American discovery in Special Collections

Posted on March 12, 2015 | in CRC, Library, Library & University Collections | by

2015-03-12 09.30.09sThis is the first book to describe and depict native American costume, culture and society for European readers.  It was published in 1590 by the enterprising merchant Theodor de Bry, who identified a market for illustrated works on travel and newly discovered lands.  He made use of the text written by Thomas Harriot and published in 1588 as A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, and turned it into a Latin edition to reach a wider readership.  For this edition de Bry included engraved plates based on the watercolours of English colonist John White, who worked as an artist during the pioneering attempt to settle in 1585.  These images are a unique visual record of the native inhabitants of America before colonisation truly began.2015-03-12 09.30.37s

This copy (shelfmark JY 601) is beautifully hand-coloured and was given to Edinburgh University Library in 1674.  Although it has clearly been well-used in the past, it was quite unknown to all the current curators and has never been digitised or conserved.  That will now change!

Joe Marshall, Head of Special Collections

2015-03-12 09.31.12s

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