The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf among the Hurons of Canada as Described by Himself, The Golden Cockerel Press, 1938

{Ed. Note: Another excellent article from Books and Vines contributor Celtic (Neil).}

Jean de Brebeuf was born in Conde-sur-Vire, Normandy France in 1593. He became a Jesuit in 1617 and accompanied Samuel Champlain to the New World in 1625. Jean de Brebeuf was one of the authors of The Jesuit Relations (an invaluable source of early Canadian history)a report sent annually to Paris detailing the Jesuit’s missionary work among native peoples and describing everday life in the early settlements.

During the years 1625-29, 1634-40 and 1644-49 Brebeuf was in Canada and spent much of his time at the mission Sainte-Marie among the Hurons near Georgian Bay. As head of the mission he produced a Huron dictionary and grammar. Brebeuf went back to France because of war with England in 1629, but returned in 1634, travelling 800 miles from Quebec. His success as a missionary was, initially, slow and it was 1635 before he made his first 14 converts.  The number went up to 86 in 1636 and by 1647 there were thousands of converted Huron.

The Jesuits were blamed by some for battles lost, disease and crop failures. Due to this, on one occasion, Brebeuf was condemned to death and on another badly beaten. In the aftermath of an outbreak of smallpox at Sainte-Marie, Brebeuf left the settlement.  He returned in 1644 to live again among the Hurons until 1649 when he was captured by the Iroquois (the Huron’s traditional enemies).  He was fastened to a stake and tortured to death by scalping, mock baptism using boiling water, fire, mutilation and red-hot hatchets.  According to tradition, Brebeuf did did not make a sound while he was being tortured and the astounded Iroquois cut out his heart and ate it in the hope of gaining his courage.

Brebeuf was said to be very big and very strong, but of gentle nature.  The Hurons called him ‘Echon’ meaning ‘healing tree’. He was canonized with other Jesuit martyrs in 1930.

About the Edition

This is the first translated edition of Brebeuf’s reports of life with the Hurons. The book does not contain illustrations except for the map endpapers and a magnificent double title-page with the lettering and engravings taking seven woodblocks cut by Eric Gill. The 200 large pages of 16pt Bembo type on mould-made paper are beautiful from a typographical view and a joy to read.  Here is what Christopher Sandford had to say about it in Pertelote: The Golden Cockerel Press 1936-1943:

One of the most poignant diaries of valiant strife and adversity ever recorded, and made available by us for the first time……..Gill never designed a finer title page and this is a narrative which fiction cannot beat…..”

  • The Golden Cockerel Press, August, 1938
  • Edited and translated by Theodore Besterman
  • Double title-pages with lettering and illustrations engraved in wood by Eric Gill
  • 16pt Bembo type
  • Arnold’s mould-made paper
  • End-papers printed with map
  • 323mm X 204mm, 199pp
  • Quarter bound in red canvas with black morocco label and black cloth boards
  • Slipcase
  • Price in 1938 – 3 Gns.
  • 300 copies – this is 175

Pictures

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The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Book in Slipcase
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Spine and Cover
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Macro Detail of Spine Stamp
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Macro Detail of Golden Cockerel Stamp
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Front Cover
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Map
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Title Page
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Detail of Illustration on Title Page Side 1
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Detail of Illustration on Title Page Side 2
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Sample Text (Introduction)
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Sample Text #1
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Sample Text #2
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Sample Text #3
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Sample Text #4
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Sample Text #5
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Sample Text #6 (Notes)
The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf, Golden Cockerel Press, Colophon

9 thoughts on “The Travels & Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf among the Hurons of Canada as Described by Himself, The Golden Cockerel Press, 1938

  1. Robert – I would be first in line to buy a copy of In Parenthesis, if you ever publish one.

    I had not read this poem/prose by David Jones for 30 years when it came up on a discussion of yours on LT. It prompted me to read it again and although Jones wrote it when he was young, his genius was beyond his years and all that time after my first reading I was drawn into the the story of Private Ball and the rest like never before.

    This epic makes you think and raises all sorts of questions about life and war. In my opinion, the best thing ever written about the First World War by someone who had first-hand experience of it.

