The manuscript writings and drawings of Louis Nicolas (1634–c. 1700), a Jesuit missionary priest in New France, have recently become available in a bilingual French-English edition. His drawings of animals, Native peoples, and handicrafts, collected in the so-called Codex Canadensis, constitute one of the richest collections of illustrations from seventeenth-century North America. This article examines his drawings and descriptions of several animals to show how indigenous Anishinaabe and Iroquois zoology and mythology were incorporated within Nicolas's natural history. Whereas European natural history relied on visible and consistent structural features of animals and their habitats (classified as quadrupeds, fish, amphibians, and so forth), Native American people conceived of some animals as polymorphous, other-than-human persons. In depicting the Anishinaabe underwater creature michipichik as a walrus and describing the special powers of other animals, Nicolas forged a hybrid between two epistemologies of nature. His work can inspire a better understanding of how indigenous sources contributed to and clashed with early modern natural history in Europe and its colonies.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 21-48
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.