This copper engraving is from a remarkable series of publications, illustrating voyages of discovery and travels of exploration to various parts of the world. The project was begun by Theodore de Bry of Frankfurt, in 1590 and was to continue for another 54 years. They became known collectively as the Grands Voyages (to America and the West Indies) and the Petits Voyages (to the Orient and the East Indies). De Bry died after the first six parts of the Grands Voyages were completed. The project was completed initially by his widow and two sons, Johann Theodore de Bry and Johann Israel de Bry, then by his son-in-law, Matthaus Merian in 1644.
This set of four engravings are reduced-size versions of Joannes Stradanus' work. He designed the four drawings in the Americae Retectio (including this frontispiece) and sent them to Antwerp where they were engraved by Adrian Collaert and published by Philippe Galle. The drawings were copied by Theodore De Bry, with the images in reverse. Published in Part IV of Grands Voyages. Sizes vary slightly. On full sheets of Latin text measuring 9.6 x 14.1".
The title page, Americae Retectio, is a fascinating allegorical engraving commemorating the discovery of the New World. Flora (Florence) and Janus (Genoa) reveal a globe, that rests on the reclined body of Neptune (Oceanus), above a map of the coast of Italy. The title is suspended between portraits of Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus. Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, is shown leaving Genoa and approaching the West Indies and Vespucci’s ship is shown departing Italy (near his hometown of Florence) and sailing along the coast of South America. Mars displays the arms of Florence at upper right, while Neptune presents the arms of Genoa at left.
The remaining three engravings depict three of the most famous and celebrated explorers of the New World: Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and Ferdinand Magellan. Each explorer stands aboard his ship surrounded by fascinating mer-people, sea creatures, and mythological gods. Of particular note are the large bird carrying an elephant in the engraving of Magellan, and the mer-people holding a dismembered body in the engraving of Vespucci.
References: Tooley (TMC-2) pp. 22-24.
The engraving of Columbus is clean and bright with minor marginal soiling ("A" condition). The other three engravings have light toning and soiling. The engraving of Vespucci has a large spot of foxing in the image and several others outside the image. The engraving of Magellan has several damp stains along the edges of the sheet, entering the image at top.