    So worthy of a fine edition.

  2. Neil, all my early Coppard books are the Knopf reprints done here in the States. Mine are in very good condition, and I was unaware that these earlier GC editions weren’t up to the standards of post-1924 publications. Thanks for the very useful information!

    Incidentally, I am nothing if not inconsistent, and I, too, am a fan of David Jones’ work. Were the Print Gods ever favorable to me and permit me to design a fine press book, it would certainly be Jones’ amazing WW I memoir, In Parenthesis.

  3. The early A.E. Coppard ‘Cockerel’ books can be found for quite modest sums.

    When the Golden Cockerel Press was first set up as a, sort of, workers co-operative in a shed at the bottom of a garden by Harold Taylor, it did not have any aspirations to be a ‘private press’ in the sense of the materials it employed. It saw itself as an equal group of workers, whether in production, publishing or the author. The books produced in the first few years were modest in terms of production standards.

    They were fortunate in co-opting an aspiring new author in A.E. Coppard and his book ‘Adam & Eve & Pinch Me’ was an instant success giving the new group the confidence and funds to carry on. The other books published by the Golden Cockere and written by Coppard during this phase were ; ‘Clorinda Walks in Heaven’ and ‘Hips and Haws’.

    Everyone ‘mucked in’ in this new venture, even sleeping in the shed to save money. Coppard had a go at printing and the like as well as helping with the admin. and accounts.

    Following the sale of the Golden Cockerel to Robert Gibbings in January of 1924, the press, which had dabbled in ‘fine books’ by that time, truly became, what we would recognise as a private press – Coppard, who by this time was a well known author stayed involved with the press for many more years.

    The early Coppard books mentioned above are inexpensive to buy today, but due to the production standards of that time are almost impossible to find in fine condition.

    I know what you mean about the Gill/Gibbings style. I love their books, but my favourite artist who contributed to the Golden Cockerel is David Jones, who’s style is probably even more a mix of ‘neo-gothic’/mediaeval/modern – as you say, personal taste.

    All the best,

    Neil

  4. Although I agree the GC has an unusually large percentage of misses for such a famous printery, I have to disagree with dlphcoraci about “Adam & Eve & Pinch Me.” I have been a fan of A.E. Coppard’s work since I read “Dusky Ruth” in an anthology when I was a teenager. I did not know the GC press had printed this work, and now am tempted to hunt it down, although I know it will be out of my pocketbook’s range.

    Most of the GC work I find unpersuasive more for the style of Gill/Gibbings rather than the choice of projects; their neo-Gothic style just doesn’t appeal to me. There are exceptions: I rather like Gibbing’s illustrations for “Salambo” and Gill’s design for the LEC’s “A Sentimental Journey” is very beautiful (and very untypical for Gill). Purely personal taste.

    Incidentally, I think the Grabhorn Press gives the GC a run for the money in having as many strikeouts and popups as home runs.

  5. Hello Again Don,

    I noticed you mentioned buying the FS Gill/Gospels facsimile. I think they have done a very good job of all three Gill/Cockerel facsimiles and although they are not letterpress on hand-made paper, they convey the beauty of the typography and engravings wonderfully well.

    I am glad to be able to own them as I would never have enjoyed them otherwise, especially when the three originals in decent condition are £20,000+ these days.

    One nice Gill book you can get at a decent price is the Hamlet you have. Sadly, it is one of the books where the binding is never in good condition. I’m glad you’ve got a copy and it will get splendid new ‘clothing’ (I like the title-page in that book).

    All the best,

    Neil

  6. Reply to Don Floyd.

    Hello don,

    All of the books that I have sent details through to Chris are from my own collection.

    My collecting ‘habits’ over the years have followed my interests – Egyptology, Travel and Exploration, Music and Art.

    Apart from books on those subjects I have read fiction and poetry all of my life and alongside my ‘trade’ hardbacks, I have over 300 Folio Society books. I started buying them over 30 years ago and was happy with them then and I am as happy with them now. Looking at your comments above, I agree with one aspect of what you say. LEC books are in a completely different league to standard FS books. Being British and completely unaware of the LEC until a few years ago, when it came to novels and the such in well-designed, produced and affordable editions, it was the only ball-game in town – I’m not going to replace hundreds of books now, but I regret finding out about the LEC later in life.

