Rare Original 16th Century Engraving of Virginia Natives Fishing By Theodor de Bry

CC-0462 – Rare Original 16th Century Engraving of Virginia Natives Fishing By Theodor de Bry
Cartographer: Theodor de Bry
Published: 1590
Dimensions: 17″ W x 12-3/4″ H

Condition: The preservation of this piece is very good, especially considering the document is over 400 years old. The paper shows typical signs of age with a small notch out of the paper at the far left edge and two very small notches at the top right hand corner, all of which could be covered with a frame. The coloring is original, vibrant, and in very good condition.

Description: Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) was a prominent Flemish engraver and publisher best known for his engravings of the New World. Born in Liege, de Bry hailed from the portion of Flanders then controlled by Spain. The de Brys were a family of jewelers and engravers, and young Theodor was trained in those artisanal trades.

As a Lutheran, however, his life and livelihood were threatened when the Spanish Inquisition cracked down on non-Catholics. De Bry was banished and his goods seized in 1570. He fled to Strasbourg, where he studied under the Huguenot engraver Etienne Delaune. He also traveled to Antwerp, London, and Frankfurt, where he settled with his family.

In 1590, de Bry began to publish his Les Grands Voyages, which would eventually stretch to thirty volumes released by de Bry and his two sons. The volumes contained not only important engraved images of the New World, the first many had seen of the geographic novelties, but also several important maps. He also published a collection focused on India Orientalis. Les Grands Voyages was published in German, Latin, French, and English, extending de Bry’s fame and his view of the New World.

This amazing illustration is a beautiful hand colored rendition of natives of Virginia fishing. The illustration provides a detailed look into how the natives fished, what their canoes looked like, and even complex fish traps they crafted for use in shallow waters. The illustration also shows many of the sea creatures known to exist at the time including turtles, eels, hammerhead sharks, catfish, and even a horseshoe crab!

The approximate translation of the Classical Latin text reads:

“Inhabitants of Virginia Fishing XIII”

“They also have a way of fishing in the rivers:  for when they lack iron and steel, they use reeds or oblong rods to put the hollow tail of a fish or a certain sea-crab for a hook, with which they sit at night or they catch fish during the day, and pile them into their boats; but they know how to use the spines and spikes of other fish.

They also make nets by sticking sticks or bushes into the water, which they weave together into a corner.

Of course, it is interesting to see the inhabitants just walking and running, just sailing through those rivers which are flat, not deep, free from all anxiety to acquire riches for the successful ones, content with their lot, and living together in friendship with those whom the bountiful God has bestowed upon them. Yet with no favors done to them for merit: so barbarous is this nation, and deprived of the knowledge of God: for they have none other than that which is mentioned in the book.”

This is a highly sought after piece with great subject matter and extremely difficult to find in good condition.

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