First edition, first printing of Father Kino’s map.
This is the rare first printing of Vol. V (of 34) of Jesuit letters published in Paris between 1702 and 1776. This volume is highly-sought after because it contains both Piccolo’s text on California missions, as well as the first publication of Kino’s important map of the Gulf of California — Passage par Terre a la Californie — which established that California was not an island.
This is the first translation of Father Francisco Piccolo’s Informe del Estado de la Neuva Christiandad de California, the first printed description of California to receive wide circulation — mainly in translation (Streeter Sale 2424).
Kino’s map was a vast improvement in the mapping of the Colorado and Gila rivers, and plotted many of the new Jesuit missions in Lower California for the first time. Three small circles in the upper lefthand corner of the map represent three Hopi (labeled Moqui) mesas and the region they inhabited.
Father Eusebio Kino was a Jesuit missionary born in the northern Italian Bishopric of Trent. Educated in Ingolstadt in mathematics and astronomy, Kino was sent to Baja California in the year 1681. It is said that his first choice had been to go East Asia, but that he cast lots with a fellow missionary and Kino drew Mexico. Kino’s official mission was to establish new missions and convert native peoples. But he also had a keen interest in geography; one of his favorite professors in Germany was the geographer and mapmaker Heinrich Scherer.
From Baja, Kino was transferred to Primería Alta, the present-day areas of Sonora in Mexico and southern Arizona. Kino was a natural explorer with both an intense geographical curiosity and an understanding of logistics. In the years 1698-1701, he participated on nine exploratory trips to determine whether California was an island or a peninsula. The idea that California was an island remained widely accepted throughout the 17th century. While still in Europe, Kino had seen California represented as both an island and a peninsula on contemporary maps. It was a question that had increasingly interested him since his 1681 arrival in the region, but one that was made ever more relevant by the establishment of a mission at Loreto in 1697. Loreto was situated in relatively barren surroundings, and thus it was important to determine the best supply routes to maintain the mission. (Burrus 1965, 47)
Kino’s gradual acceptance of California as a peninsula came from modest beginnings. In November, 1699, while on a trip to visit the Yuma Indians in the area where the Gila River meets the Rio Colorado, the Indians presented Kino with a gift of blue shells. Kino writes that he knew these shells to be found only on the western shore of California, i.e. the Pacific Ocean, which suggested to him there may in fact be a nearby land passage to California. But it would be his own direct observations which fully convinced him, and ultimately put an end to myth of the Island of California.
On October 7, 1700, Kino took a trip down the Rio Colorado. He relates that he ascended a hill and looked out across the landscape with a long-range telescope. Instead of seeing the Sea of California thought to separate insular California from the mainland, Kino observed flat land and the river plain where the Colorado meets the Gila. He later made definitive measurements of the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez) with an astrolabe, and was thus able to state that: “With all certainty in various expeditions we have discovered this California Gulf does not come up to thirty-two degrees…I have discovered with all minute certainty and evidence, with mariner’s compass and astrolabe in my hands, that California is not an island but a peninsula.” (Polk, 1991, 301).
Kino has given his map the no-frills, conclusive title: Passage by land to California. He mentions several slightly different manuscript versions he made of the map, none of which are known to have survived. Kino sent one of these to Father Bartolomé Alcázar in Madrid, who sent a copy to Jesuit colleagues in Paris, from which Charles Inselin, a renowned French engraver, prepared a copperplate. The map was then published in 1705 in both the Lettres Edificantes — the current work being discussed — and the Mémoires de Trévoux. Kino also sent an autograph copy to the Jesuit General in Rome and one to a colleague; the former is no longer in the archives and the latter was eventually printed in 1707 (Burrus 1965, 18).
While best-known for his map demonstrating the peninsularity of Lower California, Kino made numerous other important contributions to understanding the geography of the region, including, “the relative position of the main Colorado and Gila rivers; the correct location of the upper Sonora and lower Arizona streams, valleys and mountains; the rediscovery of the insular nature of Tiburón; the pioneer discovery of the Angel de la Guarda Island; a far more exact location of the Rio Grande del Norte flowing from New Mexico and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.” (Burrus 1965, 29).
Jean Baptiste Duhalde (editor); Chez Nicolas le Clerc (publisher)