    As for private press books. When I joined LibraryThing, it was because of the Folio Devotees Group and I also discovered groups, that to some extent, discussed the other subjects I have mentioned above. I didn’t catalogue my private press books because I didn’t realise anyone was interested in them. When I discovered the Fine Press group and Chris and Jveezer started their magnificent blogs, I started listing my private press books. I’ve listed about half of them so far and they are tagged on my profile page and if you view them under ‘b’, you will get the colophon information about them.

    I don’t buy books regularly now, but when I do it is likely to be a private press book as I appreciate the skill, labour, individuality, love and materials that go into them. I like some books as beautiful objects in themselves. Most of my private press books will have wood-engravings, be about different aspects of making fine books (Incline and Bird & Bull are good at these) and the normal mix of fiction and poetry that comes with private press people. I have, and buy, a mix of old and new books. It’s hard to resist a ‘Golden Cockerel’ from the past, but the current private presses are in rude health and are producing some wonderful books.
    A book that was beyond my budget, but is an example of a volume as important as anything from the past is the Barbarian Press ‘Pericles’ – you can say the same about books from Arion and, my favourite, Gwasg Gregynog as well.

    What has changed for me recently is the influence that forums such as this and LT are having on my buying habits.

    Django is like a ‘Macy Encyclopedia’ and now he has been joined by you – if that had been 20 years ago I would have a lot of LEC books. Dlphcoracl has exposed me to some great books and presses and I will certainly buy a copy of, at least, one of the books he has reviewed. People like Jveezer and Olepuppy on LT have always got something of value to say. Books and Vines may be dangerous to the wallet, but it’s the best fine press site to come along for years (and it comes with wine and art thrown in as a bonus). So, my future strategy is to buy what you lot talk about that I can afford !!

    The comments from diphcoracl about the Golden Cockerel are well made. Fantastic books – but not all of them.

    All the best,

    Neil

  7. The Golden Cockerel Press has the dubious distinction of having the highest “miss” rate of any of the great private presses, i.e, the vast majority of the books they published were poorly chosen, trivial, and of little interest to me. ‘Hips and Haws’? ‘Adam & Eve & Pinch Me’?? ‘Gipsy Night’?? Clorinda Walks in Heaven’?? ‘Men and Manners’?? Uh, no thank you. There were, of course, obvious winners such as the great classic books with extensive wood-engravings by Eric Gill. That said, because the press was so long-lived and prolific, they had to publish a few “winners” despite themselves. The Travels and Sufferings of Father Jean de Brebeuf is one of them.

    Ironically, the thing that the Golden Cockerel Press was most noted for, a group of extraordinary artists working in the wood-engraving medium to provide illustrations for their publications, does not play a significant role in this book. The two wood-engravings by Eric Gill on the title page are magnificent but there are no illustrations thereafter, unusual for a Golden Cockerel book. However, the story is compelling and it is a book that is historically significant, one of the very few early diaries or first-person accounts of the European experience in North America (albeit as a Catholic missionary rather than a settler), as well as the Native American tribes they encountered.

    Excellent choice of book, not well known to many book collectors.

  8. Another fine post, Chris. As most know, I am not a fan of the Easton Press or the Folio society, most of which are rather garish for my taste. but this Gplden Cockerel edition is right down my alley. And the Eric Gill title page is a beautiful example of his work.

    In fact, I had to cancel my repugnance to the Folio Society and buy the Eric Gill Four Gospels, one of the FS earlier facsimile edition. Also, I have just rebound the Gill LEC Hamlet, which was in terrible shape, to preserve it for a couple of more generations.

    If I may make a suggestion, when books of this quality are presented, could you give a few words where the edition resides. Is it within Neil’s library? Also, what collecting objectives does he have?

    1. Good suggestion…will try to do that. In the short term, Neil, if you are reading, what are your collecting objectives other than make the rest of us want to spend even more money on even more book!!!? 🙂

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