Theodor De Bry’s Grand Voyages

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These are four examples of the engravings of Theodoros de Bry. De Bry never actually visited the Americas himself, but based on the accounts that he heard back from the New World, he did a series of engravings – uh, very powerful engravings – that are illustrated here. He depicts in several of these violence between Indian and Indian, violence between Indian and invading Spaniards, the navigation up a small bay of explorers, and, in still another, a particularly violent episode between the slave masters of the day, the- the conquering Spanish, and the Indians, who were enslaved and, uh, made to, uh, to work in horrible conditions. The larger story frequently told by de Bry, and certainly told by three of the four of these prints, is man’s inhumanity to man.

One of the pictures which is particularly interesting shows the Spanish invaders attempting to embattle the Indians who are defending themselves in a variety of manners. At the very center of the picture there is a group of Indians shown up in a stylized tree, pouring some substance – water, oil, who knows what – down upon the attacking conquistadors, who are holding up a large piece of wood to trying to fend it off. Meanwhile other Spaniards are firing rifles up at the tree – you can see the plumes of smoke at the end of their barrels – and an effort has been made, so far unsuccessful, to chop the tree down and to overcome the, uh, resistance accordingly. Needless to say, this is a hyper-stylized account of the conflict between the invading conquistadors and the native peoples, but it succeeds, I think, in depicting and making graphic for the modern eye just how brutal that period was.

 

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Hispaniae Novae sivae magnae, recens et vera descriptio, 1579

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This is a map by Abraham Ortelius – an early map entitled “Hispaniae Novae Sivae Magnae, Recens et Vera Descriptio” that was made by Ortelius in 1579, so it’s one of the earlier maps in the, uh- in the collection. It basically depicts New Spain, which, um, became Mexico for the most part, but also, uh, pushing up into parts of what is now the United States of America. The, uh, cartouches[1] are typical of Ortelius’ work in that in that mapmaker’s conception, a strap-type of design was highly popular, and you see two examples of it both in the lower left-hand corner and in the upper right-hand corner. And adding piquance[2] to the whole thing, various sardonic[3] characters or animals peer out from curls in the cartouche, and a devilish figure with horns appears on top.

This map features quite a number of cities in, uh, what, uh, again became- ultimately became Mexico. But in the period of time when it was still New Spain, there were many fables about what these cities were like, and some were reputed to have streets of gold, and, no doubt, maps like this only increased the ardor of- of future explorers to seek out those cities and make their riches.

[1] “Cartouche, in architecture, ornamentation in scroll form, applied especially to elaborate frames around tablets or coats of arms. By extension, the word is applied to any oval shape or even to a decorative shield, whether scroll-like in appearance or not.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/art/cartouche Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.
[2] Piquance can be defined as “a tart spicy quality” or “the quality of being agreeably stimulating or mentally exciting.” https://www.thefreedictionary.com/piquance Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.
[3] Sardonic can be defined as “disdainfully or skeptically humorous” or “derisively mocking.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sardonic Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

 

 

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America

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This map is a map of America by, uh, Ruscelli. He is a 16th Century mapmaker. This is heavily annotated, and so it is fun to look closely at both what is set forth as North America and also what is South America, and to compare the names of that day with those of the, uh, present. So, one can find, by looking closely, Florida. The islands of Cuba and Hispaniola are there, as are literally dozens and dozens of other locations. It’s all a little congested, but it’s beautifully engraved with all the flourishes that Ruscelli was known for, and, uh, again, in pretty good condition for a map that’s more than four-and-a-half centuries old.

 

 

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Tierra Nueva

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This map is entitled “Tierra Nueva” which is a rendering by, uh, Ruscelli of the east coast of the, uh, North American continent. Again, it’s very hard to match what you see here with what might be found on a current modern-day map. In the lower left-hand corner, Florida appears – not clear what Florida’s real shape is, but it’s at least indicated. Uh, and then there is a potpourri[1] of different islands, or would-be islands, up in the vicinity of Massachusetts and Rhode Island and, uh, and Maine. There’s a lot of speculation that there were water passages in and around and behind, uh, what one sees on the coast. Much of that was speculative. One fun thing about this map is that it shows the prototypic version of the island of Manhattan. Well, it’s not shown as an island. It is shown as a peninsula with the label “Angouleme,”[2] but that, as reflected on later maps, is what the, uh, mapmakers of the day thought of what, at the time, was considered an island- I mean, a part of the mainland, but obviously is, uh, is an island, the most built-upon island, perhaps, in the world.

