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American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Topic: ContactTopic: ExplorationTopic: SettlementTopic: PermanenceTopic: Power
Topic: Exploration
Toolbox Overview: American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Resource Menu: Exploration
Text 1. Into the Interior: The Spanish
Text 2. Into the Interior: The French
Text 3. Northwest Passage: The British
Text 4. Illustrating the New World (Pt. II)
Text 5. Catching Up: The British
Text 6. Failed Colonies
Text 7. The Slave Trade

Reading Guide
Harriot, A Briefe and True Report, 1590
Harriot, A Briefe and True Report, 1590
Illustrating the New World (Pt. II)
- English: Theodore de Bry, engravings and publication of Harriot's account of the 1584 Roanoke expedition and the Algonquian Indians (North Carolina), 1590, selections (PDF)
- French: Theodore de Bry, engravings and publication of Le Moyne's account of the 1564 French settlement at Fort Caroline and the Timucua Indians (Florida), 1591, selections (PDF)
- Maps (zoomable):

Roanoke, 1590, by de Bry after White (map #1, America pars, Nunc Virginia dicta)
Florida, 1591, by de Bry after Le Moyne (map #1, Floridae Americae Provinciae)

We say we live in a visual age, where media saturation makes the image more compelling than the written word. But images were also desired and highly marketable in sixteenth-century Europe. (See CONTACT #1.) Some of the selections in this Toolbox, in fact, became early European "best sellers." By 1497, seventeen editions of Columbus's 1493 letter, enhanced with several woodcut illustrations, had been published across western Europe. Soon artists were included on expeditions to document the environment and inhabitants of the New World, and their illustrations were popularized as engravings—often by the Flemish engraver and publisher Theodore de Bry, whose multi-volume Grands Voyages sold widely across Europe. Three of his publications are sampled here:
  • THOMAS HARRIOT served as the historian, natural scientist, and surveyor/cartographer on the 1585 British expedition to Roanoke Island (North Carolina). His account of the region and the Algonquian Indians was reprinted in 1590 by Theodore de Bry, with de Bry's engravings based on the watercolors by John White, a leader of the 1585 and 1587 Roanoke voyages. 14 engravings and accompanying text.
    [Harriot, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, 1590]

  • JACQUES LE MOYNE DE MORGUES was the official artist on two French voyages to Florida in the 1560s, and he documented the Timucuan Indians of the region as well as the construction and fate of the French settlement at Fort Caroline. His account is less well known for its text than for the forty-four engravings produced by Theodore de Bry from his drawings (all but one have disappeared). 11 engravings plus the one extant watercolor, and accompanying text.
    [Le Moyne, Brief Narration of Those Things Which Befell the French in the Province of Florida in America, 1591]

  • You can also return to las Casas's A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies in Topic I: CONTACT to view four engravings of Spanish atrocities in the 1598 de Bry edition.
Perhaps it is too much to say that de Bry was the Norman Rockwell of his day, but his adapted illustrations soon became iconic of the "New World" and remain so today. They also document how Europe imposed order—and ownership—on the New World through graphic representation, in stark contrast to the bewilderment and powerlessness expressed in many of the written narratives. In the two maps, both engraved by de Bry based on originals by John White and Le Moyne, you will see the same process of claiming and interpreting the New World. The Europeans were chipping away at "Parte Incognita." (37 pages, primarily illustrations.)

Discussion questions
  1. How do the de Bry engravings of the Algonquian Indians differ from the original John White watercolors (Topic I: CONTACT)? How are they "Europeanized"?
  2. What might be the differences between de Bry's engravings of the Timucua Indians and the lost originals by Le Moyne?
  3. What knowledge does de Bry provide, and what attitudes does he imply, with his mass-produced images and books?
  4. Contrast the Europeans' written and visual presentations of the New World, e.g., the written description of the Miwok Indians of the Pacific coast with the illustrations of the Algonquian and Timucua Indians of the Atlantic coast. How do they differ in depicting the reality of the Native Americans? of the Europeans' experience?
  5. If you have recently read the text accompanying these well known images for the first time, how did the text influence your previous interpretation of the images?
  6. It is likely that some Indians in the 1600s viewed the de Bry engravings of Native Americans. How might they have responded?

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What motivated the Europeans' explorations? What were they looking for?
  •  What led them to deem an expedition a failure or success?
  •  How did the Europeans interpret the natural world they encountered?
  •  How did their experience of the New World comport with their expectations?
  •  How did the relationships of Europeans and Native Americans change after their initial encounters?
  •  What did the "New World" signify to Europe in 1550? in 1600?

Harriot: 25
Le Moyne: 12
37 pages, primarily illustrations
Supplemental Sites
Harriott, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, full text with engravings on one webpage, from Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Library

Picturing the New World: The Hand-Colored De Bry Engravings of 1590, from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Library

Harriot, background, in Luminarium: 16th-Century English Renaissance Literature, from Anniina Joniken

Le Moyne, Brief Narration, full text in English, digital images from Florida State Digital Libraries

Theodore de Bry, Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, and the Timucuan Indians, from France in America/La France en Amérique, from the Library of Congress and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Theodore de Bry engravings of Fort Caroline and Timucuan Indians, in de Bry edition of Le Moyne's Brief Narration, from Exploring Florida (University of South Florida)

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

Texts:   National Humanities Center

Image: Theodore de Bry, The Conjurer, engraving in Thomas Harriot, A brief and true report of the new found land of Virginia, 1590. Digital image courtesy of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library.

Toolbox: American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Contact | Exploration | Settlement | Permanence | Power

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