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Some Remarks Concerning André Thevet1

  • Manoel Da Silveira Cardozo (a1)
Extract

André Thevet, priest and friar, almoner to Catherine de Medici, cosmographer to four kings of France, is remembered by students of Brazilian history as one of the chroniclers of the unsuccessful attempt on the part of Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon (1510–1571) to found a French settlement in Rio bay. One might say that Thevet’s career was in a very real sense the product of the Christian humanism of the sixteenth century, and his life practically spanned those momentous one hundred years. Apparently of humble stock, he was born in the ancient town of Angoulême in 1502, almost at the time when Brazil was discovered. Of his early life and education virtually nothing is known, and a search for records made a number of years ago in his native city failed to disclose anything that might throw light on his first years.

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1

I confess my indebtedness to Sr. Estêvão Pinto’s article, “O franciscano André Thevet,” Cultura Politica (Rio de Janeiro), III, No. 32 (September, 1943), pp. 118–136 (hereafter cited as Pinto) and to Dr. Robert C. Smith, of the Library of Congress, for having called it to my attention. To Professors J. Craig La Drière, A. S. Crisafulli, Giovanni Giovannini, and Francis Borgia Steck, O.F.M., of The Catholic University of America, and Dr. Roderick Wheeler, O.F.M., of the Academy of American Franciscan History, my thanks also for many favors in connection with the preparation of this paper.

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2 In addition to the works of Thevet, which will be listed later, the most important chronicles of Villegagnon’s adventure are these: Barré, Nicolas, Discours sur la navigation du Villegagnon en Amérique (Paris, 1558); Copie de quelques lettres sur la navigation du chevalier de Villegagnon ès terres d’Amérique, par un des gens dudict seigneur (Paris, 1557); Histoire des choses mémorables advenues en la terre du Brésil, partie de l’Amerique Australe, sous le gouvernment de M. le chevalier de Villegaignon, depuis l’an 1555 jusqu’a l’an 1558 (n.p., 1561); Lery, Jean de, Histoire d’un voyage fait en la terre du Brésil, avtrement dite Amerique (La Rochelle, 1578). The following secondary works will also be found useful for a study of the same subject: Gaffarel, Paul, Histoire du Brésil français au seizième siècle (Paris, 1878), pp. 139365 ; Parkman, Francis, Pioneers of France in the New World (7th ed., Boston, 1870), chapter 2; Visconde de Pôrto Seguro, Historia geral do Brasil antes de sua separação e independencia de Portugal (3rd ed., São Paulo, n.d.), I, 357 et seq.; Fernandes Pinheiro, J. C., “A França Antarctica. Bosquejo historico do estabelecimento dos francezes no Rio de Janeiro e sua expulsão no seculo XVI e das duas novas invasões no XVIII,” Revista Trimensal do Instituto Historico Geographico e Ethnographico do Brasil, XXII (Rio de Janeiro, 1859), p. 3 et seq.; Mario de Lima Barbosa, Les français dans l’histoire du Brésil, Clément Gazet, trans. (Rio de Janeiro-Paris, 1923), p. 51 et seq.; Arthur Heulhard, Villegagnon, roi d’Amérique un homme de mer au VXIe siècle (1510–1572) (Paris, 1897); Nogueira, Manuel Tomaz Alves, Der Mönschsritter Nikolaus Durand von Villegaignon (Leipzig, 1887), apud Basílio de Magalhães, História do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1942), I, 120 n.; Zeferino Cândido, Historia do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1900), apud Visconde de Pôrto Seguro, op. cit., I, 375; Rodrigues, José Carlos, Religiões acatholicas no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1904); George Dexter, “Cortereal, Verrazano, Gomez, Thevet,” Narrative and critical history of America, Justin Winsor, ed., IV (Boston, 1884), pp. 11–12, 30–32; Charles de la Roncière, Histoire de la marine française, IV (Paris, 1910), pp. 10–24. See also Lescarbot, Marc, Histoire de la Novvelle France, contenant les navigations, découvertes, & habitations faites par les François és Indes Occidentales & Nouvelle-France souz l’avoeu & authorité de noz rois tres-chrétiens, & les diverses fortunes d’iceux en l’execution de ces choses, depuis cent ans jusque; à hui. En quoy est comprise l’histoire morale, naturele, & geographique de la dite province: avec les tables & figures d’icelle (2 vols., Paris, 1609).

