(Amstelodami: Apud Lvdovicvm Elzivirivm, 1643). 156 x 98 mm. (6 1/8 x 3 7/8"). 223,  pp. FIRST EDITION.
Contemporary stiff vellum, flat spine with ink titling. Printer's device on title page. Front pastedown with red wax seal. Willems 997; Rahir 991; Sabin 38561. Very minor soiling to vellum, three leaves with small chip at head edge, isolated rust spots, trivial foxing, and corner creases, but A VERY FINE COPY--especially clean, crisp, and bright, in a binding that shows no significant signs of use.
In this major work in the continuing controversy over the origins of the indigenous people of the Americas, Dutch humanist Johannes de Laet (1581-1649) presents a sharp refutation of the theories advanced by Hugo Grotius. A founding director of the Dutch West Indies Company, Laet had written an authoritative history of the New World, published in Dutch in 1625 and in Latin in 1633. He did not speculate on the origins of the people of the Americas in that work, though he did cite with approval the theory of the Spanish Jesuit missionary José de Acosta (1540-1600), who posited that the American Indians had travelled to the new continent over a land bridge from Asia. The question of the origin of the inhabitants of the New World was of great concern to European Christians who wanted to validate the biblical version of the origins of man. In Renaissance Europe, how humans found their way to the isolated continents in the Western hemisphere was as much a question of theology as it was of history or anthropology. When noted Protestant theologian Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) entered the fray, he turned to philologists and classical historians--rather than to accounts by modern European explorers and missionaries--in support of his argument that North American Indians had Norwegian origins, that Central American peoples had come originally from Ethiopia, and that Peruvians were descended from shipwrecked Chinese. Laet, who frequently opposed Grotius' theological views, demolished these imaginative theories by pointing out factual inaccuracies and geographical inconsistencies. He offered 12 possible alternative origins for Native Americans and backed up his suggestions with references to the empirical data gathered by travellers to the New World. His preferred theory--borne out by modern genetic testing--designated Northern Asia as the origin of the indigenous Americans, and maintained that the migration must have taken place in the distant past. Grotius issued a response to this work, described by bibliographer Thomas Warren Field as "much more hauteur than logic," prompting Laet to publish a further blistering reply. This is an uncommonly seen book: ABPC lists just five copies at auction since 1975, only one of them in the 21st century. (ST12129a)
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PJP Catalog: RBMS16.003