Algonquin Grammar or on the Natives of North America, with the Description of the Country, Journals of Voyages, Memoirs, Remarks on Natural History, Et Cetera, Et Cetera
Louis Nicolas (active 1667‒75) was a French Jesuit who in 1664 was sent to Canada as a missionary, where he remained until 1675. He traveled widely and developed a keen interest in the people, languages, flora, and fauna of New France. He wrote three major works, none of which was published in his lifetime but which survived in manuscript form: Histoire naturelle des Indes occidentales (Natural history of the West Indies); the pictorial manuscript known as the Codex Canadensis; and the work presented here, Grammaire algonquine ou des sauvages de l’Amérique septentrionale (Algonquin grammar or on the natives of North America). Nicolas lived for a time at the Jesuit habitation in Sillery (in present-day Quebec). In 1667 he left on his first mission, traveling with Father Claude Allouez to the Ottawa near Lake Superior. He later spent a year in the Iroquois lands south of Lake Ontario. He returned to Sillery in 1671 and, having perfected his knowledge of Algonquin, wrote his grammar between 1672 and 1674. Nicolas’s manuscript is heavily marked with his own revisions, especially the initial pages, in which he outlines a grand plan to produce not only a grammar of Algonquin but also a complete catechism in the language; as well as a topography of the New World, including a natural history of its plant and animal life; and a work on the politics, customs, and religion of the natives. The manuscript is signed "Messire Louis Nicolas Prêtre" (Louis Nicolas, Missionary Priest), and dedicated to the Dauphin, the heir to King Louis XIV. Never very successful as a missionary, Nicolas returned to France in 1675 and was released from the Jesuit order in December 1678, although he remained a priest. Nothing is known of his subsequent life or when and where he died.
Title in Original Language
Grammaire algonquine ou des sauvages de l'Amerique septentrionale, avec la description du pays, journaux de voyages, memoires, remarques sur l'histoire naturelle &etc., &etc.
Type of Item
- Germaine Warkentin, “Aristotle in New France: Louis Nicolas and the Making of the Codex Canadensis,” French Colonial History 11 (2010): 71‒107.
Last updated: January 8, 2018