The Mysterous Coreal Voyages to America

Twenty Engraved Plates & Maps of America

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

110. COREAL, François. Voyages de François Coreal aux Indes Occidentales, Contenant ce qu’il y a vû de plus remarquable pendant son séjour depuis 1666. jusqu’en 1697. Traduits de L’Espagnol Avec une Relation de la Guiane de Walter Raleigh & le Voyage de Narborough à la Mer du Sud par le Detroit de Magellan. Traduits de L’Anglois. Amsterdam: Chez J. Frederic Bernard, 1722. Vol. I: [1-2] 3-332, [4, table of contents, final verso blank], 4 plates (3 folded), 9 maps (7 folded); Vol. II: [2], 1-302, [2, table of contents], 3 plates (2 folded), 2 folded maps; Vol. III: [2], 1-278, [2, tables of contents] pp., titles printed in red and black. Total: 7 copper-engraved plates and 11 copper-engraved maps of America. 3 vols., 12mo (17 x 10.5 cm), contemporary full polished calf, spine gilt, red and green spine labels, raised bands, marbled endpapers, old paper labels at foot of each spine; other than minor abrasion and chipping to covers, a very good set. Maps and plates slightly browned but generally fine. Old handsome armorial ownership ink stamp on titles and old ink manuscript shelfmark on front free endpapers.

     This is apparently the first edition. This edition differs from others printed in 1722 in being in three volumes rather than two. Coreal’s book was published under six separate imprints in 1722, one in Amsterdam and five in Paris. If one judges by the title pages, the present edition is first. European Americana lists six editions in 1722, four of which are designated as being new editions, one of which is conjectured to be a possible reissue, and the present edition. Leclerc (Bibliotheca Americana, 1867:394) calls for 20 plates in the present edition, as opposed to the 15 plates in one of the Paris 1722 editions he lists (395). However, in the 1738 reissue (1266) , he calls for 18 plates, as in the present edition.

     Berger, Rio de Janeiro 72. Borba de Moraes (180n) erroneously contends that all the 1722 printings are identical, and the printing was likely shared by the various booksellers named on the title pages, but this is not the case because the present volume is in three volumes not two. Authorship has been questioned (cf. Nouvelle biog. générale Vol. 11, col. 807-809). European Americana 1722/50: “Purported Spanish original has not been traced. Includes descriptions of Central & South America. Raleigh’s work transl. from his The Discovery of...Guiana.” Palau 61956. Sabin 16781. Streit III:151.

     This collection of South American voyages is attributed to the mysterious François Coreal. “The authenticity of [Coreal’s] production has been questioned, and even his own existence disputed, but no reasonable doubts of either can be entertained after a careful examination of his work” (Servies). On the other hand, Borba de Moraes states: “This work is generally held by historians to be apocryphal, and the name Coreal to be the pseudonym of somebody who never undertook the voyages described. The question was very thoroughly studied by Alfredo Carvalho in an article in O Estado de São Paulo of 31 August 1908, and in Aventuras e Aventureiros no Brasil.... There no longer appears to be any doubt as to the authenticity of Coreal’s book, and it is accepted merely as a compilation from other travel accounts.”

     Coreal claims to have been born in Cartagena and to have set sail at eighteen out of sheer spirit of adventure, visiting first the Antilles, and then Florida, Mexico, Central and South America. Along with the locations already listed, Coreal’s work includes voyages to Cuba, Panama, and Darien. Explorations of Brazil and Peru are extensively discussed, and St. Augustine, which Coreal supposedly visited in 1669, is the subject of the second chapter. Coreal’s explorations end in the second volume. The remainder of the work consists of Sir Walter Raleigh’s voyage to Guiana, the discovery of the Palao islands, the discoveries of Quiros, the voyage of the Abel Jansen Tasman to “Terra Australis,” a letter on the mission to the Moxes, and an account of Alvaro de Mendana’s voyages.

     Whatever the truth of his travels may be, Vol. I, chapter 10, “Des Causes de la decadence des Espagnols aux Indes Occidentales” (pp. 147-157), is a tour-de-force of denunciation and critical analysis of social and governmental ills. He finds no area that succeeds and declares that all need improvement. The source of these ills he traces to the relative ease of the Conquest, which he theorizes gave the Spaniards license to mistreat the Natives and go against their own generous nature. Priests, for example, he observes know little to no Latin, do not minister to their flocks, and visit them only to collect money. In one instance, he states that he saw a judge decide two identical cases with precisely opposite outcomes. He wonders that the Natives do not rise up in revolt, and notes that many have fled into inaccessible parts of the area to escape their tormentors. He despairs of reforms and concludes, “Mais comme il y a peu d’aparence à cette reforme, je ne doute pas que les affaires des Indes n’aillent de plus en plus en decadence” (pp. 156-157).

The unattributed maps and plates include, inter alia, Havana, Valley of Mexico, Mexico, San Salvador, Darien, Rio de Janeiro, Peru, Brazil, the Amazon River, a mining scene, and a native watercraft. All are superbly executed and in dark, excellent impressions.


Sold. Hammer: $1,500.00; Price Realized: $1,837.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

Click thumbnails to open zoomable images.

DSRB Home | e-mail: