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1698 Acuna South America Voyage Amazon Brazil Argentina Bolivia Peru Guiana Maps For Sale

1698 Acuna South America Voyage Amazon Brazil Argentina Bolivia Peru Guiana Maps


[Early Americana] [Exploration and Travel - South America - Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guiana,
Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay] [Amazon River and Rio de la Plata - Geography and Natural History]
[South American Indian Tribes - Early European Accounts]
[Jesuit Missions - Spanish]

London: Printed for S. Buckley, 1698.
Three volumes bound in two. Illustrated with two folding maps. One map (by Sanson d'Abbeville) is entitled "The Course of the river of Amazons" the other map depicts the "Provinces of Paraguay and Tucuman with the River Plate."

"It is a rare book." (Borba de Moraes).

VERY SCARCE FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH of the narratives of the first Europeans to traverse these regions. Volume I of this collected work is the first English edition of Acuña's classic Nuevo Descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas. Vol. II is An Account of a Voyage up the River de la Plata, and thence over Land to Peru by Acarete du Biscay; Vol. III is A Journal of the Travels of John Grillet and Francis Bechamel into Guiana, in the Year 1674.

"The work of Acuña, bishop of Caracas, tells of the Spanish expedition under Pedro Teixeira which left Quito in 1639 and descended the whole course of the Amazon to Pará [...] This work gave for the first time scientific observations on the upper Amazon and descriptions of its Indian inhabitants." (Hill)

According to Dorsey, A Bibliography of the Anthropology of Peru (p.59), "Chapters XXXVI-XLIII [of Volume I] describe Indian tribes. Acuña's party were the first whites to traverse the region mentioned."

Acarete du Biscay was a Frenchman, possibly of Basque origin, who in December 1657 embarked from Cádiz, Spain for the Plate River region of South America, posing as the nephew of a Spanish gentleman to circumvent a ban by Spain on visits by foreigners to its New World possessions. In 1658 he traveled overland across the Argentine pampas to the silver mines of Potosí, located in present-day Bolivia. In 1672, Acarete published an account of this trip in his native French. This English translation was made from the later version of the work published in Paris in 1696 under the title Relation des voyages dans la rivière de la Plate. Acarete's account contains one of the earliest detailed descriptions of Buenos Aires (pp.16-24 of Vol.II of our set).

Sabin notes that "the object of [Acuña's] voyage was to ascertain whether the treasures of Peru might not be brought to Europe by way of the river Amazon, without going through the South Sea (at that time much infested by pirates) and round Cape Horn. The [original Spanish edition of the] work was suppressed by the Court of Spain, on the ground that it might prove advantageous to the Portuguese, who had wrested from Spanish dominion the Brazils, and the Colony of Para, on the mouth of the Amazon. "

Cristóbal de Acuña (1597-1675), a Spanish Jesuit missionary and traveller, was born at Burgos. He was admitted a Jesuit in 1612, and afterwards sent on mission work to Chile and Peru, where he became rector of the college of Cuenca. In 1639 he accompanied Pedro Teixeira in his second exploration of the Amazon, in order to take scientific observations, and draw up a report for the Spanish government. The journey lasted ten months; and on the explorer's arrival in Belém, Acuña prepared his narrative, while awaiting a ship for Europe. The king of Spain, Philip IV, received the author coldly, and it is said even tried to suppress his book, fearing that the Portuguese, who had just revolted from Spain (1640), would profit by its information. After occupying the positions of procurator of the Jesuits at Rome and censor (calificador) of the Spanish Inquisition at Madrid, Acuña returned to South America, where he died, probably soon after 1675.

The first edition of Acuña's Nuevo Descubrimiento del Gran Río de las Amazonas, published at Madrid in 1641, was suppressed and is exceedingly rare; French and English translations (the latter from the French) appeared in 1682 and 1698, respectively.

"Acuña, who was rector of the college at Cuenca, accompanied Texeira in his returning expedition from Quito, down the Napo and Amazons to Para; with orders to observe everything on the way; to note down the names of all Indian tribes, their manners and customs; the names of the rivers flowing into the Amazons; the natural productions of the country; and to send in a full report to the council of the Indies, on his return to Spain.

These instructions were ably carried into execution by the good father, and the results of his observations were published in Madrid, in the year 1641. Acuña's voyage was perfectly successful; the people were well supplied with provisions; there appears to have been scarcely any sickness... The good father was an intelligent traveller, and was indefatigable in collecting information of every kind. He describes the manners and customs of the Indians, their modes of fishing and hunting, and their arms. He enumerates the productions of the forests and the rivers, and points out the infinite capabilities of the magnificent country through which he passed. Indeed he seems to have been fully alive to the extraordinary advantages which would be reaped by any country whose merchants could succeed in establishing a trade with the settlers in the Amazonian valley, and in navigating the broad deep rivers up to the very feet of the Andes.

Acuña's work, entitled "El Nuevo Descubrimiento del gran rio de las Amasonas", was published at Madrid in the year 1641; but before it had issued from the press, the Portuguese had shaken off the yoke of Spain, and again become an independent state. The wretched government of Philip IV, terrified lest the Portuguese should take advantage of any information contained in Acuña's book, and forgetting that Texeira and all his officers knew quite as much about the Amazons as the Spanish priest, ordered every copy of the work to be [...] destroyed. It has consequently become exceedingly scarce. The French translator (in 1682) said that Philip IV, fearing that the narrative would serve to guide his enemies into the heart of Peru, caused all the copies to be suppressed except one only, which is in the library of the Vatican." (C. Markham, Expeditions Into the Valley of the Amazons, 1539, 1540, 1639, pp.xxiii-xxv)

Bibliographic references:

Borba de Moraes I:12; Hill 1788; Palau 2487; Sabin 152; Streeter sale VII:4132; Wing V-746; Lowndes p.34; Dorsey, Anthropology of Peru, p.59.

Physical description:

Three vols. bound into two (vols. I and II bound together). Octavo, textblock of vols. I-II measures 177 mm x 105 mm, of vol. III - 190 mm x 115 mm. Bound in modern quarter leather over marbled boards, flat unlettered spines; marbled endpapers.

Pagination: viii, 190; (2), 79, (1); (4), 68 + 2 folding maps.
Collated and COMPLETE.

Illustrated with two folding maps (one in Vol.I, one in Vol.II).
Each volume with its own separate dated title-page.
Vol.I includes Advertisement (on verso of title-page) and Introduction (pp.iii-viii).

Provenance:

Bookplates of Adrian Bullock dated 1988 on front pastedowns of both volumes.

Condition:

Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete. Maps with minor stains, somewhat browned, mounted on guards and laid down without loss (a harmless closed tear on fold of one of the maps). First title-page with some effaced early signatures and scribbles, some ink-smudges and light soiling. Preliminaries in Vol.I slightly creased. Occasional light browning and minor soiling. Several leaves at the end of Vol. III with light marginal water-staining. Generally, quite clean and solid set of this rare edition.


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