24 June 2009
PISO, Willem (1611-1678) and Georg MARCGRAF (1610-1644). Historia naturalis Brasiliae. Edited by Johannes Laet. Leiden: Franciscus Hackius, and Amsterdam: Lodewijk Elzevir, 1648.
2 parts in one volume, 2o (396 x 249 mm). Engraved title-page, numerous woodcut illustrations in text depicting plants, animals, fish, insects and scenes of life. (Some minor spotting.) Contemporary calf (rebacked preserving original spine). Provenance: a few leaves with early ink marginalia.
FIRST EDITION of this "pioneer work on tropical medicine" (Garrison-Morton) and of what was until the nineteenth century, "the only illustrated work on Brazilian natural history" (Borba de Moraes). Piso went to Brazil as physician to the Governor of Dutch Brazil and to head a scientific mission sponsored by the Dutch West India Company. His survey on medicine in Brazil constitutes the first part of Historiae Brasiliae. The rest of the volume is devoted to the work of the German naturalist, Georg Marcgraf, on plants, fish, birds, quadrupeds, reptiles and insects. He wrote his field notes in a secret alphabet which had to be deciphered for publications after his premature death in Africa. The editor Laet added a chapter of his own on the north eastern region of Brazil, and a description of the Tapuia Indians, derived from Jacob Rabbi, as well as a Tupi vocabularly are also included. The woodcuts are mostly based on paintings done in Brazil by both European and native artists. Borba de Moraes II:675-6; Garrison-Morton 2263.1 and 5303; Hunt 244; Nissen BBI 1533; Willems 1068.
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