The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library has recently made a significant addition to its collections related to early missionary activities by acquiring the 1780–1783 edition of the twenty-six-volume set Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, écrites des missions étrangères, which details Jesuit activities around the globe, particularly in the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The scope of information and activities documented in this work is wide ranging. There are accounts of tribal leaders; there is information on the flora and fauna of different regions; physical geography is described, often with foldout maps; and indigenous peoples and their settlements are portrayed through narratives or engraved views.
The section devoted to the Americas is particularly interesting, as it contains accounts of the expedition to Hudson's Bay, in 1694–95, which included the capture of Fort York, accounts of Native Americans in the Southeast, and early travels up the Mississippi. This edition is noted for its inclusion of a particularly early map of California and New Mexico that shows the locations of the various Indian tribes and that helped dispel the erroneous but long-held belief that California was an island.
This second or "nouvelle" edition was edited by l'Abbé de Querbeuf and has been enlarged and corrected from the first edition compiled by Fathers Le Gobien, Du Halde, and Patouillet, which was published in installments between 1702 and 1776. This edition is preferred by many not only because of its additional information but also because the organization of the reports has been rearranged in a way that is more logical and easier to use.
It is divided into sections for different parts of the globe: Volumes 1–6 describe missionary activities in the Middle East, 6–9 describe activities in North and South America, 10–15 describe activities in India, 16–24 describe activities in China, and 25–26 contain a supplement that is new to this edition.
This set adds to existing and extensive materials in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library related to missionaries and
Portrait of T[h]amas Koulikan, King of Persia
August 1, 2007