1587 Hakluyt Ed Peter Martyr Decades De Orbe Novo New World Voyages America Rare

1587 Hakluyt Ed Peter Martyr Decades De Orbe Novo New World Voyages America Rare

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1587 Hakluyt Ed Peter Martyr Decades De Orbe Novo New World Voyages America Rare:

[Early Printing - Paris] [America - Discovery and Exploration] [Early Americana]

Paris, printed by Guillaume Auvray, 1587.
Second Complete Edition in Latin. Edited by Richard Hakluyt (1552?-1616), with his Dedicatory epistle to Sir Walter Raleigh.
Text in the original Latin.

SECOND COMPLETE EDITION OF THE ENTIRE TEXT OF ALL THE EIGHT 'DECADES' OF PETER MARTYR'S CHRONICLE OF THE SPANISH CONQUEST OF AMERICAS! This edition and that of 1530 (Alcala de Henares, Spain) are the only complete editions of the Decades in the original Latin.
The 1587 Hakluyt edition is RARE on the market. Ours is the only exemplar currently available for sale. At Bloomsbury (NYC, December 2009) sale of Bruce McKinney's Collection "De Orbe Novo: Exploration in the New World 1492-1625" a copy of this 1587 edition of Martyr's Decades sold for $16,000 (plus buyer's premium).

This highly esteemed edition of Peter Martyr's De orbe novo, edited and annotated by Richard Hakluyt, was intended by him to elicit enthusiasm in England for exploration of the New World in the competitive age of discovery. Hakluyt was a crucial figure in encouraging English expansion overseas and competition with the Spanish and French for the riches of the Americas during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Published in the year before the Armada, this important edition was - quite significantly - dedicated by Hakluyt to Sir Walter Raleigh.

"In 1587, Hakluyt published in Paris a revised edition of Peter Martyr of Anghiera's De Orbe Novo, which, also, was dedicated to Ralegh, and was intended further to extend the knowledge of discovery, seamanship and nautical astronomy among English mariners." (The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, vol.IV, ch.IV, ¶13: Richard Hakluyt)

The scholars and bibliographers are unanimous in recognizing the importance and textual worth of this edition. "... [T]he culmination, in terms of geographical worth and editorial care, of the publishing history of Martyr's works was reached in the 1587 Paris edition, edited by Richard Hakluyt with a Latin dedicatory epistle to Sir Walter Raleigh." (Michael Brennan)

This attractively bound volume includes all the eight "Decades of the New World" by Peter Martyr, a monumental and highly influential work written as a series of letters and reports of the early explorations of Central and South America that was published beginning 1511 and later anthologized. Being among the earliest such reports, Decades are of great value in the history of geography and discovery and form one of the fundamental sources describing the early contacts between the Europeans and Native Americans derived from the narrative of the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean and the reports from Hernan Cortes's Mexican expedition.

Peter Martyr (1457 - 1526) was the foremost chronicler of the New World in its earliest period, and the first writer to preach the importance of the discovery of America by his countryman Columbus. An Italian scholar, from 1487 living in Spain, he was for several years tutor to the children of Ferdinand and Isabella, and was a friend and contemporary of Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, Magellan, Vasco de Gama, and Cortes. Through personal correspondence with the navigators, and from examination of documents to which he had access as an official of the Council for the Indies, Martyr was able to record the major events surrounding the discovery of the New World.

Peter Martyr's work is one of the most important sourcebooks for the history of discovery and conquest of the New World, from Columbus through Cortes. Martyr, a member of the Spanish royal court who had been present when Columbus returned in 1493, was at the highest level of involvement with New World affairs. He began publishing his history in 1511.

The Decades consisted of eight reports, two of which Martyr had previously sent as letters describing the voyages of Columbus, to Cardinal Ascanius Sforza in 1493 and 1494. In 1501 Martyr, as requested by the Cardinal of Aragon, added eight chapters on the voyage of Columbus and the exploits of Martin Alonzo Pinzon. In 1511 he added a supplement giving an account of events from 1501 to 1511.

The first edition of the first decade was published in 1511. Two more decades were added in the Alcala edition of 1516. The first complete edition of all eight decades, recording events up to 1526, was published in Alcala in 1530. The first three decades were translated into English by Richard Eden and published in 1555, thus beginning the genre of English discovery travel writing. Richard Hakluyt had the remaining five decades translated into English by Michael Lok and published in London in 1612 in the first complete English edition appeared in 1612, (entitled De Novo Orbe, or the Historie of the West Indies).

Best known for his monumental work on his Principall Navigations published first in 1589 then more fully in 1594, Richard Hakluyt (1552 - 1616) is firmly established as the principal writer on world voyages in the English language in the late 16th century. To accumulate this body of knowledge particularly of foreign expeditions required consider stealth and research in a period when information was closely guarded by the nations of Europe. One of the most formative periods of his life was 1583-1588 when he was appointed chaplain and secretary to Sir Edmund Stafford, English ambassador in Paris. Hakluyt has a telling record of publications during this time in Paris, including a translation of Laudonniere voyages to Florida, published 1587. His interest in the reporting of the discoveries and colonies of the other European powers is evident in the works he edited and published and his role in Paris was almost certainly at to keep an eye on the developments of French expansion into the Americas. His network at the Embassy included Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster and confidante.