3 Most authorities agree on this date. See note 6, below. Fr.Civezza, Marcellino de M.O., who had access to unpublished notes by Ferdinand Denis, writes in his Saggio di bibliografia geografica storica etnografica sanfrancescana (Prato, 1878), p. 591, that this date “non combina con quel che egli dice nel suo Insulaire, Manoscritto della Biblioteca Nazionale di Parigi; ‘vale a dire, l’anno 1517 fu ‘l’année que je vien au mond.’” The Saggio will be cited hereafter as Da Civezza.

4 Thevet, André, Les singularitez de la France Antarctique, Nouvelle édition Avec Notes et Commentaires par Paul Gaffarel (Paris, 1878), p. vi. This edition will be cited hereafter as Gaffarel. The reader should be warned at the outset that Gaffarel is never exact in his quotations, and they must therefore be used with care.

5 Da Civezza, p. 590.

6 Dedication to Henry III (1574–1589), La cosmographie universelle (2 vols. Paris, 1575). This edition will be cited hereafter as Cosmographie universelle.

7 Cosmographie universelle, I.

8 Cosmographie universelle, I, preface.

9 See Thevet, André, Cosmographie de Levant (Lyon, 1556), p. 78.

10 Moréri, Louis, Le grand dictionnaire historique, ou le mêlange curieux de l’histoire sacrée et profane, Drouet ed., X (Paris, 1759), 138.

11 Cosmographie universelle, II, fo. 911 verso.

12 Denis, Ferdinand, Une fête brésilienne célébrée a Rouen en 1550 suivie d’un fragment du XVIe siècle roulant sur la théogonie des anciens peuples du Brésil et des poésies en langue tupique de Christovan Valente (Paris, 1851).

13 Gaffarel, , , p. xiii, writes that Thevet went as almoner at the request of Cardinal Charles of Lorraine. Thevet in his Les singularitez de la France Antarctiqve, Avirement nommée Amerique: & de plusieurs Terres & Isles decouuertes de nostre temps (Paris, 1558), fo. 2, expresses his presence on the expedition in these terms: “… m’a instamment sollicité, voire sous l’autorité du Roy, monseigneur & Prince, (auquel ie dois tout honneur & abeissance) expressement commandé luy assister pour l’execution de son entreprise.” This edition will hereafter be cited as Singularitez.

14 Cosmographie universelle, II, fo. 925–925 verso.

15 Ibid., II, fo. 903 verso-904.

16 Singularitez, passim; Pinto, pp. 122–125; Gaffarel, pp. xiii-xv.

17 The edition of 1557 was first described by Rodrigues, J. C., Bibliotheca brasiliense: catalogo annotado dos Livros sobre o Brasil e de alguns Autographos e Manuscriptos (Rio de Janeiro, 1907), p. 601. There is a copy of this exceedingly rare edition in the Library of Congress.

18 Singularitez, “Advertisement av lectevr.”

19 Jean Richard, au Soleil d’or, Anvers, 1556, cited by Gaffarel, p. xv.

20 Cosmographie de Levant par F. André Theuet d’Angovlesme, Reuve & augmentee de plusieurs figures. A Lion, Par. Ian de Tovrnes et Gvil. Gazeau. 1556.

21 The “privilege” appears on the back of the title-page of the Paris edition of 1558.

22 Singularitez, fo. 166 verso.

23 At the beginning of his book he speaks of “ceste année 1556.” Singularitez, fo. 15 verso. See Pinto, p. 125.

24 The two are alike in every respect.

25 Gaffarel, p. xviii.

26 With the same title, a second Italian edition appeared in Venice in 1584.

27 See the author’s “Preface avx lectevrs” in the Paris edition of 1558 of the Singvlaritez. He repeats the same thing in his preface to the Cosmographie universelle, I.

