New Discovery of a Vast Country in America

Father Louis HENNEPIN

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Item#: 86401 price:$20,000.00

FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF HENNEPIN'S NEW DISCOVERY, 1698, WITH TWO FOLDING MAPS AND SIX PLATES, INCLUDING THE FIRST VIEW OF NIAGARA FALLS

HENNEPIN, Father Louis. A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America. ISSUED WITH: A Continuation of the New Discovery. ISSUED WITH: An Account of Several New Discoveries in North-America. London: M. Bentley, et al., 1698. Small thick octavo (5 by 7-1/2 inches), 18th-century full brown calf rebacked with elaborately gilt-decorated spine laid down, raised bands, maroon spine labels, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt; pp. (22) 1-299 (1); (30) 1-178; [301]-355 (1). $20,000.

First edition in English of Hennepin's two important accounts (in three parts) of his American exploration, with additional engraved title page, two large folding maps and six folding copper-engraved plates, including the first view of Niagara Falls. Jefferson owned copies of Hennepin's works, and his maps influenced the planning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

One of the most famous explorers in the wilds of North America during the 17th century, Louis Hennepin, was sent to Canada in 1675 as a member of the expedition under the command of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. Hennepin served as a missionary in Quebec while the expedition underwent preparations. "During his period of residence at Quebec, Hennepin employed his leisure time with great industry in travelling to regions within twenty or thirty leagues of that city—often on snow-shoes,… sometimes travelling in a canoe—always with a view to learning the languages and customs of the Indians so as to prepare himself for missionary labors among the savages of the North American continent. He was an acute observer, and his books contain most minute and accurate descriptions of the characteristics, arts and customs of the Indians" (Catholic Encyclopedia). In 1680 Hennepin was dispatched by La Salle to navigate down the Illinois River and then up the Mississippi River as far as possible. Leaving in February, Hennepin and his party soon reached the Mississippi and turned northwards. On April 12th they were captured by a band of Issati Sioux. Eventually French explorer Daniel Greysolon Du Lhut interceded on Hennepin's behalf and secured his release. Hennepin's first published work was Description de la Louisiane (1683), which brought him instant fame. Many years later, while in Amsterdam preparing to participate in possible British colonization plans for the interior of North America, Hennepin published his second and third works, Nouvelle Decouverte (1697) and Nouveau Voyage (1698). Both works were translated immediately into Dutch, German, Spanish and English.

This first English translation conjoins these latter two works under a general title page, and appends An Account of Several New Discoveries in North-America, a chronicle of Marquette's voyages, not published in the earlier Utrecht editions. In addition to the two important maps, New Discovery includes two folding plates, one of an American bison and one of Niagara Falls—the first published image of the Falls. "Hennepin's maps of the French territories were among the best of the period" (America Explored, 155). "By locating the origin of these great rivers in close proximity in the mountains, Hennepin's maps affirm the pyramidal height-of-land theory, that dominated the geographical concepts of North America in the 18th century and had a major influence on the planning of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Thomas Jefferson owned first editions of all three of Hennepin's works and consulted them in preparing his western treatise An Account of Louisiana, which he presented to Congress in November of 1803" (University of Virginia). New Discovery is "one of the most significant contributions to the early exploration of North America. Although Hennepin has been accused of confusing fact with fiction in his account of Louisiana, it remains true that during his eleven years in North America he was the discoverer or co-discoverer of large tracts of the Mississippi Valley and its tributaries, and the first publicist of the region" (Bonham). This is the so-called "Bon" issue (probably the first), with the first line of the imprint statement ending with "Bon-" (for Bonwick); another issue ends with "Ton-" (for Tonson). In the bibliographies, the engraved title page is sometimes called a frontispiece. Occasional mispagination as issued without loss of text. Wing H1450. Pforzheimer 461. Church 772. Sabin 31370-72. Howes H416. Field 685. Graff 1862. Streeter 106. ESTC R6723.

Text and plates quite fresh and clean, minor expert archival repair to folding maps, lightest edge-wear, rubbing to boards. A splendid about-fine copy.

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