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The First Picture of Niagara Falls & The First Picture of Buffalo

HENNEPIN, Louis. Nouvelle Decouverte d'un tres grand Pays situans L'Amerique. Utrecht, Guillaume Broedelet, 1697.

12mo., (36) ff., including engraved frontispiece, 312 pp., (5) ff. paginated 313*, 313-506 pp., [i.e. 516 including interpolated pages] including engraved frontispiece and with 2 folding maps and 2 plates. Bound in contemporary quarter calf and marbled papers over boards, with calf corners and red morocco title label gilt. Cracks to spine but sound. Ex libris of Colonel [Bryan?] Cooper and former shelf-mark of the Markree Library on front end pastedown. Inconsequential staining in outer margin of a leaf or two, but otherwise an impeccable copy, with the maps virtually never opened.


Scarce first edition and very good copy of this widely read continuation of Hennepin's travelogue, called by Lande "one of the most important volumes in the early history of North America." Hennepin went as a missionary to Canada in 1675 and accompanied La Salle to the Illinois River in 1679/80. He parted company with the main expedition to ascend the Mississippi, and is generally regarded as having gone as far north as Minneapolis. In relating his own travels, he describes the building of the first fort at Chicago, and gives the first description of Niagara Falls. The maps are called by Wheat "an important cartographic stepping stone... the first made by a Frenchman from on-the-spot experience."

In the immemorial tradition of eyewitness travellers who add as fact things they did not themselves see (but for which they often had reliable oral or other written accounts), Hennepin described a length of La Salle's expedition that he was not actually on, for which he has received much wrath from modern historians - "Hennepin's entirely false claim to have descended the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico" (Streeter I.104). The source is generally regarded to have been La Salle's expedition to the mouth of that great river as recounted by Zénobe Membré in Le Clerc's Premier ɴablissement de la Foy (1691), a book very little read at the time and so easy to plagiarize.

A continuation appeared the following year, but Church and other authorities consider it an independent work; sets with both volumes are rare. We note only the Streeter and Siebert copies.

* Church 762; Streeter I.104; Bell, Jesuit Relations, p. 260; Church 762; Harrisse, Nouvelle France 175; Wheat, Transmississippi 77; Lande 422.

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