Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Virgin Virginia, 1590 (Not Queen Elizabeth I)

by Stephen J. Gertz

De Bry, Theodor. Wunderbarliche, doch Warhafftige
Erklärung von der Gelegenheit und Sitten
der Wilden in Virginia welche newlich
von den Engelländern so im Jahr 1585.
Frankfurt: Johann Wechel, 1590.
First edition in German.
Engraved title page.
"I'm Coming Virginia"! (Bix Beiderbecke, 1927, with Frankie Trumbauer). Great for Bix. But what about Virginia?

In 1590, when Theodor De Bry, an engraver and publisher originally from Flanders who resettled in Germany, was in his early sixties, he and his two sons undertook a massive book project. With the assistance of British geographer Richard Hakluyt, they gathered up every illustration and description of the new voyages of exploration available, redrew the images and revised and re-imagined the tales that went with them. The project would end in 1634 with thirty stunningly illustrated volumes under the title Collectiones peregrinationum.

They are the most detailed reports of the 16th-century Americas that we have.

In that first year, 1590, De Bry published the first of these volumes, within which was a map of Virginia,  "one of the most significant cartographical milestones in Colonial North American history" (Burden), and "one of the most important type-maps in Carolina cartography" (Cumming). The map, in its first state, is extremely rare.

Plate: Indian Village.
The map had originally been drafted by John White, an English artist who had been sent by Sir Walter Raleigh as Sir Richard Grenville's artist-illustrator on his first voyage to the New World (1585-6) to establish a British colony. Illustrating Thomas Hariot's text of the expedition, White's was the most accurate map drawn in the sixteenth century of any part of the North American continent.

Plate 18. An Indian Water-Rite.
It was the first map to delineate the Chesapeake Bay and contains the first printed use of the name "Chesapiooc Sinus." De Bry had originally intended to use Jacques Le Moyne's drawings of the French expedition to the Southeast for the first part in his series, but Raleigh convinced him to devote the first book to Virginia instead, in an effort to encourage colonization. The White/De Bry map had an enormous influence on the mapping of both Virginia and Carolina.

Americae Pars Nunc Virginia 1st State, w/village to right of native woman
and child engraved "Ehesepiooc."
(Follow the "h" in "right," above,
in a straight line up to compass terminal  point).

This volume, the scarce first edition in German with the extraordinary map of Virginia in its first state, is being offered at Christie's - London on October 27, 2010 as lot 14 in The Arcana Collection Part II sale. The book has not been seen at auction for over thirty-five years. It is estimated to sell for $46,000 - $75,000.

BRY, Theodor de (1528-1598). Wunderbarliche, doch Warhafftige Erklärung, von der Gelegenheit und Sitten der Wilden in Virginia welche newlich von den Engelländern so im Jahr 1585. Frankfurt: Johann Wechel, 1590. First edition in German.

2° (331 x 244mm). Collation: a4, b6, c4, d6, e2(e1 + \kc\K2 [map of Viriginia]), A6, B6(B4 + \kc\K2), C6(C3 + \kc\K2), D6, E4, [2E4], F6, complete with blank F6. German title and imprint on slips mounted on engraved title. Adam and Eve plate signed 'Theodore de Brij fe' not 'se.'  23 numbered half- or full-page engravings above or facing German letterpress descriptions (all but the first numbered), 5 plates of the Picts, all contemporaneously hand colored; hand-colored engraved arms on dedication leaf, woodcut tail-pieces.

Burden 76; Church 176; Cumming Southeast in Early Maps 12; Sabin III p.49.

Images courtesy of Christie's.

N.B.: "Virgin Virginia" should not be confused in any way with Virgin America, a carrier which recently blew any further chances with me when they canceled a flight for an  important, tight-budget  one-day trip  two days prior and then, two hours later, canceled the second flight they booked me on as an alternative.  Their other offered flights were a no-can-do day early or same day, too-late.  Refusing to find alternate flights for me on another carrier I had to scrub the entire trip; short notice with  dramatically higher fares precluded booking elsewhere. They initially lured me with a introductory discount mailer.

"Cheap deals and no hassle booking."

It's getting fliers off the ground that's a problem.

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