The Canarian, or, Book of the Conquest and Conversion of the Canarians in the Year 1402, by Messire Jean de Béthencourt, Kt., Lord of the Manors of Bethencourt, Reville, Gourret, and Grainville de Teinturière, Baron of St. Martin le Gaillard, Councillor

  • $250.00
    Unit price per 

Author: Béthencourt, Jean de (1362-1425)

Year: 1873

Publisher: Hakluyt Society

Place: London


2+[statement of accounts]+[1 blank]+[4]=lv+229 pages with frontispiece, map, illustration and index. Octavo (9" x 6") bound in original publisher's blue cloth with gilt lettering to spine and gilt pictorial representation of the ship Victoria on the cover and edge ruled decorative blind stamp to covers. Translated and Edited by Richard Henry Major Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, First Series, Number 46. First edition.

Jean de Béthencourt was a French explorer who in 1402 led an expedition to the Canary Islands, landing first on the north side of Lanzarote. From there he conquered for Castile the islands of Fuerteventura (1405) and El Hierro, ousting their local chieftains (majos and bimbaches, ancient peoples). Béthencourt received the title King of the Canary Islands but he recognized King Henry III of Castile, who had provided aid during the conquest, as his overlord. The Canary Islands were apparently known to the Carthaginians of Cadiz. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder called them "the Fortunate Islands". Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello is credited with the rediscovery of the Canary Islands in 1312. In 1339, Majorcan Angelino Dulcert drew the first map of the Canaries, labeling one of the islands "Lanzarote". In 1390 Béthencour accompanied the Duke of Touraine on the Barbary Crusade, an expedition organized by Genoese merchants to address North African piracy. The proposal by the doge was presented as a crusade. As such it would give prestige to its participants, a moratorium on their debts, immunity from lawsuits, and papal indulgence. The French force, consisting of 1,500 knights under the leadership of Louis II, Duke of Bourbon, lay siege to Mahdia in Tunis. The French were unfamiliar with the terrain, lacked heavy siege equipment, underestimated, and became embroiled in internal quarrels.[4] The Berbers realized that they could not overcome the heavier armed invaders. Tired of the oppressive heat and concerned about the upcoming winter, the French agreed to a treaty negotiated by the Genoese. It is likely that Béthencourt heard stories regarding the Canary Islands from the Genoese, and of the presence of orchil, a lichen used to make a rare and expensive dye. Here too, he again met up with Gadifer de la Salle, whom he had known previously during service under the Duke of Orleans, and who would accompany him to the Canaries. At that time the Canary Islands were mainly frequented by Spanish merchants. To finance his expedition he sold his house in Paris valued at 200 gold francs and some other small pieces of property in December 1401. Béthencourt set sail from La Rochelle on 1 May 1402 with 280 men, mostly Gascon and Norman adventurers, including two Franciscan priests (Pierre Bontier and Jean le Verrier who narrated the expedition in Le Canarien).After passing Cape Finisterre, they put in to Cadiz, where he found some of his sailors so frightened that they refused to continue the voyage. Of the eighty crew with which he set out, Béthencourt sailed with fifty-three. He arrived at Lanzarote, the northernmost inhabited island. While Gadifer de la Salle explored the archipelago, Béthencourt left for Cádiz, where he acquired reinforcements at the Castilian court. At this time a power struggle had broken out on the island between Gadifer and Berthin de Berneval, another officer. Berthin spread dissention between the Normans of Béthencourt and the Gascons of Gadifer. Local leaders were drawn into the conflict and scores died in the first months of Béthencourt's absence. During this time, Gadifer managed to conquer Fuerteventura and to explore other islands. It was only with the return of Béthencourt in 1404 that peace was restored to the troubled island. De la Salle and Béthencourt founded the city of Betancuria (as capital of the island of Fuerteventura) in 1404. Years later Bethencourt was defeated by the aboriginals of the island of Gran Canaria (canarios) in the battle of Arguineguin at south of the island, getting the title of Great. He died in 1422, and was buried in the church of Grainville-la-Teinturiere.


Spine age toned and gilt dulled, corners gently bumped, some foxing, bookplate on front pastedown else very good.

We Also Recommend