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Americas & Caribbean

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Early Eyewitness Account On The New World

ACOSTA, Jos Tr. REGNAULT, Robert. Histoire Naturelle et Morale des Indes, tant Orientalles quOccidentales. O'est traictes choses remarquables du ciel, des elemens, Metaux, Plantes & Animaux qui sont propres de ces . Paris, Marc Orry, 1598.

Large 8vo.


Scarce first French edition of this classic on the Natural History of Latin America. Divided into 7 books on geography, metallurgy, natural history, and the laws, customs and history of the American Indians, it ranks as one of the earliest balanced eyewitness accounts devoted to the New World.

The Jesuit Acosta wrote from firsthand knowledge, having spent many years at missions in Mexico and Peru. The work was used as a basic source for the physical geography of America for over 200 years; Humboldt, for example, used it. It is also important for the history of metallurgy in describing for the first time the method of treating silver mines with quicksilver in order to extract larger quantities. Acosta anticipated Buffon in attributing different degrees of heat and cold in the Old and New Worlds to the agency of the winds. And the work is an important biographical source for the lives of both Cortes and Pizarro.

"[Acosta] 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 I.32 (English of 1604).

* JCB I.358; Adams A-127 (reprint of 1600); Hoover 9 (English 1604); Streeter I.32 (English 1604).

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