Geneva: Eustatium Vignon, 1578. ,480,pp. Later limp vellum, later ink title on spine, marbled foredges. Covers slightly bowed. Unobtrusive contemporary ink signature on titlepage, very occasional contemporary manuscript annotations, trimmed closely at top margin, not affecting text, moderate tanning. A good copy. Item #WRCAM36068A
First Latin edition of Benzoni's important early account of the New World, translated from the first edition printed in Italian in 1565. Benzoni's history is the first significant work on the Americas based on firsthand observations by a non-Spaniard, and was one of the most widely disseminated texts of its day. This edition also includes the Latin translation of Nicolas Le Chailleux's DISCOURS DE L'HISTOIRE DE LA FLORIDE, first published in Dieppe in 1565, an account of the French expedition to Florida in the mid- 16th century.
Born in Milan, Benzoni spent fourteen years travelling through the Americas, beginning in 1541. He was familiar with the Antilles, Guatemala, and the west coast of South America, and provides descriptions of these regions, as well as a history of the New World from the arrival of Columbus to the conquest of Peru. The work is also notable for containing an early account of the use of tobacco. Engaged in commerce, Benzoni quickly developed an intense enmity for the Spanish and their administration, and he treats them quite unfavorably in his text. He denounces the Spanish for their treatment of the Indians - in contrast, a good portion of the text describes Indian life before it became corrupted by European contact - and the author is also critical of the Spanish for their importation of slaves to America.
"[The work] contains interesting details about the countries he visited, but abounds in errors and often in intentional misstatements. What Benzoni states about the Antilles is a clumsy rehash of Las Casas. His reports on the conquests of Mexico and Peru bristle with errors" - CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. Despite these inaccuracies, the wide distribution of his book made Benzoni the single most influential figure in describing the New World to Europe in the mid- 16th century. His work went through many printings, though Arents notes that "it appears never to have been permitted to circulate in Spain." Its final and perhaps most influential version was as parts IV-VI of De Bry's GRAND VOYAGES, where its anti- Spanish slant helped to advance the "Black Legend" of Spanish depravity in the New World.
One of the two Geneva issues of 1578, presumably this has precedence as it was issued without the errata leaf and has not been corrected. Although this issue is not mentioned in EUROPEAN AMERICANA, Sabin, or Servies, the JCB catalogue describes a second copy, uncorrected, "with 'Genevae' on title, lacking the leaf of corrections...." EUROPEAN AMERICANA 578/3 (ref). SABIN 4792 (ref). MEDINA (BHA) 250 (ref). ADAMS B685 (ref). JCB (3)I:268. SERVIES 41 (ref). OCLC 1526011.