europe that the Spanish monopoly of the Pacific was being challenged by the Dutch, and includes an illustration showing the battle of Manila.

Van Noort journeyed to the Moluccas via the Straits of Magellan, entering them in September of 1599 but, due to terrible conditions did not reach the Pacific until the end of the following February. Continuing along the coast of Chile, he stopped at Peru, New Spain, and eventually reached the Mariana Islands, Manila, Borneo and Java. The voyage was first published in Dutch in 1601 followed by a corrected edition of 1602. As the first Latin edition, this account in the de Bry was the first to be widely disseminated in Europe. The third voyage in this volume is that of Sebald de Weert’s with the much same objectives as the van Noort voyage. On June 20, 1598, De Weert sailed from Amsterdam with a fleet including the ships Hoop, Liefde, Geloof, Trouwe, Blijde Boodschap, under the command of Admiral Jacques Mahu, sent to the Moluccas by way of the Straits of Magellan. The voyage met with disaster and de Weert’s ship was the only one to return. (The Liefde eventually made it to Japan with their English pilot, a certain Will Adams, and only 24 remaining crew).

It was on his homeward leg back to the Netherlands after having failed to pass the Straits of Magellan that De Weert noticed some unnamed and uncharted islands. There he attempted to stop and replenish but was unable to land due to harsh conditions. These islands Sebald de Weert charted were a small group off the northwest coast of the Falkland Islands, part of the Falklands which he named the “Sebald de Weert Islands” and the Falklands as a whole were known as the Sebald Islands until well into the 18th century. Fourteen of the engraved plates illustrate De Weerts voyage, depicting the ports visited, including Rio de Janeiro and San Sebastian, as well the natives met along the route through the Straits and other memorable incidents from the voyage. The 39 engravings and the map of the Straits of Magellan contained in this ninth volume by De Bry are amongst the most important of American anthropological illustration. 

Alden 602/1, 602/72, 602/91. Sabin III pp 42-3. “The great and Small Voyages of the De Bry family constitute two of the most important collections of voyages.” JFBB 588 (the German edn.). BM STC Ger. C17th I, B2353. Church 168. Griffin, Bibliography of the Philippines, p. 24.


Print This Item Print This Item