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Americas & Caribbean


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DE BRY’S FLORIDA
“AN INDISPENSABLE FLORIDA ITEM” (Streeter)
ONE OF THE GREAT PICTURE BOOKS
OF 16TH-CENTURY NORTH AMERICAN LIFE

DE BRY, Theodor. Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americae provinciae Gallis acciderunt, secunda in illam Navigatione, duce Renato de Laudonniere classis Praefecto: Anno M D LXIIII. Quae est secunda pars Americae. Frankfurt am Main, Typis Joannis Wecheli, 1591.

Folio [37.8 x 24.5 cm], (1) f. engraved title, (3) ff., 30 pp., (1) f., (1) f. Mendae quaedam (misbound), (2) ff. engraved map, XLII half-page engravings with letterpress captions, (1) f. engraved title to plates (misbound), (12) ff., with half-page engravings at the dedication and the ad lectorem praefatio, woodcut headpieces, initials and tailpieces. Lacking the final blank (unsigned K6) and the rarely found colophon to the plates (unsigned H2), quire K is misbound (see collation note below). Bound in nineteenth-century red morocco by Belz-Niédrée (signed inside upper cover), spine in seven compartments with gilt title and “V. M.” monograms (Victor Masséna, Duke of Rivoli, Prince of Essling [1836-1910]), covers with gilt double fillet borders, gold-tooled arms at center of upper and lower covers, gilt double fillet to board edges, gilt inside dentelles, blue moiré silk doublures and gardes, marbled flyleaves, silk ribbon bookmark, all edges gilt. Only very minor edge wear to covers, book label of the tobacco magnate and philatelist Maurice Burrus (1882-1959) on front flyleaf. Old repair of loss at bottom margin of engraved title, old repair of loss of word SAXONIAE on dedication, repair to small paper flaw at lower margin of p. 13, very small loss at bottom margin edge of plate XX, occasional very minor marginal handsoiling.

$48,000

Rare first edition of Theodor de Bry’s (1528-98) great illustrated work on ‘Florida’, in a copy fit for one of the consummate collectors of 16th-century illustrated books, lavishly bound in red morocco with the gold-tooled arms on the upper and lower covers for the Prince of Essling (1836-1959): its 42 copper engravings representing the earliest European encounter with native North American culture are in this copy remarkably fine strikes, richly inked with excellent plate tone. Famously describing a region then extending across much of the southeast of the present-day United States, the work represents the first printing of the narrative of Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (c. 1533-88), which Lawrence Wroth has characterized as “the most informative and satisfactory of all books on the Huguenot colony in Florida [the first attempt by a European nation to found a colony north of the Rio Grande]. The large map, the first to show the French colony, and the fascinating plates of Florida scenes and life engraved by De Bry after Le Moyne’s drawings, make this an indispensable Florida item” (Streeter, 1172), and a vivid pictorial record of this crucial period of American history in general, as well as an indispensable work for understanding the culture of the now lost Timucua people in particular.

The narrative represents the second part of De Bry’s Grand Voyages, a series issued in thirteen parts over a period of nearly forty years, and is one of the most desirable illustrated works for the collector of North Americana, being one of only two parts by De Bry which deal exclusively with North America (Thomas Harriot’s Virginia appeared in 1590).

Le Moyne, a member of the ill-fated 1564 French expedition led by Jean Ribault (1520-65) and René de Laudonnière (c. 1529-74), describes and depicts the first contact between the French explorers and the Timucua, as well as the establishment of Fort Caroline (near modern-day Jacksonville) and Charlesfort (modern Parris Island, South Carolina). The majority of De Bry’s engravings examine the rites and customs of the Timucua, with plates devoted to their religious practice, methods of warfare (including the dismemberment of captives), manner of dress, agriculture, cuisine, architecture, games, marriage ceremonies, and other celebrations. Included here are the famous depictions of the Timucua hunting while cloaked in the full hides of deer, fending off giant alligators, and searching for gold. The final plate depicts the killing of Pierre Gambie, a symbol of the deteriorating relationships with the natives that, along with the Spanish attacks of 1565, ultimately doomed the fledgling Huguenot colonies in Florida.

The present copy is complete except for the (unsigned H2) colophon to the plates, which, in any case, is rarely present (“Stevens could not find it in forty of the copies which he examined” -- Church, p. 334), and the integral blank (unsigned K6) at the end.


* Church, pp. 329-334, no. 145; Burden 79; Alden & Landis 591/38; Arents, Tobacco, 40; Schwartz & Ehrenberg, pp. 64-67.

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