Jean de Léry

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Cover page of de Léry's Historia Navigationis in Brasiliam, quae et America Dicitur (History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Also Called America).

Jean de Léry (1536–1613) was an explorer, writer and Reformed Pastor born in Lamargelle, Côte-d'Or, France. Little is known of his early life; and he might have remained unknown had he not accompanied a group of Protestants to their new colony on an island in the Bay of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The colony, France Antarctique was founded by the Chevalier de Villegaignon, with promises of religious freedom, but on arrival, the Chevalier contested the Protestants' beliefs and persecuted them. After eight months the Protestants left their colony and settled on the mainland, near the Tupinamba Indians. These events were the basis of de Lery's book, History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Also Called America (1578).[1]

"Salutations larmoyantes" ("Tearful salutations"), in Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil (1578), Jean de Léry, 1580 edition.

Throughout this book, Léry describes his voyage across the Atlantic to Brazil. On the way he encounters never before seen ocean wildlife that foreshadows many more discoveries to follow. While on the ship he and his men develop new skills of judging and navigating the winds, stars, currents, and tides. Upon arrival, Léry and his men are exposed to what seems to be an entirely new world. Throughout the body, the crew encounters a wide variety of people in an area not yet affected by European colonization. With the main goals set at Protestant Reformation, these men face many more challenges than expected, however make discoveries and encounter new things beyond their wildest dreams. [2]

On his return to France, de Léry married unhappily and became a Protestant minister. He endured the Siege of Sancerre, remarking in his book, History of the City of Sancerre (1574) that his hardships in Brazil served him well, because he taught his fellow soldiers to make hammocks and eat anything, including shoe soles (though cannibalism still repelled him).


  • L'histoire mémorable du siège et de la famine de Sancerre (1573)
  • Histoire d'un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil (1578)


  1. ^ [1] Renaissance World
  2. ^ Léry, Jean de. Translation and introduction by Janet Whatley (1990). "History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil" University of California Press Ltd. p. xv-xvi.