With a Map of California as an Island

“The first extensive eyewitness description of life in the Spanish colonies by a northern European”

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155. GAGE, Thomas. Nouvelle relation, contenant les voyages de Thomas Gage dans la Nouvelle Espagne, ses diverses avantures; & son retour par la Province de Nicaragua, jusques à la Havane. Avec la Description de la Ville de Mexique telle qu’elle estoit autrefois, & comme elle est à present. Ensemble une Description exacte des Terres & Provinces que possedent les Espagnols en toute l’Amerique, de la forme de leur Gouvernement Ecclesiastique & Politique, de leur Commerce, de leurs Mœurs, & de celles des Criolles, des Metiss, des Mulatres, des Indiens, & des Negres. Amsterdam: Chez Paul Marret, dans le Beurs-straat proche le Dam à la Renommée, 1695-1694. Vol. I: [22], 1-200, 1-178 pp., pictorial title page, 6 folded plates, 3 folded maps; Vol. II: [10], 1-316 pp., pictorial title page, 6 folded plates, 1 folded map. Total: 2 engraved pictorial title pages (monk preaching to Native Americans; Europeans with ships greeted by Native Americans); 12 folded engraved plates (bird’s-eye view of Mexico City; Europeans attacked by Native Americans; Aztec sacrifice scene at temple; Natives worship Aztec gods inside temple; Native Americans dance and celebrate; attack on palace; Natives carry their king in casket; volcanic eruption in Guatemala; blank scroll at top [later versions have “Sauterelles”] with men walking through a field devastated by grasshoppers; market day at Portobello in Panama; harbor scene and ships at Cartagena; port of Havana); 4 folded engraved maps (see list below). 2 vols., 12mo (16 x 10 cm), contemporary full speckled calf, spine gilt with raised bands and red leather label (neatly rebacked, original spines preserved), edges sprinkled. Binding moderately worn, Vol. II upper hinge starting; interior and engravings fine.


L’Amerique Septentrionale par N. Sanson l’Abbeville Geograph du Roy. [above neat line at top right] 1. Par. Fol. 1. [lower left] P. Pickart sculp. Title cartouche with illustration of Natives kneeling before Europeans and presenting goods. Neat line to neat line: 19.7 x 27.7 cm; overall sheet size: 23.3 x 28 cm. After Sanson’s 1657 Amerique septentrionale (Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West 51), showing California as an island (McLaughlin, California as an Island 119).

Environs du Lac de Mexique. [above neat line at top right] 1. Par. Fol. 114. Title at lower left in tablature being viewed by Native American man and woman at either side. Neat line to neat line: 21 x 13.7 cm; overall sheet size: 24.6 x 14.4 cm. Panoramic view of the Valley of Mexico.

Audience de Mexico par N. Sanson d’Abbeville. Geogr. ordin. du Roy. [top right below neat line] u. Par. Fol. 1. Title at top right in ribboned drape. Neat line to neat line: 16.3 x 25.6 cm; overall sheet size: 18.4 x 26.8 cm. Gulf of Mexico and territory from northern Mexico (just north of the Rio Grande) and south to Guatemala and Honduras.

Audience de Guatimala par N. Sanson. d’Abbeville. Geog. ordin. du Roy. [top right below neat line] u. Par. Fol. 29. Title at lower left in cartouche. Neat line to neat line: 17.5 x 27.2 cm; overall sheet size: 21.1 x 27.6 cm. Tabasco to Panama.

     Second edition in French (first published in French in Paris, 1676). Contrary to usual practice, in this edition the title page of vol. II is dated 1694, but that of vol I., 1695. The first edition was published at London in 1648 under title The English-American his Travail, by Sea and Land.The English edition did not contain the plates and Sanson’s maps, or the extracts from the chronicle of Francisco López de Gómara (Wagner, Spanish Southwest 2), which includes material on Coronado, New Mexico, Cibolo, Quivira, Drake, New Albion, etc. For the English edition, see Hill I(1), pp. 118-119; II:665. JCB II (1675-1700), pp. 285 & 299. Brunet II, col. 1436. European Americana 1694/71 & 1695/80. Griffin 2078: “A vivid, though prejudiced description of the voyage from Spain to Mexico and of Mexico and Central America in the first half of the seventeenth century by an English Dominican, later turned renegade. An excellent source for social history.” Leclerc, Bibliotheca Americana (1867) 603. Palau 96485. Parker, Travels in Central America, p. 325 & Chapter 1. Sabin 26304. Streit II:2301.

     The English text was translated by order of French Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert for obvious political and economic reasons. As in many classical eighteenth-century translations, it is admitted that the original title has been changed, some “boring” passages have been removed, and that the original order of the text has been rearranged. Also omitted is Gage’s original fire-breathing introduction in which he urges the English to conquer and seize Spanish territory in the New World.

Englishman Thomas Gage (ca. 1597-1656) almost miraculously worked his way into the ranks of Spanish New World missionaries and took passage to Mexico. Since Englishmen were prohibited from visiting the Indies, Gage was hidden in an empty biscuit barrel. He hoped to go to the Philippines, but was dissuaded from that course. He went ashore in Mexico and remained there and in Central America for twelve years, before returning penniless to England where he recanted Catholicism. His book served as an impetus for English efforts to conquer the area. He was among the few Englishmen to visit Spanish America at that early date. Gage’s book caused a sensation because the Spanish jealously guarded their possessions in the New World and no other foreigner had described the Spanish Indies so amply and in such detail. “Gage’s narration of his wanderings...was the first extensive eyewitness description of life in the Spanish colonies by a northern European” (J. Benedict Warren, “An Introductory Survey of Secular Writings in the European Tradition on Colonial Middle America, 1503-1818,” p. 62 in Handbook of Middle American Indians, Vol. 13, Part 2).


Sold. Hammer: $600.00; Price Realized: $735.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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