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Cornerstone History of Jesuit Reductions in Paraguay
Vanished Arcadia

10. CHARLEVOIX, Pierre François-Xavier de. Histoire du Paraguay.... Paris: Desaint & Saillant, rue S. Jean D Beauvais; David, rue & vis-à-vis la Grille des Mathurins; Durand, rue du Foin, la première Porte cochère en entrant par la rue S. Jacques, Paris, 1756. Vol. I: [4], xxxiii, [9], 489 [1, blank] pp., 2 engraved maps, 1 text engraving; Vol. II: [4], 336, 343-356, clviii, [2] pp., 2 engraved maps, 1 text engraving; Vol. III: [4], 285, [1], cccxv, [3] pp., 3 engraved maps, 1 text engraving. Engraved head- and tailpieces, typographical ornamentation. (the hiatus in pagination in Vol. II between 336 and 343 does not reflect missing pages, based on section numbering, catchwords, and signature marks). 3 vols., 4to, full contemporary mottled French calf, spines gilt-lettered and with raised bands, edges tinted red, marbled endpapers. Moderate shelf wear (spines chafed and a little dry, extremities nicked, corners bumped), three joints split or starting to crack, interior with occasional light foxing, but otherwise fine, crisp, and very clean.

Maps, plans & text engravings (all measured neat line to neat line):

Carte de l’Amérique Par M. Bellin Ingr. de la Marine MDCCLVI. 37.5 x 28 cm.

Untitled text engraving of armed Europeans in a tropical peaceful kingdom. 7.6 x 12.5 cm.

Plan de la Ville de Buenos-Ayres.... 17.7 x 27.2 cm.

Carte de Paraguay et des Pays voisins Sur les Mémoires des Espagnols et des Portugais et en particulière ceux des RR. PP. de la Compagnie de Jesus...par M. B. Ing. de la Marine, 1756. 33.5 x 36.3 cm.

Untitled text engraving of battle with Jesuits. 7.5 x 12.5 cm.

Carte de la Rivière de la Plate dans l’Amérique Meridionale Par mr. Bellin Ingr. de la Marine. 1756. 20.8 x 34 cm.

Vue des Montagnes des Maldonades.... Text engraving (profile of Riviere de la Plata). 6.3 x 13.8 cm.

Carte des Découvertes qui ont été Faites par les Espagnols en 1746. Entre la Rivière de la Plata et le Détroit de Magellan...par M. B. Ing. de la Me. 20.7 x 14 cm.

Plan du Port Desiré dans l’Amérique Meridionale.... 18 x 28 cm.

Plan du Port St. Julien Suivant les Observationes des Espagnols en 1746. Par M. Bellin Ing. de la Marine 1756. 20.5 x 15 cm.

     First edition, Desaint imprint variant. At least three variants of the work came out in Paris in 1756 (apparently with no priority established). The best known and most common variant bears Didot’s imprint, and yet another variant has the imprint of Ganeau, Bauche, and D'Houry. The collation varies slightly in the three variants, apparently a reflection of inconsistent arrangement of the same contents. Desaint published the six-volume duodecimo edition the following year.

     Borba de Moraes I, p. 179 (Didot imprint): “Father Charlevoix (1682-1761) lived for a time in Canada, and travelled extensively. Besides this history of Paraguay he wrote works about Japan, Canada, and the Antilles. He is not, however, famous as a traveller, but as a historian and is one of the best of that period. The influence of his books on the philosophes of the eighteenth century was considerable.” JCB 3(1):1107 (Didot imprint). Brunet I, p. 1806 (imprint not indicated). Cf. Cox II, p. 282 (imprint not indicated). Leclerc, Bibliotheca Americana 317 & 1881 (both Didot imprint). Palau 67167 (Didot imprint). Rich I, p. 120 (imprint not stated). Sabin 12129 (Didot imprint): “Contains many original Spanish documents, with a French translation, including ‘Journal d’un voyage le long de la Côte de la Mer Magellanique’”; & 12130 (referring to the Desaint imprint and commenting on the work in general): “There are copies with the imprint, Paris: Chez Desaint. MDCCLVII. The most complete and satisfactory work on Paraguay, and the only one in which the vast system of the Jesuits is fully developed, the position of the author affording him peculiar opportunities for its examination.”

     Probably the most successful missionary enterprise in world history was that of the Jesuit reductions in Paraquaria (Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil). From 1610 to 1767 the Society of Jesus ministered to the Guaraní, developing their already high-level culture into one totally acculturated to the European way of life. Self-government, capitalistic production, a printing press, an armed and trained militia, and a highly developed native language were among the salient contributions of the Jesuits in Paraquaria. Jesuit Father Pierre Françoise-Xavier Charlevoix (1682-1761) served in the Quebec missions from 1709 to 1722, and produced extremely important mission chronicles of the Jesuits in Japan, Santo Domingo, and New France. His history of the Jesuits in Paraguay was the most inclusive of the Jesuit chronicles of the region and the last prior to expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767.

     Although Charlevoix did not visit Paraguay, he has left us an indelible account of the Jesuit Province of Paraguay up to mid-eighteenth century. Although he had no personal knowledge of the area, he made excellent use of many Spanish documents placed at his disposal. Many consider these manuscripts, presented here in both Spanish and French, the most valuable element of the work. Charlevoix was among the earliest historians employing modern methodology (the consultation of diverse documents, secondary accounts, and oral interviews) to compile his histories. The development and precarious state of the Jesuit missions and the indigenous population is thoughtfully and sympathetically considered. Charlevoix’s history covers not only Paraguay, but also the border regions of Argentina and Brazil (including, for instance, the founding of Buenos Aires and its early history). Included is information on natural history and resources (such as mining), but these elements are not so reliable since they are not first-hand, and sometimes somewhat fanciful. Charlevoix’s skillfully written work, with its emphasis on the vulnerability and simplicity on the “noble savage” and a utopian ideal in the jungles of South America, influenced eighteenth-century French and English philosophy.

     Charlevoix joined the Jesuits and went to New France in 1705; was commissioned to seek a route to the western sea in 1720; in 1721 journeyed down the Mississippi, was shipwrecked off the Florida Keys, and returned to France via Santo Domingo. His journal of the latter trip is considered an unrivalled account of the Mississippi Valley of the day. The remainder of his life was devoted to literary endeavors, including editing the Jesuit monthly historical-scientific journal. See Catholic Encyclopedia and Thrapp, Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography. ($2,000-4,000)

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