[1] Potpourri can be defined as “a miscellaneous collection” or “medley.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potpourri Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

[2] “On January 17, 1524, Giovanni da Verrazano, (1485-1528) in command of La Dauphine, became the first European to enter New York Harbor, during a voyage sponsored by King Francis I of France. […] Francis I (1494-1547, King of France 1515-1547) was the son of Charles of Orleans. Prior to Francis’ ascension to the throne, he had been known as Francis of Angouleme. In the King’s honor, Verrazano named the harbor ‘Angouleme’ and reported to Francis: I ‘Called [the harbor] Angouleme from the principality which thou attainedst in lesser fortune…’” http://www.newyorkmapsociety.org/FSAngouleme.html Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

 

 

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Isola Cuba nova

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This map is a map of the island of Cuba. It was done by a mapmaker by the name of Ruscelli in the middle of the 16th century – roughly 1565 – and it includes, in addition to Cuba, if you look down below, you will see of the island of Jamaica rendered as well and then in the lower right-hand corner, the very westernmost tip of the island of Hispaniola. This island or this – well it is an island, Cuba is an island, is again a 16th-century mapmaker’s best effort and, uh, one can find if you look closely, at least where the bay is, where Havana is located on the Northern side of the, of the island. Ruscelli was famous for maps of this era and this is an excellent specimen in very good shape for a map that was made more than 400 years ago.

 

 

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Descrittione dell’isola et terra di santa croce, overo : mondo nuovo

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This map is a map by Thomaso Porcacchi of the New World – “Mondo Nuovo.” As you can see, it is part of a larger page, uh, a page that would have been in a book of maps, and he was famous for a collection of what he basically called his collection “Islands of the World.” Well, he included continents in that category as well. So, here we have North America, and North America is in a distorted shape that one would have some trouble recognizing today, but, uh, there it is.

There’s a little blob in the middle representing Florida. One can go up the coast all the way to, uh, Labrador. Uh, on the western side, we see California- Baja California, and, uh, it is attached to the North American continent. As is the case with several later maps, California gets disconnected from the North American continent, but the early-most mapmakers got it right, and there it is.

 

 

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La Florida / Peruviae Auriferae Regionis Typus / Guastecan

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This map is actually a collection of three maps that formed a part of the famous atlas that Abraham Ortelius, a Flemish mapmaker, made in the 16th Century. Uh, it actually includes three sections: one a part of the, uh, connecting tissue between the two continents of North and South America; one showing Florida; and one showing the Peruvian coast. Ortelius was one of the most decent mapmakers and collectors of maps. When he published his atlas, unlike many others who simply stole, uh, the ideas or the maps from someone else and attributed them to themselves, Ortelius always gave credit to the actual mapmaker. Uh, I particularly like the Peruvian coast, and, if you look at that, you’ll see the mountain ranges, of course the mountainous western coast of South America is famous. And this map would have been very useful to the Spanish as they continued their exploration and conquest of the South America and Central American portions of the Western Hemisphere. It’s also illustrated with some wonderful ships at sea, and, uh, communities that probably did not have anything very substantial in them are represented by little castles and somewhat larger structures than are real, uh, at various points in the mountainous Peruvian coast.

 

 

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Des Nouvelles Isles, comment, quand & par qui elles ont este trouvees

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This map is a page, uh, from a compilation of maps by our friend Sebastian Munster, the 16th-century cartographer. In this particular case, it is, a French edition, Des Nouvelles Isles, the new islands, and it represents not a very real portrayal of the Caribbean islands but an impressionistic sense that there were lots of new islands that are now entering into the mind of the European explorer, and, uh, without trying to be accurate, I think Munster just throws a whole bunch of interesting Island-looking places together, together with a couple of ships, and this is the headline for what will be his more careful rendering of, uh, various islands in the Caribbean.

 

 

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Battle of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola

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This map is a map of the then-settlement of Santo Domingo on the, uh, island of Hispaniola. And one can see the fairly orderly center of the town, surrounded by various gardens and other human activity. One of the features that I like particularly is this nondescript sea monster, looks a little bit more like a salamander. A giant salamander, as big as any of the ships in the fleet, swimming alongside, heading toward the fleet. This is a good example of the, uh, woodcut technique and a very early 16th-century map of that, uh, that settlement.

 

 

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Spagnola

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This map is a very early 16th-century rendering of the island of Hispaniola. It’s a little misleading because a discussion of Jamaica appears at the bottom that would continue on to the next page where the map of Jamaica would appear. But this, this, this is Hispaniola, and you’ll see an effort to render a town on the island called Isabella. Bordon was operating with very little information here, and so one can’t, uh, really see very much of the actual outline of the island of Hispaniola, which of course now includes, uh, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, here again was an early, early mapmaker doing his best and creating what is at least a very interesting rendering.

 

 

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