28 Singularitez, “Avertissement av lectevr.”

29 Concerning the meaning of “singularité,” Pinto, p. 126 n, says that the word refers to “coisas esquisitas, bizarras, exóticas, não existentes ou pouco conhecidas na Europa e, nesse sentido, emprega [i.e., the author] o têrmo nada menos de dezoito vezes, quinze no texto, duas no alto dos capítulos e uma à margen (fls. 3, 16, 25, 27, 28, 38, 40, 45, 47, 61, 90, 96, 105, 137, 138, 142 e 158).”

30 A good example is Hans Staden’s travels, published in 1593. According to Da Civezza, p. 591, “le figure che l’adornano [i.e., the Singutaritez] vennero incise da Geoffroy Tory di Bourges.” Da Civezza got his information from Ferdinand Denis.

31 Da Civezza, p. 590.

32 Ibid. Da Civezza apparently had no qualms in including him in his Saggio.

33 Histoire universelle, II (London, 1734), p. 651. Louis Moréri op. cit., X, 139; Pinto, p. 135; and Regnard, E., in his article in the Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’a nos jours, avec les renseignements bibliographiques et l’indication des sources a consulter, XLV (Paris, 1866), column 128, repeat the same thing.

34 Da Civezza, p. 591. See also Pinto, p. 135, and Gaffarel, p. xxii.

35 Gaffarel, p. xxiii.

36 Cited by Gaffarel, p. xxiv.

37 I take this on Da Civezza’s authority, p. 591. The title ordinarily appears in the list of Thevet’s unpublished writings.

38 Thevet’s theogony of the Tupinambá Indians, taken from his Cosmographie universelle, vol. II, and from “des manuscrits de Thevet,” appeared in Ferdinand Denis, Une fête brésilienne, pp. 81–97. The myths of the Tupinambá Indians, published by Thevet in the same work (vol. II, fo. 913–920 verso), are reproduced by Métraux, Alfred, La religion des tupinamba et ses rapports avec celle des autres tribus Tupi-Guarani (Paris, Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, XLV, 1928), pp. 225239.

39 Those parts of the Cosmographie universelle and of the Vrais pour traits referring to Russia were published separately by Galitzin, Prince Augustin, Cosmographie moscovite, par André Thevet (Paris, 1858).

40 Cited by Rodrigues, op. cit., p. 603. English translations of some of these biographies were published in Cambridge in 1676 in a larger work entitled The lives of the noble Grecians and Romans, compared together, by that grave learned philosopher & historiographer Plutarch of Chaeronea. Tr. of Greek into French, by James Amiot; With the lives of Hannibal & Scipio African; tr. out of Latin into French, by Charles de l’Esclvse, and out of French into English, by Sir Thomas North, knight. Hereunto are added the lives of Epaminondas, of Philip of Macedon, of Dionysius the elder, tvrant of Sicilia, of Augustus Caesar, of Plutarch, and of Seneca: with the lives of nine other excellent chieftains of war: collected out of Aemilius Probus, by S.G.S. and Englished by the aforesaid translator. To which are also added, the lives of twenty selected eminent persons of ancient and latter times; translated out of the work of that famous historiographer … Andrew Thevet … and now in this edition are further added, the lives of several eminent persons, translated out of the aforesaid Andrew Thevet.

41 Mention of these special maps is found in Gaffarel, p. xxv; Da Civezza, p. 592; and Louis Moréri, op. cit., X, 139.

42 See Gaffarel, p. xvi.

43 See note 37, above. According to the “Grand insulaire” (cited by Roncière, Charles de la, Histoire de la marine française [Paris, 1899–1932], IV, 11), Thevet’s reputed first voyage to the New World began on June 14, 1551, when he is supposed to have sailed for Brazil with Guillaume Le Testu. Two difficulties may be pointed out to show the improbability of Thevet’s participation in a voyage to America in the year indicated. In the first place, there is no mention of it in the Singularitez. In the second place, the itinerary of Thevet’s journey to the Near East, which may be pieced together from his Cosmographie de Levant, is sufficiently clear to preclude the possibility of a trip across the Atlantic. Métraux, op. cit., p. 2, says that Thevet visited Brazil for the first time in 1550, but he gives no proof for his assertion. Da Civezza says (p. 592) that he looked at this item in Paris, and adds that it contains “delle interessantissime cose.” Later Ferdinand Denis personally confirmed him “nel mio giudizio.”

