Maggs Bros Ltd

A Description of Patagonia, and the Adjoining Parts of South America:

FALKNER Thomas (1774.)

£7500.00  [First Edition]

Containing an Account of the Soil, Produce, Animals, Vales, Mountains, Rivers, Lakes, &c. of those Countries; the Religion, Government, Policy, Customs, Dress, Arms, and Language of the Indian Inhabitants; and some Particulars relating to the Falkland Islands.

First edition. Large folding engraved map on 2 sheets. 4to. An uncut copy in calf-backed (original) boards, spine gilt, some minor foxing throughout but a very good copy. [iv], iv, 144pp. Hereford, C. Pugh,

A classic account of the region. "The only account we have of the Indians of the Pampas" (Sir Woodbine Parrish).

Born in Manchester in 1707, Falkner studied medicine in London under Richard Mead and was taught physics and mathematics by Isaac Newton. He practised as a surgeon for a time before taking advantage of an offer by the South Sea Company "which was interested in the research of Jesuit doctors in American Indian herbal medicine. Having arrived in Buenos Aires on 7 May 1730, he headed for Chile with a caravan of slaves, through Santa Fé, Córdoba, and Mendoza, to Santiago de Chile. He returned to Buenos Aires, dangerously ill, and was treated by the Jesuit Sebastián de San Martín with such kindness that he converted to Catholicism and sought entry into the Society of Jesus. He became a Jesuit novice of the Paraguay province in May 1732, being ordained in 1739 and professed in 1749. Having published his treatise on Indian medicines for the Royal Society, he was sent to Santiago del Estero, Tucumán, Córdoba, and Santa Fé to further his research..." (ODNB).

His knowledge both of medicine and mechanics impressed the Indians and in around 1740 he was sent to Patagonia to assist Matias Strobel's mission at Cabo San Antonio. Falkner suggested a colony might be established at the mouth of the Rio Negro as a port between Rio and the Strait of Magellan, and in 1746 travelled further south again with Jose Cardiel where he helped found the mission of Nuestra Senora del Pilar just near Mar del Plata.

Falkner's account of the expedition includes notes on the natural history, climate and inhabitants of Patagonia, the Falkland Islands and Tierra del Fuego. The large folding map is one of the most important of the region to that date and the work itself is so useful that Charles Darwin kept a copy of this work aboard the Beagle.

Howgego, F7; Palau, 86485; Sabin, 23734; Streit, 972

Stock Code: 223866