Theodore de Bry's Plates from Grands Voyages Part I
The Plates (and the Idol Kiwasa)
from Part I of Theodore de Bry’s India Occidentalis

by Luke Vavra
The Engraved Plates in Part I. Chapter 1 of this research, published in our January 2021 newsletter, was about the Adam and Eve plate and its place in de Bry’s Grands Voyages. This chapter focuses on the remaining engraved plates, with particular attention to the plates in the Algonquian series, especially the Kiwasa plate. The plates included in Part I are:
  • Title Page
  • Dedication
  • Adam & Eve
  • Map of Virginia
  • Algonquian Plates
  • The Picts
Each of these will be discussed in sequence below, with the exception of the Adam & Eve plate, which was covered in Chapter 1, and the Picts, which will be covered in Chapter 3 next month.

The Editions of Part I. Before examining the plates, it is helpful to understand the basics of the various editions. There are three key researchers who list the various editions of Part I: Elihu Church, Henry Huth and W. John Faupel. It can be a bit confusing when comparing their studies as they describe the editions differently.

Church indicates there were three Latin editions and three extra issues, three German editions, and one each of the English and French for a total of eleven different volumes. I have followed Church in discussing the various elements of Part I.

Huth describes three German editions (p. 418-420): First, Second Issue of First, and Second Edition of the Latin (p. 404-406). Huth has less detail than Church, primarily in not listing the individual engravings, because Huth is describing his own collection, while Church is describing collections belonging to institutions and individuals.

Faupel describes 21 different volumes in Part I; 19 catalogued by the National Maritime Museum Library and two catalogued by the British Library. He lists 15 Latin, 4 German, and one each English and French editions. For the “fourth” German he shows it is a variant of the third edition “in which the last line of the title overlapped the top of the plate” (Faupel, p. 5). That minor variant has no impact on this report. Most of the differences between Church’s 11 volumes and Faupel’s 21 are minor differences in the titles such as pasting a German title over a Latin title, very small differences in some of the engraved plates, and mixed states of the plates. None of those differences indicates a flood of new information demanding additional editions.

A minor difference in later German editions is the page number 3. In the first edition, the top of the 3 is rounded, in the second and third the top is flat (Faupel, p.16). This probably means the plate was partially or entirely re-engraved by someone other than the original engraver. The third edition coat of arms belonging to the Library of Congress is poorly registered (not well aligned with the text); I don’t know if that problem was corrected before the entire edition was printed.

The three German editions can also be differentiated by the colophon:
  • First edition. Gedruckt zu Franckfort am Mayn bey Johann Wechel in verlegung Theodori de Bry. M D XC.
  • Second edition. Gedruckt zu Franckfort am Mayn bey Matthes Becker in verlegung Dieterich de Bry seliger nachgelassene Wittwe vnd beyder Söhne. M DC. [De Bry’s widow and sons.]
  • Third edition. Gedruckt zu Oppenheim bey Hieronymo Gallern. In verlegung Johann-Theodore de Bry Anno M DC XIX.
The Title Page is both engraved and letter-press. It carries, as expected, the message “Buy me!” Looking at the plate, the potential buyers should be thinking: “What is that sitting astride a weird-looking animal at the top of the title? Is that a pagan idol? Who are the two people paying homage to him? Will I see more images of the nearly-naked people standing beside the title? Does that man really have a tail? Look at that beautiful frame. Oh! I see that the book is by Theodore de Bry; I’ve heard his earlier work was good. I’ll take home a copy, open it up, and marvel at the strange new world inside!” And they did. Lots of them.
The title pages of the three German editions visually inform us what stories we’ll read and what images we’ll see, and they show us dedications and contributors. They show the printing data (where, who and when) in a separate panel near the bottom of the plate, shown here with modern spelling of Franckfort am Mäyn, such as (1st edition) Frankfurt am Main, Johann Wechel, 1590; (2nd ed.) Frankfurt am Main, Matthes Becker, 1600; and (3rd ed.) Oppenheim, Hieronymo Gallern, M DC XX. Did you notice the de Brys did not print their own books? Van Groesen writes they had no printing presses (Taschen edition, p.14). The bottom panel also indicates that the money for the printing was paid by Theodore de Bry (the publisher) for this first edition. The publishers of the second edition were de Bry’s widow and two sons. For the third, the publisher was his son Johann Theodore de Bry.

The engraved frame with all of its adornment remained the same for all three editions of the German and all the other three language editions (Latin, English and French) of Part I. The text is letter-pressed, not engraved, in the required language. The de Brys needed to use two plates, a copper plate with the engraved image and a typeset plate with the text, each requiring a different printing press. The press operator would make a pass with a letterpress printer and a pass with an intaglio printer on the same sheet of paper. The problem with that approach is the difficulty in aligning the two plates so they produce a suitable result (“registration”).

Stronger than all the printed words are the beautifully engraved images that surround them. Who else, other than the “master engraver”, would have engraved this plate? No one, but he kept that a secret.

Dedication to Christian I (Page 3) Dem Durchleuchtigsten Hochgebornen Fuersten vnd Herrn Christiano Hertzogen zu Sachsen… Dedication to Christian I, Elector of Saxony from 1586 to 1591 (died on 25 September 1591 at age 30). At this time there were seven hereditary Electors: German Kurfürst, or princes of the Holy Roman Empire who had a right to participate in the election of the Emperor (the German king). The Electors were the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne, the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine, the Duke of Saxony (Christian I), and the Margrave of Brandenburg (see Duggan, p.1).

