‘Marc Lescarbot, a Protestant lawyer, spent over a year in America as part of the expedition that founded Port Royal in Nova Scotia, arriving in 1606. First visited by Samuel de Champlain and Pierre du Gua de Monts in 1604, the Port Royal settlement was encouraged by Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt, who fell in love with the site during that same voyage. It was not until the summer of 1605, however, that they abandoned their initial site of Sainte Croix in favour of Port Royal. Marc Lescarbot, disenchanted with French life, arrived at the new colony of Port Royal in the summer of 1606. He immediately became one of the leaders and at one point, when Champlain was away exploring with Poutrincourt, was left in charge of the fledgling colony. Upon their return, he put on a play on 14 November 1606, the first in North America, to welcome them home. This is often found bound with the ‘Histoire’ as here and is entitled ‘Les Muses de la Nouvelle France’. Lescarbot remained at Port Royal until September 1607 when, having lost his privilege, de Monts and the entire party abandoned the colony. Lescarbot was never to return to North America’ (Burden).
The book was published to encourage French settlement of the New World and included accounts of French voyages in America. In Canada, these included of course Samuel de Champlain, Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt, Pierre du Gua de Monts, Jacques Cartier and Jean-Francois Roberval. Further south are the voyages of Verrazano, Ribaut and Laudonnière to Florida and in Brazil that of Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon. He describes with care the native Indians both from direct notes taken in interviews with early expedition members or his own first hand experiences. The book was immediately taken with such significance that Richard Hakluyt had it translated and published within the same year in London. Field states ‘his descriptions of Indian Life and peculiarities are very interesting, an account both of their fidelity, and from being among the first authentic relations we have of them after Cartier.’
To illustrate the work three copper plate maps were produced. The most important is that of New France. ‘This is the FIRST DETAILED MAP DEVOTED TO CANADA and by far the most accurate available at the time. Pre-dating the more familiar Champlain map by three years …’ (Burden). ‘The map extends up the St. Lawrence River as far as the Indian village Hochelaga, or Montréal as we now know it. The first trading post in Canada, founded in 1600 at Tadousac, is shown at the mouth of the R. de Saguenay and just next to that is the River Lesquemin mistakenly named in reverse. Kebec is shown here for the first time on a printed map in its Micmac form, meaning the narrows of the river. On 13 May 1604 Pierre du Gua de Monts, leading a group settlers, landed at P. du Mouton, on the coast of Nova Scotia. With him was Samuel de Champlain, the famous explorer who came from the same region in France as de Monts. Although they were of differing religious persuasions they were good friends. They eventually built a settlement on an island in Passamaquoddy Bay called Saincte Croix. In 1605 and again in 1606, Champlain sailed along the New England coast, past the land of the ETECHEMINS Indians, or Micmacs as they are more commonly known. He went as far as Malebarre or Nauset Harbor on the coast of Cape Cod. P.Fortune is Stage Harbor. Later that same year the small outpost of Sainte Croix was moved to Port Royal where it was to remain until finally abandoned in 1613. [It was] during the second New England voyage that Marc Lescarbot was left in charge of the Port Royal colony. The New England coastline on this map closely follows Champlain’s manuscript of the area which is dated 1607, and now resides at the Library of Congress’ (Burden).
Two further maps in the work are of the basin of Port Royal, which is now Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. It illustrates the various buildings and fortifications and in the lower right is shown the grist mill that Poutrincourt had built in early 1607. The second is almost certainly the earliest obtainable map of the harbour of Rio de Janeiro. In 1555 Villegagnon was in command of a voyage which contained Huguenot settlers. Arriving in November of the same year they made camp on an island in the bay for security. Life was harsh and they were surrounded by hostile natives. Then arguments broke out amongst themselves, often religious in nature and eventually Villegagnon renounced his faith and abandoned them only to be destroyed by the Portuguese in 1558.
Provenance: private French collection. Borba de Moraes (1958) vol. 1, pp. 406-7; John Carter Brown Library (1980-97) 609/68; Burden (1996-2007) nos. 157, 158; Church (1907) vol. 2, no. 339; Cumming, Skelton and Quinn (1972) pp. 261-71; Field (1873) 916; Harrisse (1872) 19; Kershaw (1993-98) pp. 59-61; Morison (1972) pp. 34-101; Sabin (1868) no. 40169; Vail (1970) 16.
Histoire de la Nouvelle-France contenant les navigations, découvertes, & habitations faites par les Francois és Indes Occidentales ...