A Foundation Work for the History of America

Iconic Illustrations, including Mexico, Peru & the Pacific

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56. BRY, Theodor de & family (compilers). [ACOSTA, José de, Barent Jansz Potgieter & Olivier van Noort]. Americæ nona & postrema pars. Qva de ratione elementorvm: De Novi Orbis natvra; De hvivs incolarvm svperstitiosis cultibus: deq; forma politiæ ac reipubl. ipsorum copiosè pertractatur: Catalogo Regum Mexicanorum omnium, à primo vsq; ad vltimum Motecumam II. addito: cui etiam ritus eoruum coronationis, ac ritus eorum coronationis, ac sepulturæ annectitur, cum enumeratione bellorum, quæ mutuò Indigesserunt. HiC accessit designatio illivs navigationis, quam 5. naves Hollandicæ anno 1598. per fretum Magellanum in Moluccanas insulas tentarunt: quomodo nimirum oborta tempestate Capitaneus Sebalt de Weert à cæteris navibus dispulsus, postquam plurimis mensibus in freto infinitis ærumnis miserè iactatus fuisset, tandem infecta re post biennium An. 1600. domum reversus sit. Addita est tertio navigatio recens, quam 4. Navium praefectus Olevier à Noort proximè suscepit: qui freto Magellinaco classe transmisso, triennii spatio universum terræ orbem seu globum mira navigationis forte obivit: annexis illis, quæ in itinere ipso singularia ac memorabiliora notata sunt. Omnia è Germanico Latinitate donata, & in super elegantissimis figuris æneis coornata editaq. sumptibus Theodori de Bry p.m. Viduæ & binorum filiorum. Frankfurt: Matthew Becker, 1602. Part I: [8 (including title page in passe-partout & half title with copper-engraved coat of arms of Christian II)], 1-362, [2, blank] pp.; Part II: [1-2] 3-56 [p. 55 misnumbered 56] pp., 1 copper-engraved map of the Straits of Magellan showing Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia (Fretvm Magellanicvm, und dessen eiyentliche Beschreibung, so die hollender durch schifft und auch der leng beschreiben), [2], i-xxv folios of copper-engraved text illustrations & text; Part III: [1-2] 3-100 pp., [2], i-xiv folios of copper-engraved text illustrations & text. Plates depict Native customs and industry, views of battles and ships, town plans, bird’s-eye views, etc.; woodcut head- and tailpieces, initials. Total of 39 copper-plate engravings plus copper-engraved map. Folio (34.2 x 23.8 cm), modern three-quarter crimson calf over marbled boards with gilt-lettered spine, raised bands. Very good, map tattered and with old paper repair at lower blank border edge. Parts I & III washed with professional repairs, Part I with a few worm holes touching text, Part II title page with old paper repair at right blank margin, blank leaf after p. 362 supplied. Typical light browning to text leaves (almost always seen in this series), but generally not affecting maps and plates, which are in excellent impressions. Overall a very good copy. Part II with old ink signature of Wlm. Oldys and with printed bookplate “Ex Bibliotheca Hospitii Dominorum Advocatorum De Arcubus Londini” on title page verso. As is the case with a large number of De Bry volumes, this one is made up of parts of several copies.
     First edition, first issue, without overlays, from De Bry’s “Grand Voyages,” which Boise Penrose praised as “the cornerstone of every library of Americana” (Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance, 1420-1620), p. 310. JCB I (1 to 1599), pp. 406-408. Brunet I, col. 1331. Church 168. Crawford, De Bry 145. European Americana 1602/1 & 1602/72. Griffin, Books on the Philippines Islands in the Library of Congress, p. 24. Hoe, Vol. 1, pp. 152-153. Palau 36468n. Sabin 8784 (3:42-43). Streit 2:1340. Wilgus, pp. 31-32: “De Bry, like Hakluyt and Eden, played an important part in calling the attention of Europe to things American.”

     Part I is a translation of Jesuit Acosta’s Historia natural y moral de las Indias (1590), one of the very first detailed and realistic descriptions of the New World by one who travelled there extensively. The work of Acosta (1540-1600) is remarkable for the depth of learning and observation that it incorporates, qualities that make it laudable even today despite the typical intellectual and spiritual errors that mar it, products of the time in the which the author lived. His work, unlike others of his fellow historians, added little to the leyenda negra and is, therefore, lacking the spectacular illustrations that were embodied in other works. According to JCB, “Although Acosta’s work appeared first in Latin at Salamanca in 1589, and again in Cologne in 1596, a new version was prepared for De Bry.” Acosta’s history became the view of Pre-Columbian culture and the Conquest widely known to northern Europeans in the seventeenth century, and the dramatic illustrations added by De Bry to the present edition cemented the iconography of the Aztecs, such as the classical idea of their primary deity, Huitzilopochtli. Elizabeth H. Boone, “Incarnations of the Aztec Supernatural: The Image of Huitzilopochtli in Mexico and Europe” in Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 79, No. 2 (1989), p. 61:

The large copper-plate engravings that embellished [De Bry’s] volumes were the first serious attempt to illustrate the literature of the New World with any degree of accuracy. It is hard to overstress their importance to the European audience, for they established the iconographic program of the Americas. Previous images of the New World were few, and most were necessarily simple woodcuts without the clarity and precision of line or the detail of presentation encouraged by the development of copper-plate engraving in the sixteenth century. The sturdy copper plates also allowed for larger print runs, so that the De Bry images became widely known through the vast distribution of the “Grands Voyages” series. In this, the De Bry family gave Europe the first consistent pictorial image of the New World as a whole.

