de Bry and the New World


Last week I read a very interesting treatment description on the Preservation Underground blog by Erin Hammeke, conservator for special collections at Duke University Libraries, concerning a volume of Theodor de Bry‘s Grand Voyages. This item chronicles some of the early European expeditions to the Americas, and is an important contemporary view of the development of European settlements on the continent. De Bry’s engravings capture scenes of native American culture, European contact, and, later, warfare – but also portray the New World as an alien land, filled with exotic creatures.

You can read the original post here. I enjoyed it on so many levels; not only is it an interesting treatment (complete with nice photographs), but the library has also made a high-resolution digital copy of the book available through the Internet Archive. Users are able to view the book through their web browser or download a copy in a variety of formats. The digital version even includes images of the binding. These are the kinds of features that I like to see in a digital library, but often do not find. Just compare the digital images of the same work made in 2005 served up by the Library of Congress.

But the highlight of this is most certainly the engravings. Every one is just so weird and amazing! After downloading and perusing a PDF of the book, I thought I would point to my absolute favorite of the bunch (on p. 202).

This one depicts Ferdinand Magellan on his ship, plotting a course while the various personified elements and beasts of the sea writhe about him. In the upper right hand corner, though, there is this fantastic image of a bird carrying an elephant.

Oh! The wonders of the New World: Where tiny elephants are preyed upon by massive, carnivorous sea birds.

I encourage you to take some time out of your day to just revel in the spectacle of these images!


One thought on “de Bry and the New World

  1. Aren’t these just fantastic?! I have very much enjoyed watching Erin do this treatment. Every time someone came through on a tour I would get to see a new plate. I’m a sucker for sea creatures on maps and this book does not disappoint.

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