44 See Jonghe, loc. cit., p. 1.

45 A Spanish rabbi who lived in the twelfth century, Tudela is said to have been the first European to visit the Far East during the Middle Ages. The first edition of his travels, in Hebrew, appeared in Constantinople in 1543.

46 Op. cit., p. 2. Métraux writes: “En examinant, sur les indications de M. Mauss, les manuscrits inédits de Thevet qui existent à la Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, j’ai eu la bonne fortune de trouver une copie d’un livre manuscrit de ce chroniqueur qui a échappé jusqu’ici à l’attention des érudits. Cet oubli a eu probablement pour cause le fait que ce manuscrit semble au premier abord être une réplique des livres publiés par Thevet. Cela est vrai en une certain mesure, mais il contient un grand nombre de chapitres entièrement nouveaux et fort interéssants.” Unless otherwise indicated, the list of Thevet’s unpublished works is taken from Pinto, pp. 126–127. In this connection cf. La Roncière, op. cit., IV, 10–24; Da Civezza, p. 592; and Gaffarel, p. xxvi.

47 Louis Moréri, op. cit., X, 139. Gaffarel, p. xxiii, and Da Civezza, p. 592, give 1592 as the year of his death. The latter gives a slightly different version of Thevet’s epitaph.

48 In its iconographic collection the Lima Library, The Catholic University of America, has “an original design for a tapestry which Thevet ordered, representing him kneeling before Jesus Christ and the disciples at Emmaus, and having by his side Saint Andrew with his cross” (Ruth E. V. Holmes, Bibliographical and historical description of the rarest books in the Oliveira Lima collection at the Catholic University of America, Washington, 1927, p. 23). An inscription on the design reads: “1588 / Andre Thevet / cosmographe de quatre roys de / France cheualier du S.t Sepulchre / apres auoir visite la cité de / Jerusalem et autres contrées / prises dun pol a lautre fit faire / cette piece. pries Dieu pour luy.”

49 See Lefranc, Abel, Les navigations de Pantagruel étude sur la géographie rabelaisienne (Paris, 1905), pp. 216217.

50 Gaffarel, pp. vi-vii.

51 Singularitez, fo. 166 verso.

52 See Lefranc, Abel, La vie quotidienne au temps de la Renaissance (Paris, 1938), p. 96 et seq

53 Page 118 of the New York edition, 1937, translated by Francis E. Litz and edited by H. L. Mencken. The first edition was published in 1715.

54 Moréri, op. cit., X, 139.

55 Histoire generalle des Indes Occidentales & terres neuues, qui iusques à present ont esté descouuertes, Traduite en françois par M. Fumée, sieur de Marly le Chastel. Paris, 1569.

56 “… ie protest deuant Dieu, & ses anges d’auoir escrit ce qui est de ces terres, [i.e., New World] sans lire ny m’aider d’vn seul trait de ce que l’Autheur de la France Antartique se dit y auoir obserué, comme estimãt vne grãde absurdité d’auoir recours aux ruisseaux …” La cosmographie universelle de tovt le monde, II, preface.

57 Cosmographie universelle, II, 706.

58 Vol. II (London, 1734), p. 651.

59 Moréri, of. cit, X, 139.

60 Vol. IV (5th ed., Amsterdam, 1740), pp. 448–449 (article on Villegaignon [sic]).

61 Gaffarel, p. xxxi.

62 Cosmographie universelle, I, 27.

63 Ibid., preface.

64 Quoted by Gaffarel, p. xxx n.

65 História do Brasil (Pôrto, 1940), p. 70 n. See also Falgairolle, Edmond, Jean Nicot ambassadeur de France en Portugal au XVIe siècle sa correspondance diplomatique inédite avec un fac-simile en phototypie (Paris, 1897)

66 Cosmographie universelle, II, 926 verso. The plant is described in Singularitez, fos. 60–60 verso. See also Da Civezza, pp. 592–593.

