8vo. (4) 179, (1) ff., including author portrait and 18 half-page woodcuts. Bound in contemporary limp vellum with title inked on spine, later endpapers, leaf 103 with repaired marginal tear. Some worming and staining to binding, some spotting, occasional foxing; several early ownership inscriptions scored on title; generally very good.
Scarce first complete edition (with 19 woodcuts) of the second printed work devoted to the customs of the American Indians illustrated from life, written in Italian. "Unlike most of his contemporaries who wrote about America, Benzoni was able to draw upon first-hand experience, since from 1541 to 1556 he travelled in the West Indies and in Middle America" (Enders, Fraser).
This edition is augmented with a section on the Canary Islands and an extra plate. Benzoni’s is one of the earliest accounts of the European colonial establishment in America by a writer who was not Spanish, and the spirited woodcuts (all but one of which show Native Americans) were among the first to give Europeans images of Indians and their activities. The woodcuts include natives in canoes, growing cacao for drinking chocolate (which Benzoni found distasteful), making bread and wine, dancing, fishing, worshipping the sun atop a pyramid, and gold- & silver-smithing. The ethnographic value of the woodcuts has long been acknowledged, and they were the source for the De Bry engravings (see Item X).
The historical and ethical value of the work is also considerable: “Along with Las Casas’ Brevissima relación de la destruyción de las Indias, the Historia is considered one of the two foundation stones of the Black Legend of Spanish cruelty to the Indian.”
Benzoni (b. 1519), a native of Milan, came to the Caribbean as a young man in 1541 and visited the Greater Antilles, the Spanish Main, and Central America, thereafter sailing from Panama to Peru.
* Adams B 688; Sabin 4791; Sturtevant, “First Visual Images of Native America,” and Keen in First Images of America I, 417-54 & 108; Penrose, Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance, p. 299; Enders and Fraser, "An Italian in the New World: Girolamo Benzoni's 'Historia del Mondo Nuovo'," Dispositio 17, no. 42/43 (1992): pp. 21–35.