ANGHIERA, PIETRO MARTIRE D' [PETER MARTYR]. 1467-1526.
The Decades of the Newe Worlde or West India, Conteynyng the Navigations and Conquestes of the Spanyardes, with the Particular Description of the Moste Ryche and Large Landes and Islandes lately founde in the West Ocean. London: William Powell, 1555.
4to (185 x 132 mm). a-b4 2a-2b4 c-d4 A-4I4(+chi4I2) 4K-4Z4 5A6(lacking 5A1 and 5A6). Title within woodcut border, 3 full-page woodcut diagrams showing astronomy from the Southern Hemisphere. With the inserted leaf 4I2 found in some copies containing "The coppie of the duke of Muscouie ... his letters, sent to Kinge Edwarde the syxte." Old Spanish calf elaborately gilt possibly reused from a piece of furniture, rebacked in modern calf. Wanting colophon 5A6 and one contents leaf 5A1 in final gathering, paper flaw on 4H3 with loss to 2 or 3 words, 15 leaves supplied from a smaller copy (including first gathering, title page thus cropped at head and foot), b2-4 with minor edge and gutter repairs, 2 leaves misbound, scattered pen trials and soiling, binding rubbed.
Provenance: Samuel Browne and family, 1654 onwards (inscriptions on front free endpaper); Society of Writers to His Majesty's Signet (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST COLLECTION OF VOYAGES TO BE PUBLISHED IN ENGLISH. THE SIGNET LIBRARY COPY, and the first work to contain narratives of English voyages. It contains the first three Decades of Peter Martyr, the Papal Bull of Pope Alexander in which the world was divided between Spain and Portugal, and translations of the most important parts of works by Oviedo, Vespucci, and others. The work was translated by Richard Eden [1520-1576], and preceding Hakluyt served as a key text for Hawkins, Drake, and other English explorers.
"Besyde the portion of lande perteynyng to the Spanyardes ... and beside that which perteineth to the Portugales, there yet remayneth an other portion of that mayne lande reachynge towarde the northeast ... not yet knowen but only by the sea coastes.... In this lande there are many fayre and frutefull regions, hygh mountaynes, and fayre ryvers, with abundaunce of golde and dyvers kyndes of beastes" (Preface to the Reader).
The work also contains the first printed English treatise on the compass, and an explanation of degrees (Waters, The Art of Navigation in England in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Times, New Haven 1958, p 87). Loosely inserted in the volume is a manuscript Bill of Lading, dated 1574, in French, relating to the shipment of fruit on an English ship called the Mayflower. Church 102; Howgego M65; Sabin 1561; STC 645-648 (variants with different colophons, absent here).