These engravings are all about 400 yeas old! They illustrate early European voyages and travels to hitherto unknown parts of the world and are among the earliest copperplate images ever published. They reveal the diverse customs and cultures of people who lived in distant parts of the world but they also tell a story of discovery, greed, exploitation and bitter rivalry among the nations and religions of Europe during the earliest years of colonial expansion. This website represents a lifetime’s collection of these engravings, and it is offered herewith to the discerning viewer as a unique opportunity that can never be repeated, so it’s first come, first served.
GEOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF PLACES
|Argentina||Ecuador||Java (& Jakarta)||Portugal|
|Ascension Islands||El Salvador||Lapland (inc. Norway & Northeast Passage)||Puerto Rico|
|ATLANTIC||Equatorial Africa Islands||Madagascar||Rangoon (inc. Burma)|
|Azores||EUROPE & MIDDLE EAST||Molucca (inc. Sulawesi & Banda Sea)||St. Helena|
|Bahamas||FAR EAST & PACIFIC||Mauritius||St. Lucia|
|Bali||Florida (inc. Georgia & South Carolina)||Mexico||Santo Domingo (inc. Hispanioola & Haiti)|
|Banda Sea (inc. Molucca & Sulawesi)||France||MIDDLE EAST||Seychelles|
|Benin||Gabon||Mozambique||South Carolina (inc. Florida & Georgia)|
|Bolivia||Georgia (inc. Florida & South Carolina)||Netherlands||SOUTH AMERICA|
|Brazil||Gold Coast||NORTH AMERICA||Spain|
|Britain||Guadeloupe (& Dominica)||North Carolina (inc. Virginia)||Sri Lanka|
|Burma (inc. Rangoon)||Guayana (inc. Venezuela)||Northeast Passage (inc. Norway & Lapland)||Sulawesi (inc. Molucca & Banda Sea)|
|Calicut||Guinea||Norway (inc. Lapland, & Northeast Passage)||Sumatra|
|California||Haiti (inc. Hispaniola & Santo Domingo)||PACIFIC||Tierra del Fuego|
|Canary Islands||Hispaniola (inc. Haiti and Santo Domingo)||Palawan (inc. Philippines)||Trinidad|
|Cape Verde Islands||India||Panama||Venezuela (inc. Guayana)|
|CENTRAL AMERICA||INDIAN SUBCONTINENT||Paraguay||Virginia (inc. North Carolina)|
|China||Jakarta (& Java)||Peru||WEST INDIES|
|Cochin||Jamaica||Philippines (inc. Palawan)|
|Dominica (& Guadeloupe)|
All the images are genuine antique copperplate engravings, published in the years specified in the descriptions. They were the work of a sixteenth century, Flemish goldsmith and engraver, called Theodore de Bry, who was born in 1528, of Protestant parentage, in present-day Belgium. [Please check ‘Wikipedia’, for more information about Theodore de Bry.] As he grew up under the increasing influence of Catholic Spain, controls for heresy began to be imposed by the infamous ‘Council of Blood’ upon the Protestant peoples of Flanders. Consequently, de Bry was obliged to escape persecution and eventually settle in Frankfurt, Germany, where he began publishing these engravings in 1590 and where his two sons continued his good work.
The items described and illustrated here are all genuine original antique prints. They are therefore not re-issues, reprints or modern facsimiles. They were printed on hand-made paper: typically about 25-30 cm high by 20 -25 cm wide but those of larger format are marked with asterisks, and their sizes are shown at the end of their descriptions. They comprise of two distinct printing processes, carried out on different machines and possibly also in different workshops. The illustrations themselves were impressed from engraved copperplate images, while the titles above the illustrations and the descriptive texts below, either in Latin or German with illuminated initial letters, and were printed in letterpress as shown in the examples below.
** Although only the engravings are illustrated, here below the typical layout
of the Latin and German titles and texts are included in most
of these engravings.
Click mage above for larger view
Most of the descriptions given here are based on translations of these texts but, for reasons of clarity or historical interest, some have been corrected, added to or up-dated. By today’s standards, some of the descriptions may seem quaint or even fantastic but they convey the limited understanding and knowledge that Europeans had at that time, of these hitherto unknown peoples and their diverse cultures, when first they were discovered.
Condition and Authenticity
The way to recognise the age of a genuine antique engraving, printed on hand-made paper, is to hold it up to the light and you will see white parallel ‘laid-lines’, like watermarks, about 2-3cms apart, running along the length of the paper where it had originally been laid out upon wires to dry. Either side of these laid-lines you will see a browning effect, which is a measure of aging and cannot be faked - even in modern hand-made paper. The prices are all based on these items being in good condition and not damaged, although the blank margins or edges to the paper leaves themselves may be uneven or contain minor nicks or tears, not affecting the printed images. For the sake of protection in transit, they will be sent flat-packed* and lightly tacked with archival tape between modern, acid-free window mounts and backboards, and a guarantee of authenticity will accompany every purchase. As such, they make prestigous wall-decorations for the home, office or boardroom. No matter where displayed, they are sure to generate curiosity, fascination and interest.
* Some of the larger items will be sent, carefully rolled inside strong cardboard tubes.
How to order
Please check first by emailing HERE. You only need quote the reference number(s) of the item(s) you are interested in and I will immediaterly let you know about availability and give you a condition report. Then, if you still want to buy the item(s), let me know your mailing address, and your order will be sent to you at that address immediately I have been notified of your receipt of payment by PayPal. All the prices are quoted in British Pounds Sterling (£) [See ‘Currency Converter’.] but the cost of packing and postage will be add to the invoice. To all overseas countries, transit usually takes about one week. If, on receipt of the goods, you are not satisfied with any item(s) and return it or them promptly by recorded delivery to: John Faupel, Lemon Cottage, Truro, Cornwall TR3 6ED, UK, a full refund will be made to you, immediately upon their receipt. Thank you for your kind interest and hasppy browsing.
