(Paris: Jean Guignard, 1697). 168 x 92 mm. (6 3/4 x 3 3/4"). 2 p.l., 333,  pp. FIRST EDITION, First Issue (signatures Q1 and 2 in uncancelled state).
Remboîtage of contemporary sprinkled calf, raised bands, spine gilt in compartments with lacy central fleuron, curling cornerpieces, band of coronet-topped fleurs-de-lys at tail of spine, marbled endpapers, speckled edges (restorations to one corner and at head of front joint). Front pastedown with bookplate of Jean-Paul Morin. Howes T-294; Sabin 96172. Streeter sale 1:105. See also: C. Broué, "Écriture et réécriture de l'exploration de la Louisiane--le cas des Dernières découvertes dans l'Amérique septentrionale de M. de la Sale mises au jour par le chevalier de Tonti, 1697", in "Travel Narratives in French / Récits de voyage en français," Leiden-Boston, Brill, 2017, pp. 42-59. A couple small divots and trivial spots to boards, a hint of wear to front joint (and perhaps a very facile repair at top), boards a bit splayed, otherwise a very fine copy--quite clean and fresh internally, with ample margins, in a lustrous binding.
This is an extremely attractive contemporary copy of the very rare first state of the first printing of the first book to report on the 1678-83 Mississippi expedition of French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, published with the aim of promoting French territorial and commercial expansion in the New World. The title page proclaims the author to be La Salle's lieutenant, Henri de Tonti (or Tonty, ca. 1649-1704), who accompanied the explorer on his travels around the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River. Tonti had begun his career as a soldier in the army of Louis XIV, fighting in campaigns in the Mediterranean and losing one hand in battle. He obtained a metal prosthesis, which according to ANB, he "sometimes used . . . as an instrument of diplomacy with Indians, who throughout the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes knew him as 'the man with the iron hand.'" La Salle (1643-87) claimed Tonti "could accomplish tasks that required the use of two free arms," and the lieutenant proved this by supervising the construction of the first European sailing vessel on the Great Lakes and by establishing two French forts in Illinois. From these forts he "began to fashion the network of Franco-Indian alliances that would lay the groundwork for the 'French crescent' that would eventually extend from Quebec City to New Orleans and constitute one of the most important factors in the Europeans’ imperial contest for North America." (ANB)
The LaSalle expedition travelled down the Mississippi to the Gulf, there claiming the Mississippi Basin for France, naming it "Louisiane" for Louis XIV. When La Salle returned to France in 1683 to restock supplies and recruit colonists, he left Tonti in charge of the French outpost at Fort St. Louis in present-day Illinois. After La Salle failed to return as scheduled in 1686, Tonti headed an expedition down into Louisiana, hoping to meet his ship, but the vessel had run aground off the coast of Texas, and La Salle was murdered by mutineers. According to Charlevoix and Sabin, Tonti denied authorship of the present account, claiming it was the work of a "Parisian adventurer" who had used his name in order to lend credibility to the account, and to make money. However, scholars have determined that the work is based at least in part on Tonti's manuscript journals written at his Fort St. Louis post, where survivors of La Salle's shipwreck had come after the Texas disaster. Those writings and the contents here contain early descriptions of buffalo hunts of Native Americans, and other information on the indigenous people encountered. Whoever compiled this work, it is of very considerable interest as an account of the American frontier before the 18th century, and as a promotional tool for the colonization of North America. There are two known issues of the book: ours is the first, containing Q1 and Q2, leaves that were later removed and replaced at the insistence of the French government in an attempt to suppress an account of pearl fishing contained there. The book is not common in commerce, but when it appears, it commands a substantial price: the most recent first-issue copy at auction (in 19th century calf) sold this year at Sotheby's for $25,200 all in, and a contemporary copy (with some condition issues) sold for $29,900 (all in) at the Siebert sale in 1999. (ST16349)