Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2008 Issue

Voyages and Travels, to America and the World, from Helen Kahn

Kahn73

Voyages and Travels from Helen Kahn.


By Michael Stillman

Helen R. Kahn and Associates has issued a new catalogue of Travels and Voyages, number 73 for the Canadian bookseller. Most of these travels at least included the North American continent, although some went to Asia, South America, Australia, and the Arctic. Included in this catalogue are some of the earliest ventures into the heartland of North America, those of French explorers and missionaries whose travels brought them to the Great Lakes and as far as the Mississippi at a time when English pilgrims were just beginning to settle the Atlantic coast. Here are a few of the groundbreaking works found within this new catalogue.

Among the earliest missionaries to New France were the Recollets, a branch of the Franciscans whose role would soon be replaced by the Jesuits. They first arrived in Canada in 1615 and remained until 1629, when trouble back home with the French government would result in their removal. One of the earliest works on the interior country was published in 1632 (the same year as the first Jesuit Relation) by Gabriel Sagard-Theodat, Le Grande Voyage du Pays des Hurons... Sagard was a Recollet missionary who spent 1623-24 working among the Huron Indians. This rare book is considered to be the main authority on the first Recollet mission (they returned again in 1670). It recounts what he and his colleagues learned about the Hurons and the Great Lakes region, and contains the first printed Huron vocabulary. This book is the main source of information about the relations between the Indians and the French in this period to come from sources other than the Jesuits. Item 105. Priced at $35,000 (all prices are in U.S. Dollars).

Long before the French were exploring the northern ranges of North America, the Spanish were investigation, and conquering, the southern part. Bartholome de las Casas accompanied Columbus on his third voyage to America in 1498, was the first priest ordained in the New World, and went on to be the Spanish conscience for most of the coming century. De las Casas observed the brutality of slavery and the Spanish treatment of the native populations, and spoke out strongly against it, even going to authorities in Spain to try to stop the abusive exploitation. While he was not able to dismantle the system, he did reduce the abuses some. Item 36 is Newe Welt, the rare first German edition of his report published in 1597. $8,500.

Item 6 is the anonymously written Descriptione Exacte de tout ce qui passé dans les Guerres Entre le Roy D'angleterre, le Roy de France... This is the first French edition of 1668 of a book first published in Dutch a year earlier. It is regarded as one of the best accounts of the various wars going on at the time between the English, French and Dutch. While these European powers were engaged in battles across the globe, this book is notable for some of the earliest reports from America, and in particular, of the English ousting the Dutch from New Amsterdam and renaming the city New York. $2,350.

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