Theodore de Bry and his illustrated Voyages and Travels
Theodore de Bry may never have conceived of this great publication project had it not been for his chance encounter with a French painter, Jacques le Moyne in London over 400 years ago. Both men were the victims of religious persecution and passionately interested in the arts so, naturally, from this first meeting they got on well together. Although, at the time, de Bry knew nothing of publishing and his subsequent friendship with le Moyne was only transient, it deserves to be recorded in the chronicles of history, since there grew from this chance encounter one of the most profusely illustrated collections of voyages and travels ever published.
Theodore de Bry was probably born of Calvinist parentage, about the year 1528, in the Flemish town of Liège, near Brussels. As a young man he followed in his father’s footsteps and apprenticed as a goldsmith. The success of the family business can be gleaned from one of his early recollection1:
I was the offspring of parents, born of honourable standing, affluent circumstances and among the most respected ranks of the inhabitants of Liège.
And to his subsequent profession he evidently applied the usual Calvinist zeal for he went on to say:
But man was not bereft of wit to provide for himself: it is not by sleep or idle hours that famous men shine forth but by unwearied pains, indefatigable labour and the most burning love of truth.
But the Catholic government of Spain, which ruled the Netherlands at the time, became increasingly worried about the reformist attitudes of the Protestant faith. The new religion was particularly popular among artisans and skilled craftsmen of the southern Low Countries, such as the de Brys, who had been prevented from playing any part in the running of their own government. Some converted to the new faith for reasons of political expediency, others because of genuine conviction. Either way, the authorities’ reaction was the same: all outspoken Protestant-thinking was condemned and progressive literature, banned or destroyed. Gerard Mercator, for example, who was emerging as the founder of modern geography, was arrested and imprisoned for heresy in 1544. To make matters worse, all citizens of the Spanish Netherlands were subjected to ever increasing tax demands in order to finance Spanish wars overseas with which they, quite understandably, felt no patriotic affinity.
In 1555, when Charles V of Spain abdicated and his son, Philip II, took the throne, the oppression became worse. The Duke of Alva was sent out from Spain to enforce order under his infamous ‘Council of Blood’ regime and any householders that was considered a threat to the authorities were attacked, usually in the dead of night, and robbed of all their worldly possessions. It is quite likely that the de Brys were subjected to such persecution, for de Bry himself made an oblique reference to just such an event:
… stripped of all these belongings by … the attacks of robbers, I had to content against such adverse chance that only by my art could I fend for myself. Art alone remained to me of ample patrimony left me by my parents. On that, neither robbers nor the rapacious bands of thieves could lay hands.2
Although we do not know the date of this traumatic event, it may have been in the 1560s. It was a bleak decade: in the winter of 1565, for example, the sea froze and icebergs blocked the Baltic ports. Trade was severely hit and the following Sring the harvest failed, resulting in famine with riots at the corn market of Gent. Such hardships are skilfully depicted by the Flemish painter, Pieter Bruegel, the elder, who lived and worked in the same regions as de Bry. His ‘Hunters in the Snow’, which is dated 1565, evokes that harsh winter landscape but there are more sinister motives to some of his paintings. His ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’, for example, probably painted the previous winter, hints at Spanish imperial oppression. It purports to illustrates the wholesale murder of infants, when King Herod heard about the birth of ‘Christ the King’ but beneath this biblical veil lay a contemporary interpretation.
De Bry’s departure form Liège may also have been prompted by the birth of his two sons, Johann Theodore in 1561 and Johann Israel, who was born soon after. Although many Flemish Protestants went to England to escape persecution, others sought refuge in the Lutheran state of Frankfurt. Yet it was to Strasbourg that de Bry seems to have made his first move. He and his family would have been quite safe there, for the German-speaking city had become a stronghold for the new Protestant religion. Even the great Huguenot leader, Jean Calvin and his family had been happily settled in Strasbourg until 1541 when they were unexpectedly called back to Geneva.
Having been ‘stripped of all his belongings’, starting a new life with a young family to support must have been difficult for de Bry. He may have needed to supplement his work as a goldsmith with commissions for the new art of engraving on copper. This was a skill at which goldsmiths were becoming increasingly adept due to the growing demand for printed imagery. De Bry was probably influenced in his style of engraving by the delicate fancy and classical taste of another religious refugee, the esteemed French jeweller-engraver, Étienne de Laulne, who had also settled in Strasbourg.3
Although de Bry’s earliest known copperplate engraving is dated 1586, he had probably seen its potential and had acquired the skills of the gravure much earlier. Certainly, by the mid fifteen hundreds, the old fashioned and generally rather impractical woodblock method of relief-printing, perfected by Dürer, was beginning to be replaced by the much finer medium of intaglio printing from copperplates and a number of goldsmiths and artist-engravers, especially from the Low Countries, were quick to take advantage of this new medium.
By 1570 the first universal atlas, with 53 double-page copperplate engraved maps, appeared in print. This was the celebrated ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’, by Abraham Ortelius of Antwerp, which ran into many editions and was printed in several languages over the next 42 years. While browsing through the pages of this monumental work depicting strange lands, de Bry must have been filled with awe and admiration. Perhaps this was the seed that inspired his subsequent publications, for Ortelius’s map-embellishments, with swash lettering and ornate strapwork cartouches, are rather similar to those that began to appear in his own volumes twenty years later.
