DE LAET, Joannes (1581-1649). Guaiana sive Provinciae intra Rio de las Amazonas atque Rio de Yviapari sive Orinoque. Leiden: Chez Bonaventure & Abraham Elseviers, 1640.

$ 700.00

Single sheet, (13 ¼ x 15 ¾ inches, full margins showing the platemark). Fine engraved map of Guyana showing the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, the title within a fine strapwork cartouche, a second cartouche containing the distance scale, and a large compass rose (old central fold, edges browned).

First French edition, first published in Dutch in 1625. Fine engraved map of Guyana, showing the mythical Lake Parime, with a fine title cartouche, a second cartouche containing the distance scale, and a large compass rose. The equator is identified, as well as the Amazon River, Orinoco River, and various tributaries. “There still remained an unknown region in Central Guiana, where were plains periodically inundated by the overflow of the Rapanuni, Essequibo, and Branco (Parima) rivers. Here must Eldorado be; and here the maps, shortly after this, placed the mysterious lake and its auriferous towers of Manoa down to a comparatively recent time. According to Humboldt and Schomburgk, it was after the return of Raleigh’s and Keymis’s expedition that Hondius was the first in his ‘Nieuwe Caerte van het goudreyke landt Guiana’ (1599), to introduce the Laguna Parima with its city Manoa in a map…We find the lake also in the ‘Nieuwe Wereldt’ of De Laet in 1630, and in the editions of that year in other languages” (Justin Winsor, ed., “Narrative and Critical History of America,” p. 587).

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) [as here], 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 deluxe 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). Burden 229