Minnesota Historical Society acquires rare book showing Great Lakes in 1600s

Thanks to a recent donation, the Minnesota Historical Society has acquired a rare book published in 1619 showcasing what life was like in the Great Lakes Region in the early 1600s.

Through the support of the Katherine B. Andersen Fund of the St. Paul Foundation, MNHS purchased Samuel de Champlain's “Voyages et Descouvertures Faites en la Nouvelle France, Depuis L’année 1615,” a book which describes in detail the geography of the eastern Great Lakes and includes an essay on the Huron people and their relationship with the French.

It's an extremely rare first edition published in Paris in 1619 and is one of the earliest books in the Minnesota Historical Society's collection. 

"If you hand a book that is this old to a young person you just see a light go on in their eyes," said Patrick Coleman of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Champlain, the book's author, was an explorer, cartographer, soldier and diplomat who crossed the Atlantic more than 20 times to stake claims on behalf of the French and is known for establishing Quebec City. His travel narratives "helped guide Father Hennepin, who would later explore what is now Minnesota," MNHS said in a news release.

Much of what the book contains are descriptions of the new world for Europeans who had never seen or even in many cases read about the area, making them hungry for any information they could get.

"I like to think of this book as a brick in our foundation that was missing," Coleman said. "We have the rest of the foundation but Champlain really fills in a gap for us."

The book was purchased in memory of longtime MNHS supporter and former board member Martha Kaemmer, who passed away on March 29, 2018.