How long de Bry stayed in Strasbourg is not known, although it may have been only a few years. It has been suggested4 that he had connections with Frankfurt as early as 1570. Certainly, by 1588 he was well enough established to have petitioned for citizenship of that city.5 Yet, two years before this we know he was temporarily working in London. He had been commissioned, with others, to prepare copperplates for the English edition of the first sea atlas ever published6. While engaged in this work, he was unexpectedly asked to engrave an illustration of the funeral procession of Sir Philip Sidney, who had died in 1588 from an infected injury during his military campaigns against the Spanish rule in the Netherlands.
It is probably their mutual association with the Sidney family that resulted in that chance encounter in London between Theodore de Bry and Jacques le Moyne. Sir Philip Sidney’s mother, Lady Mary, was a patron of the arts and had probably put up money for Jacques le Moyne’s one and only publication – a small quarto volume, which appeared in print in that same year. It contained a dedication to her in the Preface, followed by numerous woodcut illustrations of plants and animals. Although these were drawn by le Moyne himself , they appear crudely executed compared to the new technique of copperplate engraving. So, when the two men met in 1586, the French artist must have realised de Bry could help him with the engravings for another, altogether more ambitious publishing project that he had been harbouring ever since his return from the New World over twenty years earlier.
In 1564, le Moyne had sailed to Florida with the French Huguenots, under the command of Captain René de Laudonnière. They had built a fort near the estuary of the St. Johns River and in attempting to set up a colony had sown the first seed of Protestantism on, what is today, United States soil. Le Moyne was the colonists’ official artist and he had been commissioned to observe and paint the Indians and their exotic way of life. In fact, he was probably the first European artist ever to do serious ethnographic studies of the indigenous peoples of North America. But the colony had been prone to misfortune from the start and the paintings were lost or destroyed when the Spanish attacked and killed many of the colonists fifteen months after they had first settled. No more than a handful of Frenchmen, including le Moyne himself, had managed to escape the terrible slaughter by wading all night through swamps and getting aboard a French ship anchored off-shore.
On his return to Europe, le Moyne vowed to publish his remarkable observations, even though they would have to be worked up from memory. So, when he unexpectedly met the engraver, de Bry, twenty-one years later, the opportunity suddenly presented itself to him. Both men quickly became good friends and de Bry willingly agreed to transcribe le Moyne’s paintings for him. Unfortunately, de Bry’s family were still in Frankfurt so he had to return briefly, perhaps to present his petition for citizenship to the authorities of that city. This he did and the following year returned to London to begin work on the transcriptions of le Moyne’s paintings but the Frenchman had quite suddenly died in the meantime. After the initial shock, de Bry must have quickly realised how important it was to save the project and probably, in a moment of rash speculation, persuaded le Moyne’s widow to sell him all her husband’s drawings and paintings in order that he might publish them himself.
Even though it has been suggested that it was de Bry’s single-minded intention to publish the work from the outset, there is no evidence to support this view. In fact, there are at least two reasons for believing de Bry’s decision was fortuitous, taken only after he learnt of le Moyne’s death. First, as much is hinted at in the Preface to his initial publication. This states:
‘ … when the good Theodor de Bry of Liège, a citizen of Frankfort, was visiting London in England, he formed a deep friendship with Morgues [the English derivation of le Moyne] and at the same time gathered information on a great many questions to do with the story, so that the publication of these matters was agreed between them. Then on Morgues’s death, the aforesaid Theodor bought the narrative for himself from the widow in the year 1587 6.5….’
But there is a second and perhaps more convincing reference, written by Richard Hakluyt in his Epistle to: ‘A Notable Historie containing foure voyages made by certaine French Captaynes unto Florida’7. This Hakluyt had translated from French into English and published in 1587. Hakluyt was one of Sir Philip Sidney’s closest friends – they had been at Christ Church, Oxford, together and had passionately believed that the colonisation of ‘that vast and New World of America’ was the only solution to the problems of over-population and unemployment in Protestant England. Evidently, just before le Moyne’s sudden death, Hakluyt had written in the introduction to this book:
‘ … of chiefest importance are lively drawen in colours at your no smale charges by the skilfull painter James Morgues [Jacques le Moyne] , yet living in the Blacke-fryers in London … which was an eye-witnesse of the goodnes & fertilitie of those regions, & hath put downe in writing many singularities which are not mentioned in this treatise: which he meaneth to publish together with the purtraitures before it be long …’
Although le Moyne had unexpectedly died soon after this, the implication is clear: he had intended to publish his own work on the ‘goodness & fertilitie of those regions’. So it was probably to Hakluyt that de Bry now turned for advice on how he himself might publish the paintings. Even though de Bry would have had no difficulty in transcribing these paintings onto copperplate, his knowledge, both of the subject-matter and of the publishing process were strictly limited. Hakluyt, however, was not only versed in publishing, he knew more than most of his contemporaries about voyages to America. In fact, five years earlier he had published his: ‘Diverse Voyages’8 and was currently amassing a wealth of relevant data for his magnum opus; the now famous: ‘Principall Navigations’9.
More important, though, he had the right contacts. Among his many friends and acquaintances was the brilliant young mathematician and astronomer to be, Thomas Hariot, who was employed to look after Sir Walter Ralegh’s library. Only three years previously, Hariot had been with an expedition to Virginia10 and, in less than a year, had surveyed the coasts and rivers around Pamlico Sound. He also collected together a mass of data about the ‘beasties’, ‘fishe’, ‘foule’ and ‘fruite’, along with the produce and people of that region. Moreover, an artist, John White, had been on the same expedition and his paintings of the Algonquin Indians were now beginning to collect dust in Ralegh’s library. In fact, White had been put in charge of a second colony and was already on his way back to the New World, while Hariot had just published11, or was about to publish, his own findings concerning that region.
