Album of the Plates by Theodor de Bry
Grands Voyages, parts I; II; III and IV in Latin
Frankfurt am Main 1590-1594
Album XVIII century
Reference: Church 140; 145; 148 and 154
In folio, 38x25 cm. Contemporary full calf
Title on the spine: Narat(io)....Virgin(iae)
Plates pasted on paper with identical water marks:
Grapes and letters CL...SA.........M,
Paper probably France, mid XVIII century (cfr Churchill 474-478)
4 engraved title pages
5 Coats of Arms
Other plates: Noah; Vespucci and Columbus
132 plates, telling the stories from the first four books
The quality of the prints is exceptionally good, sharp, rich in contrast, highly differentiated. Obviously prints drawn from plates rarely used, that is first editions, first issues. This corresponds with the title pages used. The series are complete, covering part one: Virginia; part two, Florida, part three Johann von Staden (only) in Brazil and part four: Girolami Benzoni on the Spanish colonization of the Caribbean and Central America.
So about 250 years ago, probably in France a person owned a set of the Grands Voyages by Theodor de Bry in nice, first editions. That person decided he or she was only interested in the plates, avoiding the difficulties of the Latin text and still telling the story. This person set himself to neatly cut out the plates and the titles of the plates. Thereafter, he carefully pasted them into an album and had that album bound in full calf. No maps. The French have a name for this procedure un receuil factice, a made up collection. The existence of a specific name indicates that collecting like this was not uncommon at the time.
Each of the four books opens with the engraved title page, then one or more plates that are related to the story told but not representing it, for example the coat of arms of a sponsor of the voyage, and then the plates of the voyages related.
Part one: Virginia. Title page, 1590, twice a Coat of Arms; followed by plates 2-28
Part two: Florida. Title page, 1591. Plate of Noah followed by plates 1-42; Coat of Arms
Part three: Brazil. Title page, 1592. Coats of Arms followed by 29 plates
Part four: Benzoni, Title page (1593). Coat of Arms; Vespucci and Columbus plates followed by 24 plates.
The complete books by the Bry, first editions of the Virginia and Florida parts, sell at prices between 50 and 250.000 US. Loose plates at 150-300 US a piece. A complete run of these and the plates of the other two books mentioned, never appears on the market.
It is an experience to leaf through the stories of these early voyages and settlements in the Americas, told and covered by these famous old prints which have been repeated over hundreds of years and have influenced the European view of the Americas for such a long time.