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Document Number: AJ-026
Author: Cartier, Jacques, 1491-1557
Title: First Relation of Jaques Carthier of S. Malo, 1534
Source: Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 3-31.
Pages/Illustrations: 31 / 2 (tables)
Citable URL:

Author Note

Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) was a Breton sailor who visited Brazil and may have accompanied Giovanni da Verrazzano during his exploration of the North American coast in 1524. In 1533 he inquired about further exploration of North America and received permission from the crown to pursue his idea. He made voyages in 1534, 1535-1536, and 1541-1542, and may have returned once more in 1543. Cartier died in September 1557 at or near his home in St. Malo, France.

Cartierís First Expedition, 1534

Commanding one-hundred-twenty men on two sixty-ton ships, Cartier sailed from St. Malo in April 20, 1534, and in twenty days they arrived off the coast of Newfoundland. Cartier sailed north and encountered the Cape of Buona Vista and an island thick with auks, gannets, razorbills, and bears. In sailing the coast of Newfoundland, Cartier named harbors, beaches, and landmarks, while fishing for salmon, and harvesting eggs from abundant bird nests. The sailors encountered several different Indian inhabitants, and retained peaceful relations with them. During July they described the plentiful pine, cedar, and fir forests, wild fruits and berries, and diverse bird life of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. By the middle of July Cartier encountered Indians who exchanged furs for French manufactured goods, a trade that would drive much of North Americaís exploration. In addition to acquiring large amounts of fur pelts, Cartier saw the potential for converting the Indians to Christianity. These early encounters expanded into full contact with the native peoples of the region, as the French traded knives, combs, glass beads, and other objects for furs in increasing numbers.

Cartier set sail from Labrador on August 9, 1534 and returned to France September 5, 1534. In addition to the abundance of furs and the potential for converting Indians to Christianity, Cartierís account included a translation of Algonkin terms into French for the next explorers. Cartier made two more voyages to Canada (see AJ-027 and AJ-028) before retiring near St. Malo, France.

Document Note

This account was recorded by Cartier or a companion, and an Italian translation by Ramusio was published in Venice in 1556. An English translation made by Jean Florio was published in 1580, and Richard Hakluytís account of the voyage first appeared in 1600.

Other Internet or Reference Sources

The standard modern edition of Cartierís writings is The Voyages of Jacques Cartier, Published from the Originals with Translations, edited by Henry P. Bigger (Toronto, 1924). A book-length biography of the explorer, written in 1916 by Stephen Leacock, is available from Project Gutenberg at

The National Library of Canada has created ďPathfinders and Passageways: The Exploration of CanadaĒ at with a wealth of background information, images, and excerpts from primary sources on the country's early history that provide biographical and historical summaries. Other contemporary primary documents can be found at the Early Canadiana Online project,

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