Hakluyt must have quickly realised that the combined material, both from White and Hariot’s field work on ‘Virginia’ would make an ideal companion piece to de Bry’s proposed Florida publication. If, therefore, he were prepared to publish a Virginia volume before his intended Florida volume, Hakluyt would help him and arrange with Ralegh to loan him the material to do so. This, surely, was an offer that could not be refused. De Bry could hardly have believed his luck; he had only recently arrived back in London for a one-off engraving commission and would now be able to return to Frankfurt with an invaluable wealth of original manuscript data for, not just one but two publications.
What little the European public knew about the New World at that time came mainly from hearsay and the few illustrated books11.5 about that newly discovered land contained only a few simple woodcuts, inspired more by myth than by observation. Moreover, in that very year,1588, the defeat of the Spanish Armada would break the stranglehold that Catholic Spain had had over the Americas from the time of its discovery. The door had now suddenly opened for Protestants to go forth and colonise those lands. Hakluyt’s dream would soon become reality and de Bry, who for personal reasons was incensed by the spread of Catholicism, could play his part in encouraging the ‘rightful’ claim of Protestants to settle in America, with the publication of his two books.
Fired by religious zeal, de Bry arrived back in Frankfurt eager to start work on publication. His two sons could help him as they were now in their twenties and apprenticed in the art of gravure. He also engaged a Dutch engraver, Gysbert van Veen and employed the services of ‘a verye worshipfull frend’ to prepare the translations of the text. To the 21 engraved plates that they transcribed from John White’s paintings12, de Bry was now able to add below each plate a brief description, already supplied by Hariot, along with his folding map of that region. A new plate, composed by de Bry, himself, called: ‘The arrival of the Englishmen in Virginia’ was added at the beginning to demonstrate that nation’s claim to that land.
An introductory plate of ‘Adam and Eve’, also designed and engraved by de Bry, was included and, added at the end, were five plates of Picts, transcribed from some of John White’s earlier watercolours. Then, for the introduction to the volume, de Bry re-issued verbatim the text from Hariot’s little book. The English edition was completed in April 1590. In that same year, translations into Latin, German and French quickly followed. On completion of the text and plates, de Bry instructed his printer, Johann Wechel, to begin the printing, so that the copperplates and intaglio text could be collated and bound in small folio for sale via the celebrated Frankfurt bookseller, Sigismund Feyeraband.
Sales exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. While the whole family tried to cope with the insatiable demand for the Virginia volume, Theodore de Bry busily worked on the copperplates for the Florida volume. Unfortunately, though, with le Moyne now resting in his grave, he had only the incomplete paintings and manuscript notes, along with Laudonniere’s text as source data to work on. There was now no person alive with first-hand knowledge of Florida to turn to for help in putting all this data together.
Working alone, de Bry would undoubtedly have found this second publishing project much more difficult to compile into a coherent whole than the Virginia volume. For his introductory text, he used a brief account of le Moyne’s experiences in Florida, along with an engraving he had done of Noah’s Ark. And, in order to follow the same format as the Virginia volume, a folding map of Florida, whose peculiar configuration tells another story, was also included. Despite the embellishments of this map, which clearly indicate de Bry’s composition, its important cartographic origins are unknown, even though one study goes a long way to solving the mystery13. There followed forty-two engravings, each with a title above and descriptive text below. The first seven of these engravings illustrated the pioneering voyage of the French to that region in 1562, under Jean Ribaut, with Laudonnière as second in command. This was two years before le Moyne ever set foot on Florida soil. Evidently, these first engravings must have been de Bry’s own compositions, derived from the text in Laudonniere’s book, which in most cases was also used for the descriptions. The first of these shows the French landing and demonstrated their claim to that land.
All the subsequent illustrations relate to the second voyage, under Laudonnière’s sole command when le Moyne was present, between June 1564 and September 1565. The trouble is that none13.5 of the original le Moyne paintings or manuscript-notes are extant, so we cannot say for certain how truly representative these engravings are of his work. The result is probably a curious mixture of fact and fiction. A careful study13.7 of the forty-two plates that appeared in the ‘Florida’ volume would suggest about ten were entirely de Bry’s own invention, thirteen were very loosely derived from le Moyne’s work and another nineteen were probably principally transcribed from the artist’s original paintings or drawings.
The Florida volume appeared in small folio in 1591 with Latin text. A German edition was printed soon after, in that same year. There is a reference on the title page to this volume being ‘the second part of America’, even though there was no reference to a ‘first part of America’ in the previous Virginia volume. This suggests that only after realising the enormous popularity of the Virginia volume did de Bry conceive of an on-going series relating to America. This ‘second part of America’ was quickly followed by ‘the third part’, illustrating voyages to Brazil. The original data used for this publication, however, had already been in print for some years14 and, although it contained a few woodcut illustrations from which de Bry’s copperplates were derived, they served only as simple guides to some of his far more elaborate transcriptions. But de Bry’s volume included many other copperplates too, inspired only by the descriptions in the original text. A decorative folding map, whose geography was partly derived from the lower section of Ortelius’s ‘Ameriae Sive Novi Orbis’, was also included. This volume was first published with Latin text in 1592 and then with German text the following year. Although the name of de Bry’s bookseller, Sigismund Feyerabend, appeared on the title page to the first edition of Part III, because he had died in that same year subsequent volumes omitted his name. De Bry had evidently decided to incorporate the selling part of the operation into his own engraving and publishing business. Henceforth, he and his family became known, not only as engravers and publishers but booksellers too.
