First Establishment of the Faith in New France

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Author: Chrestien Le Clercq (1647-c1700) translated by John Dawson Gilmary Shea

Year: 1881-1882

Publisher: John G Shea

Place: New York


2 volumes. 410+[1] pages with frontispiece and plates. 354 pages with frontispiece, folding maps, plates and index. Quarto (10 1/4" x 6 1/4") bound in half leather over marbled boards with gilt lettering to spine and head end pages gilt. (Field 903; Howes L-172; Lande 519) First edition into English, first published in French in 1691.

According to the editor, Le Clerq's work is "of high value to American scholars, since, with Hennepin's Description of Louisiana, it gives the earliest printed account of the explorations of Robert Cavelier, written by Recollect missionaries who were his companions for a series of years, and wrote from actual observation" (preface). Rare according to online records, this copy is the only copy of the first edition in English sold at auction (the Priester copy, sold Bloomsbury, 2009).
He was sent to the missions of the French colonial empire in Canada in 1673. On 11 October of that year, he was put in charge of the Micmac mission by Francois de Laval, the Bishop of Quebec. There he learned the language of that tribe and devoted himself to its evangelization. In 1676 he tried to persuade the Micmacs that it would be more advantageous to build houses in the French manner, which earned him a stunning rebuke from the Micmac Chief.

Le Clercq, said that he had seen some Mi'kmaq children using charcoal to write on birchbark with hieroglyphics. He was inspired by this to adapt these symbols to teach hymns and prayers. The Mi'kmaq sometimes used porcupine quills directly into the bark in the shape of symbols.

Le Clercq's superiors sent him back to France in 1680 on business connected with the Franciscan missions in Canada. He returned the following spring with letters authorizing the foundation of a friary in Montreal, where he went during the summer of 1681 to carry out this work. In November he returned to the Micmac mission, where he spent the next twelve years. In autumn 1686 Le Clercq left Canada permanently and returned to France, where he filled various positions of authority in the Artois Province of his Order. The date of his death is unknown, but he was still living in 1698. After his return to France, he completed two works which he published at Paris in 1691. An English translation of one of these works, Nouvelle Relation de la Gaspesie, was provided by William F. Ganong in 1910 as part of the Champlain Society's General Series.


Original spine laid on, some small closed tears to early pages else a very good set.

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