Paris. 1616. ,375, leaves. Early vellum. Titlepage slightly worn at fore-edge. Scattered light soiling. Slight worming in gutter, not affecting text; two wormholes through last few leaves, minutely affecting text in spots. Bookplate of famous collector Alberto Parreno on verso of final leaf. Generally very good. Item #WRCAM41474
Fourth French edition of this most important source book on the Indians of Mexico and Peru and on the natural history of South America. A Jesuit father, Acosta spent seventeen years in American missions in Mexico and Peru between 1571 and 1588. While in Peru he was instrumental in founding the printing press there, and its first productions, in 1585, were prepared by him. In addition to being an accomplished linguist, Acosta was one of the first to formulate a systemic theory of anthropology, suggesting a classification of different peoples into different types, which foreshadowed later ideas of social evolution. "As a natural historian, Acosta surpassed Oviedo. He took a philosophical approach to natural phenomena, searching for causes and effects in a spirit of critical inquiry....The subject of his moral history is pre-Columbian civilizations, particularly the Aztecs and the Incas, whose religions, customs, and governments he admiringly compares" - Delgado- Gomez. "He provided great detail in his descriptions of sailing directions, mineral wealth, trading commodities, Indian history, etc. Consequently his work operated more strongly than any other in opening the eyes of the rest of Europe to the great wealth that Spain was drawing from America" - Streeter. Acosta was a keen observer of New World plants. He "mentions most of the plants used in Peru as foodstuffs or as medicinals, and even the ornamentals. He remarks that the Indians loved flowers just for their beauty" (Shaw). There are also detailed discussions of plants exported to the Old World, such as ginger, and the use of coca in Peru. PALAU 1989. EUROPEAN AMERICANA 616/1. MEDINA (BHA) 330n. JCB (3)II:110. SABIN 125. STREETER SALE 32 (ref). ARENTS 35 (another ed).