Whereas Part III is comparable at least in its splendid appearance with the two previous volumes, the substance of its contents are inferior. This is because, not only is the textual information it contains simply a re-issue of previously published works but also because most of the illustrations are principally the invention of the engraver, inspired only by descriptions and woodcuts in the original text. With a few exceptions, this same practice was followed for the next fifty years in all of de Bry’s subsequent publications.
The source data from which de Bry was to obtain information for the next three parts of his series about America, was a little book, written by an Italian adventurer, Girolamo Benzoni15, who travelled extensively from 1541 to 1555 throughout the West Indies, Central and South America. On his return to Italy he published an account of his experiences, along with a few woodcut illustrations and a loose history, taken from Spanish sources, of some of the first Europeans in the New World. Benzoni’s book first appeared in print with Italian text in 1565 and, being popular, was subsequently re-issued in several other languages before de Bry decided to publish and illustrate it himself. This he did in three separate parts and the first of these, Part IV of his America series, appeared in small folio in 1594 and contained an engraved title page, with 24 plates, loosely derived from some of the text and woodcut illustrations contained in Benzoni’s original work. Also included in this volume was a wonderful folding map of the West Indies, whose origin is unknown. Even though the embellishments are clearly de Bry’s own style, he was certainly no cartographer so he must have had access to manuscript data, not now extant, on which to base the geography of the map.
To this volume, de Bry also added a set of important illustrations not found in Benzoni. These were re-engraved from four allegorical pictures found in a rare continental picture atlas of America, which is believed to have been first published in Antwerp about 158515.5. In de Bry’s volume they appear in contre-épreuve and on a slightly smaller scale than originally issued.
The next part of Benzoni’s book formed Part V of de Bry’s America series. By way of introduction to this volume, he included a medallion portrait of Columbus, beneath which appeared the words:
The king and queen of Spain commissioned a leading artist of the day to paint a portrait of Columbus so there would be some memory of him if he failed to return. I obtained the original of this portrait recently … and I have had it etched in bronze by my son, which I offer to you here with this book.
Although there still are in existence many early portraits of Columbus, all are thought to have been painted posthumously. If de Bry’s claim is true, therefore: this engraving may depict the great explorer’s appearance more accurately than all others.
Also within this volume there is an engraved title page and 22 plates, all of which are derived from the text or woodcuts in Benzoni’s original book. There is also a folding map of New Spain, which has clearly been derived from the cartography of Ortelius16, although Bry had evidently added his own embellishments. The style of the plates, however, is distinct and perhaps not quite as fluent as that of the plates in the previous volumes. From this it might be inferred that they were engraved by one of de Bry’s sons, probably the elder, Johann Theodore, on whom he must have increasingly begun to rely for the running of the business. The text accompanying the Columbus portrait, quoted above, also supports this view.
De Bry was about 67 when this volume was published and he was feeling the strain that this rapidly developing publishing business was beginning to demand of him relatively late in his life. In the first four years, since its inception, no less than eighteen volumes, making up the first four parts, had been issued. In the next four years, which were to be the last of his life, only eleven volumes were issued, making up the next three parts. Even though, it must be admitted, this is still a considerable output by most standards, it represents a 39% reduction in volumes and a 25% reduction in parts, on the first four years.
Part VI contains an engraved title page and 28 plates, probably also engraved by his son, Johann Theodore, from that part of Benzoni’s text, which described the conquest of Peru. Along with these went a folding plan of Cuzco, derived from one of Ramusio’s bird’s-eye views17 and a map derived from the Western Hemisphere section of Plancius’s World Map18, both of which had the de Bry embellishments added in. The next volume, Part VII, was first published in German in 1597. It is different from the others in that it does not contain any new illustrations. Apart from the engraved title page, which used the same plate as that illustrated in Part III, and a single illustration, which had also appeared in Part III, it contains only a re-issue of text already published 30 years earlier, describing voyages to Brazil and the Rio de la Plata19.
By the time this volume appeared in print, de Bry was 69 and there were signs that the ever increasing demand for such sumptuously illustrated volumes about the New World, was taking its toll on his health. As a fellow Protestant and good friend of de Bry’s, the eminent Pierre Joly, Sieur de Bionville, wrote of him:
‘… now almost seventy years of age, and at a time when men are unfitted for more laborious actions, he still pursues his former skills. Least he grow benumbed with unfruitful ease, he spends all his days on his engravings and typographical works, although he is daily weakened with gout and his hands and fingers are contracted into knots.’
On March 27th 1598, the year following the publication of the German edition of Part VII, de Bry closed his tired eyes for the last time. At the time of his death an edition with Latin text was being prepared for publication the following year. So too were both the German and Latin editions of Part VIII , which was to described voyages to the Americas by Drake, Cavendish and Ralegh. And, no doubt, during the final days of his life, de Bry had been discussing with members of his family several other publishing projects.
The most important of these, in fact, had already been started and comprised a completely new parallel series of volumes, illustrating voyages and travels to the East Indies. This series was, no doubt, brought about by the appearance in print of a rival publication, which described voyages and travels of the Portuguese to the East Indies20 and it had been published two years before de Bry’s death, by the Dutchman, Jan Huygen van Linschoten. Because it was comparable in its quality and appearance to the de Bry publications, it must have been seen by the de Bry’s as a serious threat to their hitherto unrivalled position throughout Europe as illustrators and publishers of voyages and travels.
Surely it was no coincidence, therefore, that within a year of the appearance of this rival publication and the year before Theodore de Bry’s death, his family had produced the first of this new series of voyages and travels to the East Indies, with German text, followed a year later by the Latin version. The ‘East India’ series, as they are sometimes called, were also published in folio but in a slightly smaller page size than the America volumes. In order to distinguish the East India series from his America series, the two parallel sets subsequently became known among bibliophiles as de Bry’s Petits Voyages and his Grands Voyages, respectively.
