Books Printed Before 1700 from Helen R. Kahn
Books before 1700.
Helen R. Kahn and Associates recently released their latest catalogue, their 82nd: Books Printed Before 1700. Though the bookseller is located in Montreal, Canada, New World, these books were published in the old one. Printing was limited in North America before 1700. However, many of the items have a connection to North America, including many early explorations. As befitting a Montreal bookseller, the concentration is more on explorations beginning in Canada, and by visits of the French, rather than the English or Spanish. Names like La Salle, and the early Jesuit and Recollet missionaries appear. Additionally, much of a European focus will be found, involving political, religious, and scientific issues of the day. Here are a few examples.
Item 47 is a Description de la Louisiane... a description of the territory of Louisiana in what was then the southwest of New France. The year of this edition of a book first published in 1683 was 1688. The author was Louis Hennepin, a missionary who traveled for a while with La Salle. He later would break out on his own, exploring the upper Mississippi and Great Lakes regions. He was the first European to explore some of this territory, and he provides much of the first information about this region available. In some cases, Hennepin may have cheated a bit, claimed to have visited places perhaps he got his information about from others, but all in all, this is about as good an account of the earliest visits to this territory as you will find. Priced at $6,750.
Hennepin may have penetrated some of the deepest forests of North America before anyone else, but he was hardly the first to visit New France. Even by the mid-16th century, several navigators had visited Canada, though they had not yet traveled to the back country. Item 86 is Historia dell'India America detta altramente Francia Antarctica... This is the 1561 first Italian edition of a book first published in 1557. The author was Andre Thevet, a Franciscan friar who liked to travel. He spent several years in the Middle East before embarking on a journey to visit French settlements in Brazil. He writes about them in this book. However, he then goes on to write extensively about Canada, which he claimed to have visited. It seems that the consensus today is that he never did any such thing. Like Hennepin and many others in earlier times, he seems to have placed himself in the middle of stories he heard from others. Some of Thevet's material was evidently lifted from others, but he also provides the first reports of activities in Canada, particularly of native behavior, later confirmed by different explorers. He must have been gathering information from others who explored Maritime Canada but who did not write down their experiences. He is known to have met with Jacques Cartier, the French explorer who claimed Canada for France, probably interviewed Canadian Indians Cartier brought to France, and may have met others who visited Canada at the time. The result is that his work, though at times inaccurate, is a major source on Canada in its earliest recorded history. Item 86. $8,000.
Item 63 is Astronomia Magna, by Philip Aureol Theophrast Bombast von Hohenheim, better known as Paracelsus, which is how we will refer to him. Paracelsus, born in 1493, was both brilliant inquisitive scholar and a believer in astrology (he can be forgiven this unscientific attribute as most were in his era). He practiced medicine and, most unusual for his time, relied primarily on scientific observation for his remedies, though he did incorporate astrology. He was an irascible personality, one who made enemies much easier than friends. He could perceive evil in the practices of others and come down hard on it, not the type of behavior designed to make one popular. It somewhat doomed him to wondering around, having a hard time holding down a position for long despite his scholarly attributes. History has never known quite what to do with the man. Offered is a 1571 first edition of this work. $4,500.
Books Printed Before 1700 from Helen R. Kahn
An illustration from Paradise Lost.
Item 26 is the major work of a 16th century French theologian, a fairly orthodox man whose mild deviations toward skepticism would lead some in the Church to label him an atheist. The first two books written by Pierre Charron were rather standard orthodoxy, but he became friendly with Montaigne, the great French philosopher and skeptic, and it influenced his thought in this, his third book: La Sagesse de Charron. He questioned whether man could know the truth of Christianity, it being something we could figure out through reasoning. In those days, even that level of skepticism toward the undeniable truth of religion was too far in the eyes of some. It did not cause Charron any major problems when this book was released in 1601, and he died two years later, but it left him with both adherents and opponents within the Church, where previously he had only the former. Offered is a later edition from 1672. As an aside, Charron was said to be one of 25 children of a bookseller, which implies that you could make more money selling books in the 16th century than you can today. $500.
Item 56 is an epic even by epic poem standards, John Milton's Paradise Lost. It is a tale of God and Satan, creation, the fall of man, and all of those events which flow from “In the beginning.” It is regarded as one of the great masterpieces of English literature. Offered is a copy of the 1692 fifth edition (it was first published in 1667), bound with editions of Paradise Regain'd and Samson Agonistes. $4,500.
Helen R. Kahn and Associates may be reached at 514-844-5344 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is www.hrkahnbooks.com.