     Part II is a translation of Barent Jansz Potgieter’s journal Relatio historica (first edition in Dutch, 1600). Potgieter accompanied Sebald de Weert on his 1599-1600 voyage to the Pacific through the Straits of Magellan. Potgieter, the barber-doctor on the ship, was well educated, an author, and a gifted cartographer and draughtsman. Potgieter’s journal is the only surviving one from this voyage. De Weert captained the first Dutch ship to transverse the Strait. The map Fretvm Magellannicvm (South America, Straits of Magellan, and Tierra del Fuego with south at the top) shows a profile of the geography of the strait, sea banks or shoals, scale, dividers, and compass rose; below in image is a key lettered for identification of various elements. Included are five Native Americans, including a child, (one is thought to be a Patagonian giant) and a penguin. See The Map Collector, Issue 9, p. 8 (G13). Although not mentioned directly, the discovery of Antarctica is present in this book in the description of Dirk Gerritz’s fleet and its depiction on the title page of Part II. These ships are believed to be the first to have seen the continent in 1599. See Edwin Swift Balch, “Antarctica: A History of Antarctic Discovery” in Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol. CLI, No. 4 (April 1901), pp. 244-245.

     Part III is Olivier van Noort’s Additamentum nonae partis Americae (first edition in Dutch, 1601), with an illustrated title depicting van Noort flanked by two Native men (one covered in tattoos and the other wearing feathered headdress and garment), two hemispheres of the world, ship, bows, and arrows. Van Noort (1558-1627) was the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the globe (1598-1601). After a rough passage via the Straits of Magellan, Van Noort reached the Pacific in 1600, sailing along the Pacific coast of Chile to Peru and New Spain, and on to the Mariana Islands, Manila, Borneo, and Java. He attacked numerous Spanish interests during the voyage, as described and illustrated herein. This section also includes a few images from the Far East and Japan and is particularly important for its introduction of Far Eastern topics into Europe. Four of the images in this section are listed by Chirino (Cartography of the Philippines).

     Theodor de Bry (1528-1598), a skilled copper-plate engraver and goldsmith, bookseller, printer, and publisher, established himself in Frankfurt-am-Main as a publisher of lavishly illustrated travel narratives and other works. Following his death, his widow and two sons (Johann Theodor and Johann Israel) carried on the ambitious publishing venture. The output of this family was phenomenal, and between 1590 and 1634, the firm published ninety editions of twenty-seven different narratives in Latin, German, French, and English. De Bry’s books reached a wide audience, were often translated, and exerted a strong influence in establishing the image of the New World in the minds of Europeans. The images of early colonial global expansion and Native American ethnography run the gamut from whimsical to beautiful to sometimes gruesome. See Michiel Van Groesen, The Representations of the Overseas World in the De Bry Collection of Voyages, 1590-1634 (Brill Academics, 2008).

     Iconography includes many images of Europeans and Native Americans in combat; the founding of Tenochtitlán or Mexico City (an eagle devours a bird while perched on a tree beside a river while Native Mexicans bow down before the eagle and other men pole floating gardens on a raft down the river); funerary rites of the Aztec; religious rites of the Aztec including priests flagellating and Huitzilopochtli (deity of the sun and war); horrific scene of worship and human sacrifice at the great temple with skull rack at Tenochtitlán; Aztec gladiators; Mexicans feasting and fighting; Montezuma’s brother throwing himself from a platform to save his people from being enslaved to the Chalco; Aztecs dancing and musical instruments; Aztecs in feathered headdresses hunting game with clubs, horns, and nets; Native American methods of fishing (showing whales being killed by hammering plugs into their blowholes); llamas in Peru transporting ore from the mines; methods of mining silver in Potosí (present-day Bolivia); the Dutch slaughtering penguins (according to text, about nine hundred penguins, which required twenty-five trips to load into their ship); Dutch marooned on Penguin Island in the Strait of Magellan witnessing a Native woman in cape standing over a bound Native man lying on the ground; combat between giants or Patagonians and Sebald de Weert and his men, etc. Some of the illustrations are finely detailed bird’s-eye or panoramic views of coastal areas. Scholars have used De Bry’s illustrations to support widely varying theories. Some note that Europeans were drafted to look enlightened, intelligent, and handsome, whereas Native Americans were portrayed as dreadful savages devoid of higher civilization. Then there are those like J.H. Elliott, who observed: “Readers dependent on De Bry’s famous engravings for their image of the American Indian could be forgiven for assuming that the forests of America were peopled by heroic nudes, whose proportioned bodies made them first cousins of the ancient Greeks and Romans” (p. 23, The Old World and the New: 1492-1650, Cambridge University Press, 1992).


Auction 23 Abstracts

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