After Theodore de Bry’s death, the business was at first run by his son, Johann Theodore and then by his grandson, Matthäus Merian and grandson-in-law, William Fitzer. Exactly what part de Bry’s widow and his other son played in the business is unclear but they certainly seemed to have retained some interest. After all, it must have become a very profitable venture for the whole family. Together, they continued to publish volumes of the Grands and Petits Voyages for another 46 years. The last volume, a third edition of the Part IV of the America series, finally appeared in print in 1644.
In all, fourteen parts in German, thirteen in Latin, one in English and one in French, make up the Grands Voyages. To these must be added the ‘Elenchus’, published in 1634 by Merian, which was a collective title and table of contents of these same volumes. Another thirteen parts in German and twelve in Latin, made up the Petits Voyages, along with an appendix to the First Part, published separately both in Latin and German. Both the Grands and Petits Voyages together comprise fifty-seven parts and make up a complete set of de Bry’s ‘Voyages and Travels’.
Only a few of the finest libraries in the world possess complete copies of such sets but as one antiquarian bookseller, who for years specialised in the de Bry publications, wrote rather discouragingly 21:
By the time the De Bry collector has arrived at the profound and happy stage of securing a complete straight set, he begins to realise that he has so far barely touched the fringe of the subject, and is only at the commencement of his real quest. He finds that he has merely laid the foundations, as it were, on which to build the superstructure of a really fine Collection of De Bry. It suddenly dawns on him that, if he has caught the De Bry fever, his “appetite had grown by what it fed on”, and become insatiable. Having crossed the Rubicon, he must needs go on and endeavour to add to his Collection every other known edition. With renewed hopes and with his ambitions fired anew, he again sets out in search of the thirty-five or forty additional parts which still have to be secured to complete a set of all the editions of every part.
But if the acquisition of the original fifty-seven parts had proved an arduous task, it was nothing to the difficulties which now have to be surmounted, for they increase tenfold, nay even a hundredfold, as the set approaches nearer to completion…
This was written more than fifty years ago in days of fruitful harvest for the antiquarian book collector. Since then the search has widened to include, not just ‘thirty-five or forty additional parts’ but seventy-five, no less, and still the insurmountable treasurehunt goes on. Below are listed chronologically all the editions, issues, states and variances that have been identified to date by the writer. In preparing this list I have included, among other sources, all the volumes described in the two most important bibliographical authorities on the subject22, yet other editions may still come to light.
[Note: In the following list, the Grands Voyages are suffixed (g), the Petits Voyages (p); NM = National Maritime Museum Library, London (the shelf mark for the de Bry collection here is: 912.4 214/162: 094); Ch. = Church (see footnote 22 below); BL = British Library, London; JCB = John Carter Brown Library, RI; Lx. = Lenox Library; Fkt. = Frankfurt; Opp. = Oppenheim.]
The difficulties intrinsic to the exercise of identifying the various editions, issues, states and variances of de Bry are so considerable that they may never allow the final word to be written on the subject. Not least of these difficulties, are those arising from an incompatibility between describing printed books that involve both a relief letterpress process for the text and an intaglio engraved process for the copperplate illustration. As this subject is of a specialist nature, I shall here make only passing reference to it. 23 In the case of most of the de Bry illustrations, with titles above and descriptive texts below, both processes have been used on the same page and they would have had to be printed, not only on different machines but possibly also in different workshops and sometimes at different times too.
This has led to problems of poor plate registration with text, incompatibility of plate and text (which, when spotted by the publisher, was sometimes corrected by ‘overlaying’ the wrong plate with the correct one to which the text referred) and inversions of plates to text, which again could be corrected by overlaying. Then there are plates that were subsequently added to, altered or re-worked, became cracked or even replaced by completely new or re-engraved plates. To the writer’s knowledge, none of these subjects, with respect to de Bry’s Voyages and Travels, has been analysed comprehensively. This is probably, not simply because of the enormity of the task but also because of the scarcity of the source material.
Because there was evidently little effective copyright law in de Bry’s day, plagiarism was a practice common among publishers at that time. Although de Bry seems to have been incensed by the practice and feared he might become a victim himself, even he was not exempt from plagiarising other people’s work. It must have been to plagiarism that he was referring, when he wrote, ‘to the gently reader’, at the beginning of Part I of the America series:
I hartlye Request thee, that yf any seeke to Countrefaict thes my bookx, (for in this dayes many are so malicious that they seeke to gayne by other men labours) thow wouldest give noe credit unto suche counterfaited Drawghte. For dyvers secret marks lye hiddin in my pictures, which wil breede Confusion unless they bee well observed.
Although some of these ‘secret marks’ have been identified in various bibliographies, there are probably many others that, even to this day, have not come to light. One study24 highlighted no less than six in Part I of the America series alone, of which the illustration below is just one example:
In their desire to make up what they believe to be perfect volumes of de Bry, some bibliophiles who were not aware of these ‘secret marks’ have combined plates with their associated text from two or more imperfect copies that are not compatible. The results have turned out to be hybrids of plates from different editions of the same parts, which do not match. This practice may even have been initiated by members of the de Bry household themselves when stocks of some plates ran down and had to be made up from other miscellaneous stock. As stocks of the earlier parts ran out, individual parts were sometimes re-printed to make up complete sequences of all the parts to date, and these were then sometimes bound together collectively into a single volume. It was not uncommon, for example, to find within the same covers the first four, five or six parts of either the Grands Voyages or the Petits Voyages, then subsequently perhaps, the first nine or ten parts. This exercise had the curious effect of making plates from the earlier parts less rare than those from the later parts because the earlier parts were reprinted more often.
