THEVET, André (1502-1590). Les singularitez de la France Antarctique, autrement nommée Amerique, & de plusieurs Terres & Isles decouuvertes de notsre temps. Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, 1558.
8° (215 x 150mm). Printer's device on title, 41 woodcuts in text. (Some occasional soiling, some intermittent small stains.) 19th-century red morocco. Provenance: Baron Horace de Landau (1824-1903, bookplate).
AN ESSENTIAL SOURCE ON THE NATIVE PEOPLES OF BRAZIL. ONE OF THE EARLIEST AMERICAN ICONOGRAPHIES.
Second edition, after the first published in Paris by Maurice de la Porte the previous year. 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. Alden & Landis 558/41; Arents Tobacco 8; Borba de Moraes II:304; Church 108; Fairfax Murray France 537; JCB (3) I:202; Sabin 95440.