[SOTO, Hernando de], HAKLUYT, Richard

[SOTO, Hernando de], HAKLUYT, Richard Virginia richly valued, by the description of the maine land of Florida, her next neighbour

London, Felix Kyngston for Matthew Lownes, 1609


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to., pp. [viii] 180. A-Z , 2A². Roman letter some Italic. Small woodcut ornament on title, white on black criblé initials, some historiated. Light age yellowing, t-p fractionally dusty, expert repairs to worm trail to blank margins of first half of book, sometimes just touching side-notes, blank outer margins of last two leaves repaired, just touching a few letters of side-notes, as with the blank outer upper corner of N2, headline of penultimate leaf fractionally trimmed, minor marginal spot or thumb mark. A good copy, in modern calf antique, spine with raised bands, green morocco label, a.e.g.

First English edition of one of the great narratives of American exploration and one of the earliest printed books relating to Texas. Hakluyt was a gifted geographer and linguist, “one of the leading spirits in the Elizabethan maritime expansion” (PMM) and had met the foremost explorers of the age such as Drake, Raleigh, Gilbert and Frobisher, and corresponded with Ortelius and Mercator. With remarkable foresight, he saw America and India as key territories for the extension of British colonies and pleaded for an expansion of English interests there. He was a consultant to the East India Company and a patentee of that for Virginia. De Soto’s expedition took in the Florida coast before crossing Georgia to the Savannah River, down the Alabama River to the Mississippi before proceeding to Oklahoma. They returned along the Arkansas hoping to reach the Gulf but, finding only the Mississippi again, they ventured across the Texas plains to the Brazos River and, despairing of managing an overland route to Mexico, they returned once more to the Mississippi and proceeded down-river to the Gulf on rafts. This is a companion tract to Lescarbot’s ‘Nova Francia’ of the same year. The original text, Relaçlam verdadeira…, was printed in 1557 at Evora, Portugal and gives the best account of de Soto’s expedition to Florida. “It was translated by Hakluyt with a view of inducing settlers to go out to the new colony of Virginia. This translation is among the rarest of Hakluyt’s works”. Church.

“Hakluyt was associated with the Virginia Company as a patentee under its charters of 1606 and 1609 and as a shareholder, although his involvement was advisory at most and not in any way executive. He translated the account of the ‘Gentleman of Elvas’ of Hernando de Soto’s travels as ‘Virginia Richly Valued’ (1909), which he dedicated to the company as a work that ‘doth yeeld much light to our enterprise now on foot’. .. .He returned to a style of presentation recognisable from his 1584 ‘Discourse’, focusing on commodities, including gold and copper (relying on new reports from Harriot) pearls, mulberry trees, dyestuffs, salt, and the ongoing promise of a route to the South sea. His view of the ‘manners and dispositions’ of the ‘inhabitants’ remained essentially admiring, yet recent experience had taught that they could not be trusted. He recommended a mild approach, but stated that ‘if a gentle polishing will not serve’, there were enough ‘hammerous and rough masons .. I mean our soldiours trained up in the Netherlands, to square and prepare them to our Preachers hands’. Claire Jowitt. ‘Richard Hakluyt and Travel Writing in Early Modern Europe’.

The records of the expedition contributed greatly to European knowledge about the geography, biology, and ethnology of the New World. The de Soto expedition’s descriptions of North American natives are the earliest-known source of information about the societies in the Southeast. They are the only European description of the culture and habits of North American native tribes before these peoples encountered other Europeans. De Soto’s men were both the first and nearly the last Europeans to witness the villages and civilization of the Mississippian culture.

A good copy of this now exceedingly rare and important work.

ESTC S122013. STC 22938; Church 337; Vail Frontier 13. Sabin 24896. Alden 609/131
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