By the early sixteen hundreds the family estate, which would have included stocks of unbound text and plates, became fragmented, probably by indiscriminate distribution among de Bry’s descendants through inheritance. The younger son, Johann Israel, for example, died in 1611 and soon after his older brother, Johann Theodore, moved to Oppenheim. From there he published a number of the voyages and travels, even though he still seems to have maintained a connection with Frankfurt. This led to further confusion and the replacement of original plates by completely new ones or the re-engravings of old ones, sometimes in contre-épreuve, to make up complete parts. Then, subsequently, there were ‘Abridgements’ of the original volumes, which were published by de Bry’s descendants – at first by Ziegler and then by Gottfriedt25. These contained many of the original plates, but which had to be re-set without titles into continuous text on both recto and verso and some had to be re-worked or re-engraved. To the serious collector, though, the Abridgements are of far less interest and value than the volumes or plates from the original parts, mainly on account of their inferior quality and layout.
Despite all these difficulties, for anyone who is brave enough to embark on the bitter-sweet voyage of starting a collection of de Bry, the writer recommends he or she first heed well the words of one bibliographer26 who had gained more experience than most in this wonderful foolhardy pursuit:
What a bibliographical chord am I striking, in the mention of the Travels of De Bry! What a “Peregrination” does the possession of a copy of his labours imply! What toil, difficulty, perplexity, anxiety, and vexation attend the collector – be he young or old – who sets his heart upon a Perfect De Bry! How many have started on this pursuit, with gay spirit and well-replenished purses, but have turned from it in despair, and abandoned it in utter hopelessness of achievement!’
These days, the engraved illustrations are far more accessible to the collector than complete and perfect bound volumes. Because many of these illustrations, with their associated titles above and descriptive texts below, represent historical events in the history and discovery of distant lands, they have become collectors items in their own right. Whether they are sought for their historical, geographical or ethnographic content, or simply as examples of early copperplate art, they make attractive wall-pieces in their own right and are worthy of mounting and framing.
De Bry’s illustrations continue to be reproduced ubiquitously in historical reference works of non-fiction right up to the present day and, although many may be familiar to the general public, comparatively little is known about their origin and author. Theodore de Bry’s legacy is clearly a very considerable one: for the sheer number of engravings and sumptuously illustrated volumes of voyages and travels, his publishing venture has remained almost unrivalled to the present day but for reliability and accuracy of content, his work must be treated with more caution. A simple example will suffice to illustrate the point. It concerns his transcription of John White’s painting, in his very first publication of the Grands Voyages:
Here, it can be seen that the original painting to the left, has become altogether more romanticised in the engraved transcription to the right. Consequently, some of its indigenous reality has been lost. Maybe this is a harsh criticism of work produced at a time when art and science were inseparable. However, it shows that de Bry’s aim was that his work should be accepted by the general public, more for its appearance than for the objective information it conveyed. Any such transformation of source data would otherwise have been entirely unwarranted. It is a feature that pervades all of de Bry’s work.
Nevertheless, more than anything else, it was the ‘indefatigable labours’ of Theodore de Bry, more than four hundred years ago, that gave birth to this publishing venture and caused it to grow to monumental proportions. Yet there are other unsung heroes to the saga. Those most worthy of mention are that remarkable French painter, Jacques le Moyne, whose paintings of Florida Indians haunt de Bry’s engravings in Part II of the Grands Voyages, and inspired him to write at the outset to his work:
I have in hand the Historye of Florida … A Victorye, doubtless so Rare, as I thinke the like hath not ben heard nor seene.
Alas, none of le Moyne’s original ‘Historye’ survived26.5, so we can only speculate on its real importance . If, however, his watercolours of European flora and fauna27, which did survive, were anything to go by he would probably have been remembered as a pioneer ethnographic artist of unrivalled skills. Then there was his English counterpart: the artist, John White, whose very creditable watercolours of the ‘Virginia’ Indians, painted twenty years later, became known to the public only through de Bry’s first publication. Credit for helping to launch de Bry’s publishing project should also go to Richard Hakluyt, whose vision and encouragement transformed the status of de Bry, almost overnight, from an engraver into a publisher of unrivalled popularity and success.
But, if we agree with de Bry: that famous men shine forth … by unwearied pains, indefatigable labour and the most burning love of truth, then the greatest honour of all should go to that exceptional renaissance man, Thomas Hariot, whose epitaph this should really be. Although his remarkably informative, yet prosaic little book about Virginia went almost unnoticed at first, when the text was re-issued two years later with White’s illustrations of Virginia Indians added in, along with Hariot’s map of ‘Virginia’ – a map which, incidentally, has been described as ‘the most carefully detailed piece of cartography for any part of North America to be made in the sixteenth century’28 – it resulted in a publication, whose presentation almost rivalled in beauty the importance of its content. In any event, it was largely because of Hariot that this first part of the Grands Voyages alone kindled, among the educated elite of Europe, such a thirst for knowledge about the lesser known parts of the world that de Bry was never again able to quench their thirst equally in more than fifty subsequent years of publishing.
1 ‘Icones quinquaginta virorum illustrium’ Preface [Pars I], Frankfurt, 1597
3 M S Giuseppi The Work of Theodore de Bry and his Sons, Engravers, ‘Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London’, Vol. XI., No.2, London 1916, p218
4 Gwinner, P F Kunst und Künstler in Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt 1862, p.82
5 Colvin, S Early Engraving and Engravers in England, London 1905
6 Waggenaer, L Sphieghel der Zeevaert, Leyden 1584 was the first edition in Latin. De Bry worked on the plates for the English edition, called The Mariners’ Mirrour, which was published in London in 1588, the year after he began the engravings.
