The First Historian of the Xarifes
Dynastic Politics in 16th-Century Morocco
TORRES, Diego de. Relation de l'origine et succez des Cherifs et de l'Estat des Royaumes de Maroc, Fez, et Tarudant. Paris, Jean Camusat, 1636.
4to. [23 x 18 cm], 15 (1), 426 pp., (5) ff. Bound in contemporary speckled English calf, ruled in blind, rebacked, spine with raised bands and title gilt. Front joint cracking. Unidentified engraved ex libris on front pastedown. Some dampstaining on title and in outer margins or extreme outer margins of scattered leaves, minor wormtrack in blank gutter margin, not affecting text. Notwithstanding, a fresh, broad-margined copy.
$4,850 Rare first French edition (original Spanish 1585) of Diego de Torres's history of north Africa, a detailed account of the on-going conflict between the Xarifes (the Saadian dynasty), the king of Fez, and the Turks, augmented with his own first-hand observations.
Following the expulsion of the Moors from Europe in the 15th century, the Spanish and Portuguese launched attacks on various strongholds along the coast of Africa. This Christian threat stimulated the growth of resistance under religious leaders in Morocco, one of whom established the Saadian, or first Sherifian, dynasty in 1554. (Torres refers to this family as the "Xariffes," or "Cherifs" in French). Torres begins his account in 1516, and concludes with the death of the Spanish ally Muley Abdala in 1568. The Portuguese would be soundly defeated by the Xarifes ten years later at the battle of Ksar el Kebir; as a result, Torres's contemporary history of African politics was of great interest to European readers.
Sent by the king of Portugal as a "Rescatador" to recover enslaved Christians, Torres spent 10 years in Morocco combining missionary work with diplomatic duties, composing this history during his spare moments. Our author was befriended by a scion of the Cherif family (ch. 77), and seems generally well disposed towards his hosts. He relates the tragic birthright of 24 Cherif princes?three quarters of whom died violent deaths-accompanied by a genealogical chart. The Relation includes particulars of Torres's travels through the Atlas mountains and notable cities he visited, including Fez (pp. 233-45) and the former capital Tarudant (p. 277).
The Relacion del origen y sucesos de los Xarifes y del estado de los Reinos de Fez y Marruecos y Tarudante y los demas que tienen occupados was translated into French by Charles de Valois, duc d’Angouleme, presumably the same illegitimate son (1573-1650) of King Charles IX of France who turned against King Henry IV, conspired with his half sister Henriette d'Entragues, and was imprisoned until 1616. After his release he held military commands, composed his memoirs, and dabbled in translation of political works such as this. Another French edition of the Relation-evidently abridged-appeared in 1667. Ortelius cites this work as a historical source for his maps of north Africa (1595 ed. and others).
NUC records LC, Columbia and Harvard; OCLC adds NYPL.
* Palau 336,360 (erroneously recording xvii pages in preliminaries).