LAET, Johannes de (1593-1649). Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien door Ionnes de Laet. Tweede druck. Leiden: Elzevier, 1630.

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LAET, Johannes de (1593-1649). Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien door Ionnes de Laet. Tweede druck. Leiden: Elzevier, 1630.


Folio (12 ¼ x 7 ¾ inches). Engraved title-page (lower edge frayed), 14 folding maps (lightly browned, some staining and one or two short marginal tears affecting the image of "Straet van Magallanes" (lacking half-title). Contemporary vellum over paste-board, yapp fore edges, gilt-lettered green paper label on the spine (label chipped, generally a bit soiled, one or two worm holes, extremities rubbed, endpapers renewed).  

Provenance: occasional contemporary underscoring.  


Second, expanded edition of one of the most important of seventeenth-century New World voyages collections, compiled by a director of the recently formed Dutch West India Company, Johannes de Laet (1581-1649). Including for the first time four American regional maps: "Americae sive Indiae Occidentalis", the best West Coast delineation to date, and interestingly depicting California as a peninsula not an island, and stopping short of the controversial region of the North West Passage;  "Nova Francia et Regiones Adiacentes", one of the foundation maps of Canada, the first printed map to include an accurate depiction of Prince Edward Island, and the earliest of a north-south oriented Lake Champlain, and still relied upon by Blaeu in 1662 and Coronelli in the 1690s; "Nova Anglia" is of "extreme importance being the first printed one to use the names "Manbattes" (Manhattan), and "N. Amsterdam", or New York, founded in 1626. It is also the earliest to use the Dutch names of "Noordt Rivier" and "Zuyd Rivier", for the Hudson and Delaware Rivers respectively, as well as the Indian "Massachusetts", for the new English colony" (Burden); and "Florida, et regions vicinae" a largely derivative map with one notable alteration in the "placing of "C.Francois" further east into the Atlantic Ocean. Florida, as we know it today, is here called "Tegesta Provinc." This name, applied here for the first time, is that of a tribe of Indians living on the south-west coast. "Florida" was at this time applied to a far larger region" (Burden).

De Laet was born in Antwerp but in 1585, the family, like thousands of Flemish protestants, fled to the northern Netherlands. After studying philosophy in Leiden the young de Laet traveled to London in 1603, obtained his denizenship, but after the death of his wife returned to Leiden, where in April 1608 he "married Maria Boudewijns van Berlicum (d. 1643). There he made a fortune through overseas trade and land investments, at home and at Laetburg, near Albany, in New Netherland. In 1619 he was appointed a director of the Dutch West Indies Company, a position he held until his death.  

"In the ongoing religious quarrels which troubled Holland, de Laet sided with the counter-remonstrants (Gomarists) against the remonstrants (Arminians), an allegiance evident in his 'Commentarii de Pelagianis et Semi-Pelagianis' (1617). In 1618 he was delegated for Leiden to the Synod of Dort, where he befriended the theologian Samuel Ward, master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, one of the several English delegates. In his leisure time he proved a prolific, many-sided scholar with a keen interest in theology, geography, botany, classical philology, and comparative historical linguistics. Still of importance are his lavishly illustrated books on the Americas—'Nieuwe wereldt' (1625), which he also translated into Latin (1633) and French (1640), a detailed account of the early years of the 'Dutch West Indies Company' (1644), and 'Historia naturalis Brasiliae' (1648). He contributed eleven volumes to the Elzevier 'Respublicae' series, including ones on Scotland and Ireland (1627), England (1630), and India (1631). In a magisterial polemic with Hugo Grotius, he disproved Grotius's claims that the Native Americans originated from China, Ethiopia, and Norway (1644). His de luxe edition of Vitruvius's 'De architectura' (1649) includes his Latin translation of Sir Henry Wotton's 'The Elements of Architecture' (1624). De Laet was an astute Anglo-Saxonist, corresponding and co-operating with (but also envied by) such antiquaries as William Camden, Sir Henry Spelman, Sir John Spelman, Abraham Wheelock, Sir Simonds D'Ewes, John Selden, and Patrick Young. Archbishop James Ussher lent him the famous ‘Caedmon’ manuscript (Bodl. Oxf., MS Junius 11) for an Old English–Latin dictionary he was compiling. His correspondence with John Morris reflects contemporary Anglo-Dutch intellectual exchange, while his unpublished epistolary exchange with Sir William Boswell (d. 1649), English ambassador in The Hague, is a particularly rich quarry for evidence of political and economic interchange between England and Holland.  

"In 1638 de Laet visited England for several months both in connection with his dictionary and to obtain denizenship for his son Samuel, who had married Rebecca, daughter of Timothy Cruso of London. During another visit in 1641 parliament asked his advice on the prospects for an English West Indies Company and Charles I requested him to provide the genealogy of his future son-in-law, William II of Orange" (Rolf H. Bremmer jun.  for DNB).

"The notion in the [Dutch] Republic was that the discovery of the North River on the order of the Republic (the VOC) was not in itself sufficient to give the Dutch any right to ownership of the territory. The clearly stated view was that for a nation to have any exclusive claim on a territory, it was necessary for the cities and forts in a region to be populated by at least 50 people dispatched by a kingdom or country. so it was not agreement between the English & Dutch as such, but a statement from the side of the Lords Nineteen.

"Johannes de Laet also wrote on the subject. As the author of "the Nieuwe Wereldt" (New World) and as a director of the WIC, he was rather eager to convince his readers of teh justice of Dutch claims to the territory. His book was published in 1625, by which time it had become increasingly important to know for sure who the territory belonged to, as it was also being claimed by the English. That De Laet, as a director of the WIC, was eager to promote the Company's interests is evident from this passage: "The territory was first explored at the expense of our Dutchmen and a few years later it was navigated by others and provided with some forts and settlements of the Dutch, under a special charter and under the authority of the High and Mighty Members of the States General of the United Provinces" (Het gebied is op de kosten van onse Nederlanders eerst naerder ontdeckt ende eenige jaren achter den anderen bevaren en met een fortjen ende woonplaetse van de Nederlanders versien met speciaal octrooi ende ende onder de authoriteyt van de Ho. Mog. Heeren Staten Generael van de Vereenighde Provincien). The next sentence contains a hidden message: "... They did not hear of any Christians having been up this river before them" (... Konden niet vernemen dat eerder Christenen op deze rivier feweest waren).

"De Laet tried to persuade his readers that the Dutch had met with all the requirements for a proper claim to the territory. it was first discovered by Dutchmen and not by other Christians. Later the Dutch exploited it and then took up residence there. These were the rules, and in the correct order, that were adopted in the Dutch Republic for taking possession of newly discovered land." (Martine Gosselink, Rijksmuseum, Hoofd Geschiedenis / Head of the History Department). Borba de Moraes 1:384; "European Americana" 630/88; JCB(3)II:229; Sabin 38555; Willems 327. Catalogued by Kate Hunter