67 See Falgairolle, op. cit., p. xci.

68 Jane, Cecil, ed., The voyages of Christopher Columbus being the journals of his first and third, and the letters concerning his first and last voyages, to which is added the account of the second voyage written by Andres Bernaldez (London, 1930), p. 171 (Tuesday, Nov. 6, 1492).

69 Historia de las Indias, edited by the Marqués de la Fuensanta del Valle and José Sancho Rayón, I (Madrid, 1875), p. 332.

70 Góis, Damião de, Chronica do serenissimo senhor rei D. Manoel (Lisboa, 1759), p. 69.

71 Gaffarel, p. xxxi.

72 Les trois Mondes (Paris, 1582).

73 These contributions appeared in the prefaces to the Singularitez and the Cosmographie universelle.

74 Singularitez, fo. 47 verso.

75 Ibid., fo. 105 verso.

76 Cosmographie universelle, II, 905.

77 Da Civezz, p. 593; Pinto, p. 119.

78 Cosmographie universelle, I, preface.

79 Da Civezza, p. 593.

80 Bibliotheca brasiliense: catalogo annotado dos Livros sobre o Brasil e de alguns Autograpbos e Manuscriptos (Rio, 1907), p. 602.

81 Frei Vicente do Salvador, Historia do Brasil, ed. by Capistrano de Abreu and Rodolfo Garcia (3rd ed., S. Paulo, n.d.), p. 147.

82 Ruth E. V. Holmes, op. cit., p. 12.

83 2nd ed., Rio, 1936, p. 82 n.

84 Singularitez, fos. 51 and 116. The reader will find other references himself.

85 Jean de Lery, op. cit., preface.

86 Singularitez, fo. 96 verso. See also fo. 50, inter alia.

87 Gaffarel, pp. xix-xx.

88 De Thou, op. cit., II. Book XVI, pp. 651–652.

89 A Métraux, op. cit., p. 2.

90 Nouvelle biographie, cit., XLV, column 128.

91 Gaffarel, p. xxi.

92 Ibid., p. xix.

93 Singularitez, fo. 58.

94 Ibid., fo. 80 veno.

95 Métraux, op. cit., p. 2.

96 Cosmographie universelle, II, 913.

97 Pinto, p. 127.

98 Toribio, Medina, José, ed., The discovery of the Amazon according to the account of Friar Gaspar de Carvajal and other documents (American Geographical Society Special Publication No. 17, New York, 1934.

99 Singularitez, fo. 106 verso.

100 Ibid., fo. 141 verso.

101 Ibid., fo. 149. He was also familiar no doubt with Cartier’s Brief recit, & succincte narration, de la nauigation faicte es ysles de Canada, Hochelage & Saguenay & autres, auec particulieres meurs, langaige, & cerimonies des habitans d’icelles: fort delectable à veoir (Paris, 1545). It is strange that Harrisse should not have included Thevet in his Notes pour servir a l’histoire, a la bibliographie et a la cartographie de la Nouvelle-France et les pays adjacents 1545–1700 (Paris, 1872).

102 Cosmographie universelle, II, 964.

103 Ibid., II, 922 verso.

104 Ferdinand Denis, op. cit., p. 32.

105 Cosmographie universelle, I, dedication to the king.

106 Ferdinand Denis, op. cit., p. 32.

107 Métraux, op. cit., p. 2.

108 Singularitez, fo. 90 verso-91 verso.

109 Ibid., fo. 95 Terso.

110 Ibid, fo. 99 et seq.

111 Ibid., fo. 59 et seq.

112 Ibid., fo. 60.

1 I confess my indebtedness to Sr. Estêvão Pinto’s article, “O franciscano André Thevet,” Cultura Politica (Rio de Janeiro), III, No. 32 (September, 1943), pp. 118–136 (hereafter cited as Pinto) and to Dr. Robert C. Smith, of the Library of Congress, for having called it to my attention. To Professors J. Craig La Drière, A. S. Crisafulli, Giovanni Giovannini, and Francis Borgia Steck, O.F.M., of The Catholic University of America, and Dr. Roderick Wheeler, O.F.M., of the Academy of American Franciscan History, my thanks also for many favors in connection with the preparation of this paper.

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