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André de Thevet (1516 – 23 November 1590) was a French Franciscan priest, explorer, cosmographer and writer who travelled to Brazil in the 16th century. He described the country, its aboriginal inhabitants and the historical episodes involved in the France Antarctique, a French settlement in Rio de Janeiro, in his book Singularities of France Antarctique.
Thévet was born in Angoulême. At ten years of age, he entered the convent of Franciscans of Angoulême. Not very much impressed by religion, he preferred to read books. He visited Italy at the same time as Guillaume Rondelet (1507–1566). In 1549, thanks to the support of John, Cardinal of Lorraine (1498–1550), he embarked in an extended exploration trip to Asia, Greece, Palestine and Egypt. He accompanied the French ambassador Gabriel de Luetz to Istanbul. Upon his return to France in 1554, he published an account of this voyage under the title of Cosmography of the Levant.
Almost immediately after this, he set sail again as the chaplain of the fleet of vice-admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon (1510–1571) to colonize Brazil. In the New World, he collected many specimens of animals, plants and minerals, as well as aboriginal potteries and weapons.
He relied mostly on the accounts of the French sailors to write his most important work, the Singularities of France Antarctique (first published in 1557). It had many coarse errors and extravagant accounts, but it described for the first time native plants used by the Indians, such as the manioc, pineapples, peanuts and tobacco (he would later dispute its "paternity" with Jean Nicot, 1530–1600), as well as the macaw, sloth and tapir.
Father Thévet was also an able historiographer who published in 1584 eight volumes about the life of famous people. He became the chaplain of Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589) and official historiographer and cosmographer of the king. He died in Paris.
- Translated and adapted from French Wikipedia
- Cantacuzene, J.M. Frère André Thévet (1516-1590). Miscellanea. In French (PDF File)
- Bogliolo Bruna, Giulia, introduzione, traduzione e note delle Singolarità della Francia Antarctica di André Thevet (prefazione Frank Lestringant), Reggio Emilia, Diabasis, 247 p., 1997