GAGE’S TRAVELS TO THE WEST INDIES, 1655, WITH FOUR RARE MERCATOR MAPS OF THE AMERICAS
GAGE, Thomas. A New Survey of the West-India’s: or, The English American his Travail by Sea and Land: Containg a Journal of Three Thousand and Three Hundred Miles within the Main Land of America… With a Grammar, or Some Few Rudiments of the Indian Tongue, Called Poconchi, or Pocoman… and Beautified with Maps. London: E. Cotes, 1655. Small, slim folio (7 by 11-1/2 inches), 18th-century full paneled brown calf, raised bands, burgundy morocco spine label. $8800.
Second and much preferred edition of this noted 17th-century description of the wealth of Mexico and South America— as unprotected and ripe for conquest— with four desirable engraved maps of the region by Mercator, not present in the first edition, handsomely bound in full 18th-century elegantly blind-stamped paneled calf.
Gage’s provocative survey of the West Indies caused a major sensation. “His account of the wealth and defenceless condition of the Spanish possessions in South America excited the cupidity of the English, and it is said that Gage himself laid before Cromwell the first regular plan for mastering the Spanish territories in the New World” (DNB). In 1625, in order to thwart the Spanish decree against the presence of foreigners in Spanish territories, Gage smuggled himself aboard ship bound from Spain to the Philippines, in an empty biscuit barrel. He spent the next 12 years traveling through Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama— living among the Indians, whose unprotected riches, “under pretence of their conversion, hath corrupted the hearts of poor begging Fryers with strife, hatred, and ambition.” Although at one time Gage belonged to the Dominican Order and later the Church of England, he apparently believed strongly in witchcraft and sorcery, as he recounts many instances of their application— one of which was the poisoning of the the Bishop of Chiapa with a tainted cup of chocolate, for forbidding the drinking of chocolate in the church. First published in London in 1648, Gage’s account of New Spain raised greedy eyebrows, “for it was the first to give the world a description of the vast regions from which all foreigners had been jealously excluded by Spanish authorities… Its purpose was to urge the English to seize the Spanish territories in the New World” (Hill). The four engraved maps were pulled from plates available to Cotes from his firm’s 1635 printing of Gerard Mercator’s Historia Mundi (Atlas Minor), and delineate the Western Hemisphere (“Americae Descrip”), Northern South America (“Terra Firma et Novum-Regnum”), Mexico (“Hispania Nova”), and the Caribbean (“Ylandes of the West Indies”). Wing G113. Cox II:237. Sabin 26299. See Hill 665. Early ink notations on verso of frontispiece. Early ink underlining and marginal notations.
Corner of last leaf (Table of Contents) torn with slight text loss, only minor embrowning to interior, marginal reinforcement to verso of frontispiece map, front joint expertly repaired, binding quite lovely. A handsome copy in near-fine condition.