6.5 In fact, le Moyne probably died in 1588, see: P. Hulton ‘The Work of Jacques le Moyne …’, Brisish Museum, London 1977, p 12.
7 This is the first English translation of R de Laudonnière’s: ‘L’histoire notable de la Floride …’, published posthumously the previous year in Paris. 1586. It describes, not only the 1564 voyage under Laudonnière’s command, but the pioneering voyage of 1562 under Ribaut’s command, and the two subsequent voyages, viz. Ribaut’s return voyage in 1565 and the Gourgues’ vendetta voyage of 1582.
8 ‘Diverse voyages, touching the discoverie of America …’, London 1582 – a work of extreme rarity and interest because it was intended to introduce the ‘English nation to establish colonies in America’.
9 R. Hakluyt: ‘The Princall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation …’, London 1589, which contains no less than 825 pages of text, maps and many voyages to the Americas.
10 Actually, they went to the Pamlico Sound region of North Carolina and Hariot’s surprisingly accurate map, illustrated with embellishments in de Bry’s first volume, covers the region from Chesapeake Bay to Cape Fear.
11 T. Hariot: ‘A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia’, London 1588. Comprising only 23 leaves in small quarto, this inconspicuous little book is, for its time, of outstanding merit in its objective presentation of data.
11.5 The Spanish, who by this time had explored extensively throughout the Americas, were still secretive about their discoveries and publication in Spain was restrictive.
12 A comparison, where possible, of John White’s original watercolours with the copperplates in de Bry’s ‘Virginia’ volume shows the engraver used a certain amount of artistic licence and thereby considerably diluted the authenticity of the originals.
13 Appendix IV of ‘A Foothold in Florida’ based on a translation by S. Lawson, with annotations and appendices by W J Faupel, East Grinstead 1992, goes some way to explaining the enigma.
13.5 Some believe a small watercolour in the New York Public Library is the original of Plate 8, from this volume but there are reasons for thinking the converse. See Ibid, footnote 41, p 168
13.7 Ibid., Appendix I
14 H. Staden ‘Warhaftig Historia und beschreibung …’, Marburg 1557 and: J de Léry ‘Historia Navigationis in Brasiliam quæ et America …’, Geneva 1586, which contained only a few woodcut illustrations.
15 G. Benzoni ‘La Historia del Mondo Nuovo …’, Venice 1565. Although Church [No.153] says it was a subsequent Latin edition: ‘Novae Novi Orbis Historiæ …’, Geneva 1578, whose text de Bry used, this does not appear to have the woodcuts from which de Bry derived some of his copperplates, as found in the first edition.
15.5 J. Stradanus ‘Americae Retectio’, Antwerp c1585. For an analysis of this work, see: J Sabin , also ‘The Map Collector’ Issue No.2, March 1978 pp 22-3.
16 The first appearance of this map was in the 1579 Additamentum to A Ortelius’s atlas: ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’, originally published in Antwerp 1570
17 ‘Il Cuscho Citta …’, which appeared in G. B. Ramusio’s ‘Delle navigatigationi et viaggi’, Vencie 1563-5.
18 P. Plancius ‘Orbis Terrarum Typus …’, Amsterdam 1594
19 The text was taken from part of Ulrich Schmidt [Schmidel] and others ‘Ander theil dieses Welt-buchs von Schiff-fahrten …’, which had been published in Frankfurt in 1567 by, none other than de Bry’s ex-bookseller, Sigmund Feirabends.
20 J H van Linschoten ‘Itinerario, Voyage ofte Schipvaert …Oost ofte Portugales Indien …’, Amsterdam 1596. This contained 36 plates and six folding maps which, in quality, were probably considered comparable if not finer than any of the de Bry’s publications to date.
21 H N Stevens ‘The de Bry collector’s painfull Peregrinations along the pleasant Pathway to Perfection, [privately printed] London c1950
22 E D Church ‘A Catalogue of Books relating to the Discovery and early History of North and South America’, New York, 1907 [No. 140-246], and: J Sabin ‘A Dictionary of Books relating to America’, New York, 1868 . Earlier attempts at cataloguing de Bry include the Earl of Crawford’s Bibliotheca Lindensiana, Collations and Notes, No 3, of 1884 and A. G. Camus’ Mémoire sur la Collection des Grands et Petits Voyages, of 1802 but they are not so comprehensive.
23 C Verner ‘ Carto-bibliographical Description: The Analysis of variants in maps printed in Copperplates’ American Cartographer, inaugural number, pp77-87, and: G T Tansselle ‘The Description on non-letterpress Material in Books’, Studies in Bibliography, Univ. Virginia, 1982.
24 W J Faupel ‘A brief and true Report of the new found Land of Virginia – a Study of the de Bry Engravings’, East Grinstead 1989, Fig. 1, Fig. 1.9 & Fig. 1.10
25 J L Gottfriedt [see J P Abelin] ‘Newe Welt und Americanische Historien’, Merian 1655 [Sabin (ref.50) states the first edition was 1631 and a fictitious 1651 edition.]
26 T F Dibdin ‘Library Companion’ p 382.
26.5 A painting in the New York Public Library, from which Plate 8, from Part II of the Grands Voyages is thought to derive, is believed by some to be an original le Moyne painting but ‘A Foothold in Florida’, 1992, footnote 41, p168 suggests the painting derives from the engraving.
27 Many are now in the Natural History Museum, London: see: P. Hulton ‘The Work of Jacques le Moyne de Morgues – a Huguenot Artist in France, Florida and England’, British Museum, London 1977, which has good reproductions of all le Moyne’s known works.
28 D B Quinn ‘The Roanoke Voyages 1584-1590’, Hakluyt Soc., London 1955, pp 847-8.
Appendix (click on index number to go back to text)