THEVET, André (1502-1590). Les singularitez de la France Antarctique, autrement nommée Amerique: & de plusieurs Terres & Isles decouvertes de nostre temps. Paris: for the heirs of Maurice de la Porte, 1558.
4° (215 x 150mm). Wood-engraved coat of arms of Cardinal de Sens, the dedicatee, on title, 41 wood-engravings in text after the school of Jean Cousin, Jean Goujon, and Germain Pilon, of which 11 full-page, numerous decorative initials, head- and tail-pieces. (Title-page mounted on a stub, 1 illustration with tiny hole on m1, tiny marginal hole to x2, a few scattered minor stains.) Red crushed morocco by Laurenchet, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges, slipcase (slipcase lightly rubbed at extremities). Provenance: H.P. Kraus (booklabel; sold Sotheby's New York, 4-5 December 2003, lot 588).
FIRST EDITION, SECOND ISSUE, WITH ONLY THE DATE ON THE TITLE CHANGED, OF AN ESSENTIAL SOURCE ON THE NATIVE PEOPLES OF BRAZIL. ONE OF THE EARLIEST AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHIES.
In 1555-1556, André Thevet, a Franciscan friar, accompanied Villegagnon to Brazil to found a French colony near present-day Rio de Janeiro. The expedition set sail from Le Havre in May 1555, and the narrative includes descriptions of Gibraltar, Africa, the Canaries, Madagascar, etc. They arrived in America at Cap de Frie on 10 November.
There are interesting accounts of native customs and beliefs as well as detailed descriptions of animals and plants. The description of tobacco, and the manner in which the Indians used it, is one of the earliest known, and there is an illustration of an Indian smoking a cigar. Thevet is credited with the introduction of tobacco into France, although this is a matter of debate, since this is more usually attributed to Jean Nicot, whose name is perpetuated in the word nicotine.
Descriptions of other parts of the continent follow: Cuba, Peru (the mines of Potosi), and Mexico (which is compared to Venice). There is also a chapter on Florida as well as one of the earliest accounts of Canada and Newfoundland, which Church believes came from Cartier, while others suggest that Thevet visited Canada on his way back to France.
The woodcuts, among the earliest depictions of America, influenced illustrations of later ethnographies including those by de Bry, Lery, and Benzoni.
Borba de Moraes II, p. 858; Church 109; Alden-Landis 558/40; Sabin 95339; Davies, Fairfax Murray French 537 (Plantin ed. of same year); Arents 8; Brun p. 301.