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Terra Incognita: North America

Early Accounts ~ By Region: North America ~ South America ~ Mexico ~ Caribbean ~ Pacific ~ Maps ~ Checklist
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Bry, Johann Theodor de, 1561-1623?
Zigler, Philip
America : das ist Erfindung vnd Offenbahrung der Newen Welt deroselbigen Volcker, Gestalt, Sitten, Gebrauch, Policey vnd Gottesdienst, in dreyssig vornemste Schifffahrten k{232}urtzlich vnnd ordentlich Zusammengefasset, vnd mit feinen Marginalien vnnd Register erklaret / durch M. Philippum Ziglerum von Wurtzburg, E.C., vnd vber die vorigen mit vielen newen vnnd nohtwendigen Landtaffeln vnd Kupfferstucken, auffsschonste gezieret, vnd in truck gegeben von Iohan-Theodoro de Bry.
Franckfurt am Mayn : Durch Nicolaum Hoffman, 1617.
Illustration from: America Illustration from: America Illustration from: America Illustration from: America
Hennepin, Louis, 17th. Century
A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America, Extending above Four Thousand Miles, between New France and New Mexico; with a Description of the Great Lakes, Cataracts, Rivers, Plants and Animals. Also, the Manners, Customs, and Languages of the several Native Indians; and the Advantage of Commerce with those different Nations …
London: M. Bentley, J. Tonson, H. Bonwick, T. Goodwin, and S. Manship, 1698
This is the English translation of Louis Hennepin's Nouvelle Decouverte d'un Très Grand Pays Situé dans l' Amérique (1697).
Murder of M. De La Salle Buffalo
Hennepin, Louis, 17th. Century
Nouvelle Decouverte d' un très grand Pays Situé dans l' Amérique, entre Le Nouveau Mexique, et La Mer Glaciale, Avec les Cartes, & les Figures necessaires, & de plus l' Histoire Naturelle et Morale, & les avantages qu' on en peut tirer par l' établissement des Colonies. Le Tout Dedié à Sa Majesté Britannique, Guillaume III
Utrecht: Guillaume Broedelet, 1697
Title page of French edition Niagara Falls
Plate at p. 44 is the earliest view in print of Niagara Falls.
Wafer, Lionel, 1660?-1705?
A New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America, Giving an Account of the Author's Abode there, The Form and Make of the Country, the Coasts, Hills, Rivers, &c. Woods, Soil, Weather, &c. Trees, Fruit, Beasts, Birds, Fish, &c. The Indian Inhabitants, their Features, Complexion, &c. their Manners, Customs, Employments, Marriages, Feasts, Hunting, Computation, Language, &c. …
London: James Knapton, 1699
Smoking scene
Joutel, Henri, 1640?-1735
Journal historique du dernier voyage que feu M. de LaSale fit dans le golfe de Mexique, pour trouver l'embouchure, & le cours de la riviere de Missicipi, nommee a present la riviere de Saint Louis, qui traverse la Louisiane : ou l'on voit l'histoire tragique de sa mort, & plusieurs choses curieuses du Nouveau monde …
Paris: Chez E. Robinot, 1713
Joutel, Henri, 1640?-1735
A Journal Of the Last Voyage Perform'd by Monsr. de la Sale, to the Gulph of Mexico, To find out the Mouth of the Missisipi River; containing An Account of the Settlements he endeavour'd to make on the Coast of the aforesaid Bay, his unfortunate Death, and the Travels of his Companions for the Space of Eight Hundred Leagues across that Inland Country of America, now call'd Louisiana …
London: A. Bell, 1714

In 1684 Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, was planning an expedition to establish a French settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Joutel met La Salle in Rouen and signed on as his "intendent" or confidential assistant. After a harrowing ocean crossing of over four months, La Salle and his party reached the Gulf of Mexico. Navigational errors caused them to miss the mouth of the Mississippi, instead making landfall in Matagorda Bay. La Salle was murdered by his crew during the journey back to the mouth of the Mississippi. Joutel, his nephew, and La Salle's brother escaped a similar fate, making their way to Tonti's fort on the Illinois River, travelling on to Quebec via the Great Lakes, and eventually returning to France in 1688. Shown here is the first French edition of Joutel's journal.

