Relacion del primer descubrimiento del rio de las Amazonas, por otro nombre, del Marañon, hecho por la relígion de nuestro Padre San Francisco, por medio de los religiosos de la provincia de S. Francisco de Quito. Para informe de la Catolica Magestad del Rey Nuestro Señoe, y su Real Consejo de las Indias
Contemporary Document of the Exploration of the Amazon River

Relacion del primer descubrimiento del rio de las Amazonas, por otro nombre, del Marañon, hecho por la relígion de nuestro Padre San Francisco, por medio de los religiosos de la provincia de S. Francisco de Quito. Para informe de la Catolica Magestad del Rey Nuestro Señoe, y su Real Consejo de las Indias

[S.l. (Madrid)]: [S.n.], [N.d. but 1641 or 1642]. First edition. Papered spine. 15 numbered leaves. With a short correction of text in ink by a contemporary neat hand on f. 15r. In fine condition.

Extremely scarce report on the first ‘entradas’ into the Amazon area, and the expedition of Pedro Teixeira, the first European to travel up the entire length of the river, and his return journey, accompanied by Cristóbal de Acuña. A highly important, contemporary document of the rivalry between the Franciscans and the Jesuits for the Amazon Valley.

Borba de Moraes in Bibliographia Brasiliana states that the present work is “the only contemporary printed document to narrate the famous journey made by the Franciscans, Diego de Brieva and André de Toledo, who sailed down the Amazon River in October 1636, and arrived in Pará [Belém] in February 1637”. He describes the document as of the greatest rarity, full of valuable information and great importance. Regarding the bibliographical information Moraes claims that the book was printed in Madrid to explain the Court the actions of the Franciscan Order and as such it lacks the imprint like all documents of this kind and points out that it was published after Cristóbal de Acuña’s 1641 report on Pedro Teixeira second expedition, because it is mentioned in its introduction.

Relacion del primer descubrimiento de Rio de las Amazonas covers the first Franciscan endeavors to explore the Amazon between 1632 and 1639 and gives a detailed account of the ‘entradas’ of the Franciscan friars and lay brothers who were very active especially in exploring the upper reaches of the river.

The book is divided into six parts, an introductory preface and five chapters matching the four entradas (“Descubrimientos”; f4r–12r) between 1632 and 1638 and the return-journey of Teixeira from Quito to Belém with Cristóbal de Acuña in 1639 (“Jornada”; f12v–15v). The preface (“Senor”; f2r–3v) was written in Quito and signed by José Maldonado (y Villamor or Villomar; born in Quito and died in Madrid in 1652) who at that time served as the Comisario General de las Indias of the Franciscan Order (Commissary General of the Indies). Maldonado claims that his writing is based upon the testimonies of reliable witnesses, and – later in the first chapter – he notes that his intention is not to give a detailed account of the Amazon River and its region, as such work has already been made by Cristóbal de Acuña (Nuevo Descubrimiento del Gran Rio de las Amazonas. Madrid, 1641; Sabin 150).

The first two chapters report about the travels and the missionary activities of the Franciscans in the upper reaches of the Amazon between 1632 and 1635, the third describes Domingo de Brieva and Andrés de Toledo’s successful journey down to Belém, to the river month in 1636–1637, and the last two chapters discuss the journeys of the Portuguese Pedro Teixeira, the first European to travel up the entire length of the Amazon up to Quito in 1637–1638, which is also known as the fist entrada from east to west, and his return journey accompanied by the Spanish Jesuit, Cristóbal de Acuña in 1639.

These five chapters are the only printed, contemporary account of the Franciscan missions. The text names the participants (certainly including the adventurous lay brothers Domingo de Brieva, Pedro Pecador and Andrés de Toledo), gives the numbers of the accompanying soldiers, translators and slaves, describes the territories which the Franciscan brothers reached and evidently reports about their successes – measured foremost in the number of baptized and converted Indians, and the towns the missionaries found (like San Diego de Alcalá de los Encabadellados) – and also their failures (flights and injuries or death of the friars among or often by the Indians).

The readers are informed about the first successful attempt to reach Quito via the Ríó Napo by Pedro Pecador (part of the second entrada; f8r). Furthermore the adventurous journey of Domingo de Brieva and Andrés de Toledo down the great river system until Grão-Pará (Belém) and from there to São Luís do Maranhão (part of the third entrada; f10r), where the latter was sent back to Spain to report the importance of the Amazon route they explored, while de Brieva accompanied Pedro Teixeira expedition back to Quito on the river (fourth entrada or “Descubrimiento Quarto”; f10r–12r). The report concludes with the account of Teixeira’s return journey from Quito to Grão-Pará (“Jornada”; f12v–15v), accompanied with the Spanish Jesuit, Cristóbal de Acuña, whose famous report on this journey and his scientific observations was published in 1641. This chapter – besides recounting the expedition itself and praising Diego de Brieva’s deeds, who not just participated in the journey but continued his way to Lisbon – strongly emphasize the importance of the Franciscan and Portuguese achievements in the exploration of the Amazon River, and corroborates it by recalling that Rio Napo was renamed to Rio de San Francisco, and newly discovered rivers, places, even people were named to commemorate the Franciscan Order and the Portuguese.

Extremely scarce document. Although Moraes refers to a copy in the New York Public Library we could not find any copies in American institutional holdings. Two copies we found are held in Spain (Universidad de Salamanca), and in the UK (BL). A third one is referred in Palau and Moreno Garbayo, Madrid, however, there is no known surviving copy, and IB assumes it to be a bibliographical ghost. The only sale record we could trace is in Hiersman’s Catalogue 572, February 1927 (referred by Moraes).

Ref.: Moraes II. p. 511; Biblioteca Amazonas, V. p. IV.

BL-copy: IB, no. 47710, Palau, no. 147685; Moreno Garbayo, Madrid, no. 2464; Vindel. vol. 8, no. 2471 

Salamanca-copy: IB, no. 47708; Palau, no. 258112; Moreno Garbayo, Madrid, no. 1731

Ghost-copy: IB, no. 47709; Palau, no. 258212; Moreno Garbayo, Madrid, no. 2209

Bibl.: Castelo, H. R.: Letras de la Audiencia de Quito, período jesuítico. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1984. pp. XXVI–XXXI; 41–44.; Goodman, E. J.: The Explorers of South America. New York, London: The Macmillan Company, 1972. pp. 91–93, 120–121.; Izaguirre, B.: Histõria de las misiones franciscanas y narraciones de los progresos de la geografia en el oriente del Peru. Lima: Talleres tipográficos de la Penitenciaría, 1922. pp. 323–348.; Markham, C. R. Sir: Expeditions into the Valley of the Amazons, 1539, 1540. London: Hakluyt Society, 2017.; Rippy, J. F.; Nelson, J. T.: Crusaders of the jungle. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1936. pp. 201–202.

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Price: €200,000.00

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