Amsterdam, Estienne Roger, .
12mo [153 x 90 mm] of 341 pp. including 18 full-page plates, (15) ll. table.
Mottled light-brown calf, decorated ribbed spine. Contemporary binding
Extremely rare first edition illustrated with a frontispiece and 17 full-page intaglio engravings (costumes, inhabitants, hunting and fishing scenes).
“Figures outside the text in intaglio: natives, animals, etc.“ (Chadenat, 1645.
Pierre-Martin de La Martinière, an alchemist physician, after having been physician to the King of France, became the surgeon to Frederick III of Denmark. This is how he took part in the expeditions of the Danish Northern Company.
In 1670 (this date is controversial (see « Controversy over the date of La Martinière’s journey to the north », below), La Martinière happened to be in Copenhagen at the time when the Danish Northern Trading Company, after having been granted franchise by Frederick III of Denmark, was to undertake an expedition to the northern realms with the objective of ascertaining the type of trade that could be maintained with the indigenous populations of the north. The king had for this reason equipped a fleet of three trading vessels belonging to the company. La Martinière, with the assistance of one of his friends, was enlisted as surgeon on board one of those ships and thus had the opportunity to wander through the coasts of Norway, Lapland, northern Russia, Novaya Zemlya, Greenland and Iceland for a period of five months. An account of the expedition was later published by him in 1671 in Paris. It is the first published travel report written by a Frenchman describing the Arctic coasts of Europe.
Although his career is to some extent known, the same is not true as regards his private life. Concerning it, very few information is available. It seems that he married two times.
La Martinière died towards 1676 according to some sources, aged 42. According to other sources, however, he died much later in 1690.
No consensus exists concerning the date of La Martinière’s journey to the north. While some sources place his journey in the year of 1670, it is a common practice to assign 1653 instead of 1670 as its date. Väinö Tanner even writes that the travel took place in 1647. The date 1647 is undoubtedly fallacious since it is clearly implied in the account of La Martinière’s voyage that the travel did not occur prior to 1653 (see pp. 1–2 of the third edition of La Martinière’s travel account). The following arguments have been set forth to prove the dates 1647 and 1653 erroneous and the date 1670 veracious:
« – In the introduction to the account, the years 1647 and 1653 are mentioned when referring to the years that the trading company received its royal franchises. This does not tell when the journey occurred. Commentators have, in other words, confused the date of La Martinière’s voyage with other dates mentioned in his book.
– It is explicitly stated in the English edition that the journey lasted from April to September 1670. However, the date obviously has been added on by the English publisher.
– We are reminded several times in the English edition that La Martinière undertook his journey in 1670.
– In the French edition, the author points to the winter of early 1670 when French doctors thought that the plague infected people because of extreme cold weather. So the book must have been written after 1670.
– Also in the French edition, La Martinière tells how he gave a book which he had written on medical science to a person whom he had met in Norway. This book, Le Prince des Operateurs, was published in France in 1668.
– La Martinière was an experienced discoverer long before setting off on his northern trek. He had also written books about various diseases as a result of his long medical practice. It is improbable that a young man of 19 years, as he would have been in 1653, could have found enough time for this. »
Beautiful copy bound in contemporary calf from the library of Philippe André de Raisme (1695-1750).