Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas

Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas: The Natural History of the New World, Histoire Naturelle des Indes Occidentales

Edited and with an Introduction by François-Marc Gagnon
Translation by Nancy Senior
Modernization by Réal Ouellet
Series: McGill-Queen's/Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation Studies in Art History
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 676
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    Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas
    Book Description:

    Part art, part science, part anthropology, this ambitious project presents an early Canadian perspective on natural history that is as much artistic and fantastical as it is encyclopedic. Edited and introduced by François-Marc Gagnon, The Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas showcases an intriguing attempt to document the life of the new world - flora, fauna, and aboriginal. The book brings together for the first time the illustrated Codex Canadensis and The Natural History of the New World, following Gagnon's argument that both can be attributed to Louis Nicolas, a French Jesuit priest who travelled throughout Canada between 1664 and 1675. Histoire Naturelle des Indes Occidentales, originally written in classical French, has been put in modern French by Réal Ouellet and translated into English by Nancy Senior. The Natural History presents a pre-Linnaean botany and pre-Darwinian account of living things, including hundreds of species of plants and vivid descriptions of wildlife. It is thoroughly annotated, focusing on the contemporary identification of species, as the result of a pan-Canadian collaboration of experts in fields from linguistics to biology and botany. The Codex Canadensis, currently in the collection of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is reproduced in full and provides both a fascinating visual account of wildlife as Nicolas saw it and a rare example of early Canadian art. Gagnon's introduction profiles Louis Nicolas and analyses connections between his work and European examples of natural illustration from the period. The Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas shows how the wildlife and native inhabitants of the new world were understood and documented by a seventeenth-century European and makes available fundamental documents in the history and visual culture of early North America.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8723-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS (pp. vii-x)

    TheCodex Canadensiswas two hundred and fifty years old when Thomas Gilcrease, founder of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, purchased it in 1949.¹ He had little idea of the manuscript’s significance but he was fascinated by what it contained – 180 illustrations and descriptions of people, flora, and fauna in New France during the seventeenth century. He knew that pictorial representations of the western hemisphere during this period were rare and had seen nothing comparable on the open market during his decades of collecting. Gilcrease had already amassed a huge archival collection, including 100,000 pages of Spanish colonial records...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xv-2)
  6. INTRODUCTION Louis Nicolas’s Depiction of the New World in Figures and Text (pp. 3-92)

    The Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, possesses a magnificent album of pen drawings, some of which are painted with water colours. It is known as theCodex Canadensisbecause its illustrations are clearly devoted to the flora, fauna, and First Nations of Canada.

    The history of this manuscript is somewhat obscure. We know nothing about it before 1930, when Maurice Chamonal, a famous Parisian bookseller of antique books known for his interest in Americana, published a fine facsimile entitledLes Raretés des Indes, with an introductory essay by Baron Marc de Villiers. This publication...

  8. TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE (pp. 259-264)

    Translating a text written several hundred years ago involves questions about how language has changed in the centuries between composition and translation.¹ Two contrasting approaches are possible. The translation can adhere to the wording of the original as closely as possible, while making a comprehensible text. On the other hand, it can depart more or less freely from the original wording in order to express what the translator takes to be the intended meaning.

    Advocates of both approaches call for fidelity to the source text, but in different ways. Some prefer to set the translator free from the wording of...

  9. NATURAL HISTORY (pp. 265-392)

    My God, how I regret embarking on an enterprise as difficult as this one of making an account of the New World, where there are so many things to say; and in which, not knowing where best to begin, I confess that I am in great difficulty; for what likelihood is there that, even after twenty years of assiduous work and repeated great travels, I can say all that is necessary about so many fine curiosities of a foreign country, where everything is different from ours? How can I reduce into a small space somany vast lands, and speak in...


    Nous avons établi le texte de Louis Nicolas sur le manuscrit conservé à la Bibliothèque nationale de France (Ms. fr. 24225). Pour le rendre accessible à un large public, nous avons modernisé l’orthographe, l’accentuation et la ponctuation. Nous avons enlevé la majuscule aux noms communs et l’avons ajoutée aux noms propres. Tout en conservant ce que nous pouvions de la ponctuation originale, fort anarchique, nous avons transformé ce qui risquait de provoquer contresens ou de gêner considérablement la lecture. Nos interventions les plus fréquentes ont porté sur le gommage de la virgule entre le sujet et le verbe (entre la...

  11. HISTOIRE NATURELLE. (pp. 397-518)

    Mon Dieu que je suis fâché de m’être embarqué dans une entreprise aussi difficile qu’est celle de faire un narré* du Nouveau Monde, où il y a tant de choses à dire, et où, ne sachant par où bien commencer, j’avoue que je suis étrangement* en peine, car quelle apparence* y a-t-il, même après vingt ans d’un travail assidu et de fort grands voyages réitérés, je puisse dire tout ce qu’il faut de tant de belles curiosités d’un pays* étranger, où toutes choses sont différentes du nôtre? Quel moyen de réduire en petit tant de si vastes terres et de...

  12. GLOSSAIRE (pp. 519-526)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 527-536)
  14. INDEX (pp. 537-543)
  15. INDEX OF SPECIES (pp. 544-555)

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