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First History of Canada on Sale

A 400-year-old book described as “the first written history of Canada”, and containing one of the earliest and most treasured maps of the country is scheduled to be sold this month at a British auction of rare volumes and historic manuscripts.

Marc Lescarbot spent two years in New France shortly after the first settlement in Acadia (Nova Scotia) was established in 1604 at Port-Royal. His first edition of the Histoire de la Nouvelle-France came out in 1609. The one on sale is the 3rd edition from 1612.

Samuel de Champlain is generally considered the “father of New France” (and therefore, of Canada), but Lescarbot beat him to the punch as far as recording the earliest history of the colony is concerned.

The latter part of Lescarbot’s Histoire is devoted to a description of the natives who lived in what became known as New France – in particular the Micmaq (Migmaw or Souriquois). According to Wikipedia, “he judged them more civilized and virtuous than Europeans, but, like a good Frenchman, he pitied them for their ignorance of the pleasures of wine and love!”

Lescarbot was a poet and a lawyer, and therefore a man of letters. He staged the first outdoor play performed in Acadia called “The Theatre of Neptune” with natives playing some of the roles.

Port-Royal, New France

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Rick says:

Thanks for the info. As you can see from what I have written I had the impression that Lescarbot was somewhat respectful of aboriginals. I would also have thought that the “assimiliationist” mind set would not have set in this early in the history of the French colony, and was more a product of the next couple of centuries. Clearly this cannot be taken for granted.

Donovan King says:

The play was the 1st piece of European literature & drama in North America, and it was also extremely racist (it was a redface show!) Details: