History of Travayle in the West and East Indies

Pietro Martire D'ANGHIERA   |   Richard EDEN

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History of Travayle in the West and East Indies
History of Travayle in the West and East Indies
History of Travayle in the West and East Indies


(AMERICA) D’ANGHIERA, Pietro Martire. EDEN, Richard, translator. The History of Travayle in the West and East Indies, and Other Countreys Lying Eyther Way… With a Discourse of the Northwest Passage… Newly Set in Order, Augmented, and Finished by Richarde Willes. London: Richarde Jugge, 1577. Thick octavo, full modern brown morocco gilt with fragments of contemporary brown paneled calf covers retained, raised bands. Housed in custom half morocco slipcase and chemise.

Exceedingly rare second and best edition, with important first appearances, of Richard Eden’s translation of d’Anghiera’s crucially important compilation of famous voyages, only the third book in English to describe America and the first edition of this work to feature the fourth Decade and the abridgment of the fifth through eighth Decades including Cortés’ conquest of Mexico as well as the account of Frobisher’s first voyage, the first accounts in English of China and Japan, and an account of Persia and a translation of Varthema’s travels in the east, with a woodcut of the South Pole.

Pietro Martire d’Anghiera’s groundbreaking De Orbe Novo Decades (published starting in 1516) proved an ideal spark to the spirit of exploration. Friends with the finest explorers of his day, including Columbus, da Gama, Cortés, Magellan, Cabot, and Vespucci, d’Anghiera (often known as Peter Martyr) was also a member of the Council of the Indies. Called “the first historian of the Americas,” his unparalleled access to both the explorers and the documentation of their voyages gave him the resources to make Decades an accurate and fully researched work on early American exploration, filled with chronicles of the great voyages of exploration. “His works were held in the highest esteem by his contemporaries and are indispensable as a primary source for the history of early European exploration of the Americas” (Hill).

In 1555, the first edition in English was published as The Decades of the Newe World, translated and published by Richard Eden, “the pioneer of British geographic research, the very first of our naval chroniclers, and the herald and forerunner of all our subsequent discoveries” (Edward Arber). As the earliest of such works to be published in England, Eden’s “translations of the geographic works of other writers helped foster a spirit of overseas exploration in Tudor England. The new protector, the Earl of Northumberland, wished to challenge Spain’s global empire and he encouraged publications that would help encourage such enterprise” (Andrew Hadfield). Eden’s translation of the first three decades made available, for the first time, detailed information about the New World to an English speaking readership, and created a robust public appetite for voyages of discovery and the riches of exotic lands. It contained many early accounts including the first publication in English of Magellan’s explorations. Likewise, d’Anghiera’s Decades describes the first contacts of Europeans and Native Americans, to which Eden added translations from Oviedo. Shakespeare even obtained the character of Caliban from this work.

In 1576, after Eden’s death, a poet named Richard Willes set to work on a second edition of d’Anghiera’s work. While he condensed and removed a few portions of Decades, he compensated for his alterations by hugely expanding his edition and adding significant material on Asia. The second edition, offered here and titled The History of Travayle, includes a rehearsal of d’Anghiera’s first three Decades, the first publication of the complete fourth Decade, and Willes’ own abridgment of the final four Decades, as well as Pereira’s description of China (the first publication in English), Varthema’s travels, Maffei’s account of Japan, and multiple stories of travel in Central Asia taken chiefly from the accounts of English merchants in the 1560s, and more. This second and best edition is notable in that it reflects the various aims of the contributing authors and editors. For d’Anghiera, a primary desire had been the discovery of a westward route to Asia, no doubt inspired by his close relationships with explorers focused on the Americas. Eden, on the other hand, hoped to find an overland route to splendors of the Middle East. Finally, Willes who “augmented and finished” this edition let his hope of finding a northwest passage have the greatest influence on the text. In fact, it is in the second edition that Frobisher’s first voyage in search of a northwest passage appears for the first time. Willes offered arguments advanced against the project, and then attempts to show the reasonableness of it. He wrote, “M. Frobisher’s prosperous voyage and happy returne wyl absolutely decide these controversies.”

“Eden and Willes were the precursors of Hakluyt, and lived in a time when many seamen were leaving British ports to penetrate the mysteries of the unknown world” (Cambridge History).What ultimately results from the second edition collaboration between d’Anghiera, Eden, and Willes is an all-encompassing travel compilation that truly reflects the interests and accomplishments of most of the major explorers at the turn of the 17th century. “Considered as a whole, The History of Travayle is one of the outstanding compilations of travel literature to be published in England” (Parker, 81). Both the first and second editions have long been considered crucial to the history of English exploration and to encouraging the building of an English empire. However, the second edition, with its extensive material on areas that would later become critical to the empire, is considered particularly important. The eight Decades were first published together in 1530 in Latin at Alcalá. With a woodcut illustration of “the order of the starres about the pole Antartike,” ornamental woodcut initials, and title page partially ruled in red. Leaves Z3 and Bb1, the full gathering Lll, and final leaf of text supplied from another copy. Church 119. Hill 533. Rich 57. Sabin 1562. STC 649. Streeter I:24. Cox I:1577. Wilson 65. Howgego E14. Early owner signatures and occasional annotations, including Thomas Walshe and Sir Thomas Aubrey, 5th Baronet Aubrey, of Llantrithyd, Glamorgan.

An extremely good copy, with only minor edge-wear to a number of leaves (not affecting text), archival tape repair to leaf Cc1, small wormhole to gathering Xx (affecting a few letters), faint dampstain to bottom portion throughout.

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