Coxe, Daniel, 1673-1739
A Description Of the English Province of Carolana, By the Spaniards call'd Florida, And by the French La Louisiane. As also of the Great and Famous River Meschacebe or Missisipi, The Five vast Navigable Lakes of Fresh Water, and the Parts Adjacent. Together With an Account of the Commodities of the Growth and Production of the said Province. And a Preface containing some Considerations on the Consequences of the French making Settlements there
London: B. Cowse, 1722
Click here to see a map from this work.
Jefferys, Thomas, d. 1771
The natural and civil history of the French dominions in North and South America. Giving a particular account of the climate, soil, minerals, animals, vegetables, manufactures, trade, commerce and languages, together with the religion, government, genius, character, manners and customs of the Indians and other inhabitants. Illustrated by maps and plans of the principal places, collected from the best authorities, and engraved by T. Jefferys, geographer to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales
London: Printed for T. Jefferys, 1760
Description of Louisiana
page 1
page 2
page 3
Pittman, Philip, Captain
The Present State of the European Settlements on the Missisippi; with a Geographical Description of that River. Illustrated by Plans and Draughts
London: J. Nourse, 1770
Click here for an early description of Saint Louis and the surrounding area.
As more people began settling in America and coming more in contact with Native Americans a new genre of fiction sprang up, the captivity narrative. These were accounts of people, often women and children, who were taken captive after violent confrontations between Native Americans and settlers. Later narratives became somewhat sensationalized and probably contained exaggerations as the readers' appetites for such descriptions increased.
Panther, Abraham
A very surprising narrative of a young woman, who was discovered in a rocky cave, after having been taken by the savage indians of the wilderness, in the year 1777, and seeing no human being for the space of nine long years. In a letter from a gentleman to his friend
Windsor [Vt.] : Printed by Alden Spooner, 1794
Barry, Thomas, fl. 1800-1802
The singular adventures and captivity of Thos. Barry, among the Monsipi Indians, in the unexplored regions of North America: including the manners, customs, etc. of that tribe ; also, a particular account of his escape, accompanied by an Indian female; the extraordinary hardships they encountered in their flight; and their safe arrival in London, December the 6th, 1799. Written by himself
[London] : A. Neil, 1802
This is a second edition of a captivity narrative that is probably fictitious.
Lewis, Meriwether, 1774-1809
History of the expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark. Travels to the source of the Missouri river and across the American continent to the Pacific Ocean. Performed by order of the government of the United States, in the years 1804, 1805, and 1806. By Captains Lewis and Clarke. Published from the official report, and illustrated by a map of the route, and official report, and illustrated by a map of the route, and other maps A new ed
London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1815
Catlin, George, 1796-1872
Letters and notes on the manners, customs, and condition of the North American Indians : written during eight years' travel amongst the wildest tribes of Indians in North America. In 1832, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39
London: Pub. by the author ; [Printed by W. and A.K. Johnston], 1841
Illustration from: Letters and notes on the manners, customs, and condition of the North American Indians Illustration from: Letters and notes on the manners, customs, and condition of the North American Indians

George Catlin began his career in law but had always wanted to be a painter and when he decided to pursue this said he wanted "to become the historian and limner of the aborigines of the vast continent of North America." In the spring of 1830 he set off for St. Louis in order to pursue this. General William Clark, the famed explorer, offered aid and contacts to Catlin. He then spent several years documenting various tribes. His work is notable for its scope and ethnographic detail. This is a copy of the first edition of the two-volume set.

Catlin, George, 1796-1872
O-kee-pa, a religious ceremony ; and other customs of the Mandans
London: Trubner, 1867
(illustrated with colored photolithographs)
Illustration from: O-kee-pa, a religious ceremony

Catlin visited the Mandan in 1832. His month-long, in-depth ethnographic study of the Mandans and their O-kee-pa ceremony is particularly valuable as only a few years after his visit in 1838 the group was decimated by a smallpox epidemic. Only 40 members of the group survived the disease and they were either enslaved, murdered or assimilated into other groups. Catlin was permitted to witness and document the O-kee-pa ceremony which took place over several days and involved dancing and singing of the whole group and a more extreme ceremony of fasting, sleep deprivation and pain for the young men of the tribe. This part of the ceremony was not very well understood by observers of the time and seemed to involve a belief that life or the world needed sacrifices to continue. The sacrifice in this case was the ordeal the young men went through. Their flesh was pierced with splints and then the splints attached to cords, which were suspended from the roof of the lodge. They were to stay suspended as long as they could with weights attached to their feet until they fainted, "and chose to remain there until the Great Spirit gave them strength to get up and walk away." Some of the practices of this dance are similar to the Sun Dance, which was practiced by the Sioux and other groups in the West. Shown here is a dancer in the character of O-ke-hee-de, the owl or Evil Spirit.

Horn, Mrs.
An authentic and thrilling narrative of the captivity of Mrs. Horn and her two children, with Mrs. Harris, by the Camanche Indians : and the murder of their husbands and travling companions
Cincinnati: Pub. by the author, c1853
This is a captivity narrative among the Comanche Indians of Ohio.
Illustration from: An authentic and thrilling narrative of the captivity of Mrs. Horn and her two children, with Mrs. Harris, by the Camanche Indians
Foreman, Grant, 1869-1953
Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, [1959, c1938]

Sequoyah was a Cherokee who lived in Tennessee in the early 1800's. In 1809 he began to create a system of writing for the Cherokee language. It was a syllabary, or written characters which are used to represent a syllable. He invented 86 characters that represented sounds, which made up words. This system was quickly adopted by the Cherokee people and became a valuable way to communicate between settlements that were separated by long distances.

Joseph, Nez Perce Chief, 1840-1904
Chief Joseph's own story An Indian's views of Indian affairs : young Joseph's translated narrative / with an introd. by Dee Brown & wood-engravings by Gillian Tyler
Kirkwood: The Printery, 1973
Translated by A. Chapman from a speech delivered in Washington in 1879. First published in 1925 under title: Chief Joseph's own story. (wood engravings)
Illustration from: Chief Joseph's own story An Indian's views of Indian affairs