JESUITS RELATIONS – FONSECA, Louys; François GABRIEL [i.e. CABRAL]; and Hierosme PORTILIO. Lettres du Jappon, Peru et Brasil, envoyees au R.P. General de la Societé de Jesus, par ceux de la dicte Societé qui s'employent en ces regions, à la conversion des Gentils. Lyons: Benoist Rigaud, 1580.
8° (164 x 104 mm). (Some overall browning, washed, short internal marginal tear, one marginal chip.) Modern brown morocco gilt, edges gilt, signed “R. Petit”.
Second Edition (first published 1578). EXTREMELY RARE second edition (and very likely the earliest acquirable) of three French-language Jesuit letters from Brazil, Japan and Peru, whose centerpiece is the final letter, a 70-page Brazil eyewitness letter by Louis Fonseca forms one of the earliest, most detailed, and longest texts to appear on Brazil in the French language. Although the letter was surely composed in Portuguese or Latin, it appeared for the first time in French. The motive for publication in French is almost certainly the Jesuit desire to exploit what they considered the successful colonization by Portuguese Catholics of a locale where French Huguenots under Villegagnon had failed so miserably. The only significant precedents for reconnaissance on Brazil at this level of detail in French are the works of Thevet ... only part of which concerned Brazil, and much of which was polemically attacked in the 16th century, and the great account of the Villegagnon expedition by Léry, whose first edition appeared in 1578, the same year as the first appearance of the present work.
The first letter was written by Francisco Cabral (1528-1609), who served as the Mission Superior of Japan for twelve years. He was master of novices, and rector of the College of San Pablo of Goa, and finally visitor to India. Although he is portrayed as a rigid Superior by Boxer, and was ultimately removed to Macau due to his reluctance to have Japanese join the Order or become priests. Alden & Landis 580/40; De Backer & Sommervogel II, 490; Streit II: 974. See Borba de Moraes I:408-409.