La découverte de l’amérique is the most recent volume in the French series published by Flammarion. The collection deals with historical, political, social, and economic subjects in the main, but also touches on anthropology and the fine arts. To date 18 volumes have appeared and 91 additional titles are in preparation. Of the former group, only the volume under review pertains to Latin America; of the latter, at least three books will possibly interest Latin Americanists when they are published.

La découverte de l’amérique is a small book. The 98 pages of text are supplemented by a chronology of discovery (from 874-1550 A.D.), a few quotes from six documents (ranging from Norse sagas to Bishop Las Casas), a bibliography, and an index.

For those familiar with the voyages of the Vikings and Columbus, this book offers little. It is an extremely brief summary of all the well-known and non-controversial names, dates, and places. Even in the chapter that purports to treat “problems and controversies” the most exciting notion put forth is that the infinitive découvir (to discover) implies an intentional act. In other words, the author maintains that if Columbus went forth to discover we may be certain that he (or his superiors) already knew what it was he was to discover. Conversely, when an early voyager stumbled blindly onto a new land, he found (not discovered) it!

Bearing the above lesson in semantics in mind, the reader may “discover” this an interesting re-hash of a few voyages; he will “find” nothing new or unique about it.