Knowing that England was in danger of falling too far behind the other nations in the race for colonies, Hakluyt expected with some certainty that his edition of De Orbe Novo would prompt English readers into action. He emphasized an awaiting 'heroic enterprise' for English colonization in the New World, "[W]hat might be regarded as the culmination, in terms of geographical worth and editorial care, of the publishing history of Martyr's works was reached in the 1587 Paris edition, edited by Richard Hakluyt with a Latin dedicatory epistle to Sir Walter Raleigh. In this address, dated 22 February 1587, Hakluyt casts a sharp eye over both the contradictions inherent in Spanish imperialism and the scholarly achievements of Peter Martyr. [...] Hakluyt's carefully crafted words of commendation take the reader back in time, past the transitory and partisan manipulations of Eden's 1555 English translation, to appreciate once more Martyr's importance as a recorder of first-hand accounts of exploration and conquest. Nor does Hakluyt hesitate to raise the complexities inherent in interpreting what we would now call (and what he also appears to recognize as) a "colonial text" [...]

While, of course, Hakluyt's dedication to Raleigh is very much in keeping with English attitudes towards Spain in the year before the attempted Armada invasion, it also deftly reshapes Eden's original intention in translating the Decades into English. Hakluyt explains that he put together this edition: "...partly that other maritime races, and in particular our own island race, perceiving how the Spaniards began and how they progressed, might be inspired to a like emulation of courage. For he who proclaims the praises of foreigners, rouses his own countrymen, if they be not dolts."

But unlike Eden who could offer his English readers only a collaborative and subordinate association with the might of the Spanish empire, Hakluyt holds up Martyr's Decades as an inspiration for an independent and vigorous English imperialism. And at the very centre of this nationalistic spirit is placed the presiding figure of Raleigh, who in 1584 had been granted a patent to take possession of unknown lands in America in Queen Elizabeth's name, leading to the ill-fated Virginia settlement of Sir Richard Grenville of 1585: "There yet remain for you new lands, ample realms, unknown peoples; they wait yet, I say, to be discovered and subdued, quickly and easily, under the happy auspices of your arms and enterprise, and the sceptre of our most serene Elizabeth, Empress - as even the Spaniard himself admits - of the Ocean."

Hakluyt's address coincided with a second but no more successful attempt to colonize Virginia in 1587, under the governorship of John White at Roanoke. [...]

Hakluyt's 1587 Latin edition of Martyr's Decades also played a major part in the Jacobean resurrection of Martyr's reputation, when in 1612 Michael Lok, a former Governor of the ill-fated Cathay Company (1577) and Consul for the Levant Company at Aleppo (1592-94), assembled a new English translation, based in part upon Eden's 1555 edition, with the last five books translated from Hakluyt's 1587 text." (Michael Brennan, The Texts of Peter Martyr's De orbe novo decades (1504-1628), Connotations 6.2 (1996/97), pp.238-240)

Bibliographic references:

Adams M-753; Sabin 1552; Referenced by: Medina i. 479, Anthony Payne, Richard Hakluyt, no.8.

Physical description:

Octavo (157 mm x 98 mm), attractive full calf by Riviere (ca. 1900), spine with five raised bands, richly tooled in gilt in compartments, gilt turn-ins, all edges gilt (neatly rebacked retaining original backstrip).

Woodcut printer's device on title-page; numerous woodcut initials of various sizes, several woodcut head-pieces.

Pagination: (16), 605 [i.e. 615], (25) pages.
Signatures: a8 A-2R8. Without the map (as often), otherwise complete. As noted by Payne, "The map is frequently lacking and was perhaps originally intended not to accompany this book but Hakluyt's edition of Espejo's Viaje (1586)".


Partially effaced embossed stamp of Diego Barros Arana on title-page. Diego Jacinto Agustin Barros Arana (1830 - 1907) was a Chilean historian, educator, legislator, and diplomat. He is well known as the author of Historia Jeneral de Chile, a 15-volume work that spanned over 300 years of the nation's history, and is considered the most important Chilean historian of the 19th century.

An early (16th or 17th-century) ownership signature to title partially effaced.


Very Good. A single short (quite harmless) wormtrack to outer bottom corner of front endpapers and the title leaf (far away from text). Title-page with some restorations (without loss of text) and a partially effaced early signature and an embossed stamp; laid down on blank verso. Outer margin cropped somewhat short, occasionally touching marginal notes (several leaves with a loss of a few letters of marginal notes, generally without loss of sense), main text entirely unaffected. Minor soiling to several leaves; occasional light browning. Probably gently washed at the time of rebinding. Clean, bright, solid example of this rare and important edition.

Please click on thumbnails below to see larger images.

The Contents of Peter Martyr's "Decades of the New World":