The page title is above Christian’s elaborately engraved coat of arms; text begins below. Page 4 continues text about him, ending with Geben zu Franckfort am Mayn am tage Christiani den 3. Aprill im fueffzehen hunddert vnd neintzigsten Yar. Signed Dieterich von Bry Luettich Burger zu Franckfort…, which is loosely translated as “Given at Frankfurt am Main on the day Christian on the 3rd of April 1590”. Signed “Dieterich von Bry Lüttich (the German name for Liège) citizen of Frankfurt.” In Part IV of the Grands Voyages, the dedication engraving shows the coats of arms of the seven electors. Van Groesen indicates these dedications were an important part of the funding effort (Thesis, p. 104).

The ornate engraving itself has no author or engraver’s initials or signature. Theodore de Bry, who also used the first name Dieterich from his former life as a goldsmith, was likely the engraver of the coat of arms as well as being the signer of the dedication. This dedication is unique to all three German editions of Part I.

The English version was dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh (Church, p. 476); the French to William, Count of the Palatinate of the Rhine (Church, p. 471); and the Latin to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (Church, p. 321). According to the Mariner's Museum Library: “But Maximilian was the exception to the rule …. The patrons of later volumes were exclusively German Protestant rulers” (Mariner’s, p. 11).
The double-page map of Virginia (Plate I) has Latin text in the two cartouches and is the same for the four languages and all editions of Part I. There is one known exception to the design. In his carto-bibliography #76, Burden identifies three “states”, all pertaining to the beginning “C” in the title of the Indian village “Chesepiooc” (Chesapeake), which is located on a river left of the Chesapeake Bay. However, Burden indicates those three states bear no relation to the editions of the book. So, it is impossible to attribute the map to a particular edition of de Bry once it is removed from the book, or if it had been replaced during restoration of the 400 year-old book. Those three states are:
State 1. Ehesepiooc.
State 2. The letter “C” engraved over the “E”; both still visible, as shown below.
State 3. The error hammered out, burnished, and replaced by “C”.
The titles and text accompanying the numbered plates. Half of the de Bry Algonquin plates are structured with a title above the engraving and text below. Here again the de Brys used two separate plates for the engraved image and the typset text. Most of John White’s watercolors contain hand-written English titles and some include additional written descriptive text, but those were not repeated for the plates. That raises the question: “Who wrote the titles and narratives for the 22 Algonquian plates?” The answer is still elusive as explained below.

For the Algonquian plates, the Dutch botanist Carolus Clusius, (Charles de l’Escluse, 1526-1609) was hired to write the first “captions” (meaning titles and narrative) in Latin, and de Bry recognized him on the title pages of some of the early Latin volumes (van Groesen, Taschen edition, p. 17). But neither Clusius’ name nor his initials are on the title page of the first German edition of Part I (Church, p. 407 and my copy), nor the second edition (Church, p. 410) nor the third (Church, p. 413). Van Groesen does not address those latter exclusions from the German editions. Perhaps the de Bry firm wrote the German titles and narratives about the plates.

In 1972, Paul Hulton wrote this on the back cover of his book about the English edition of Part I: “Hariot’s notes further describe what White had drawn.” When he wrote the book, Hulton had good credentials; he was the Assistant Keeper, Department of Prints and Drawings, The British Museum.

In 1984, Hulton maintained that idea with “Hariot’s main responsibility was to gather information about the Indians and it is not surprising that the chief value of his Briefe and True Report lies in what he and White have to tell us of their way of life. Hariot in his text and notes to the plates. White in the illustrations themselves” (Hulton, America 1585, p. 12, then retired).

On their website, The Philadelphia Print Shop West states this about the plates they had for sale: “The images are after paintings by John White, who was sent to 'Virginia' by Raleigh specifically to make drawings of this new colony. The text is by Thomas Hariot who was another member of the colony.” The owners have long been experts in prints.

Are these latter attributions to Hariot merely conjecture? Much has been learned about Part I of Grands Voyages starting with Church’s 1907 bibliography; but, other than van Groesen’s 2019 attribution to Clusius (which I accept), I found no reference to someone other than Hariot.

An interesting point regarding the titles and text in the German editions is that they were typeset in old German Gothic print, which is very different from the Roman script used by today’s English-speaking people. Perhaps even modern-day German-speaking people have trouble speed-reading the text in the de Bry books. The font used is called “Fraktur” which was derived from early Gothic writing. It is sometimes called the "German alphabet". Typesetting in Fraktur was still common in the early 20th century in German-speaking countries.

Although de Bry altered the texts to appeal either to Catholics or to Protestants, he published images he could sell to either. The same engraved images of the Algonquian plates appeared unchanged in 1590, 1600 and 1620 in all languages and editions, except for the second and third editions of Plates 9 and 10; Plate 9 has an added tree on the horizon just above the fourth canoe from the left of the Indian, and Plate 10 has a dark waterfowl in the water behind the two Indian women (Faupel, pp. 37-42). Later editions have minor modifications to the associated text, and all Algonquins have changes to the Roman plate numbers in the second and third editions (see Re-numbering the Plates, later).

The Algonquian Plates (Plates II-XXIII). These 22 Algonquian plates are composed of an engraved image and typeset text below or at the left of the image. Of the total of 28 numbered plates including the five Picts, the map (No. I) bears de Bry’s name, twenty bear de Bry’s initials, four (V, VI, XI & XV) bear Gijsbert van Veen’s initials, and three (XIII, XXI ‘Kiwasa’ & XXII) were engraved by an unknown hand. As stated before, de Bry also engraved the un-numbered Adam and Eve plate, and probably the title frame and the dedication for a grand total of 31 engravings. There may be a question as to whether Theodore de Bry did all of that engraving. After all, he was over 60 years old, perhaps having the usual ailments of the elderly. Van Groesen points out de Bry was “weakened by gout and old age” (Taschen, p. 15). I suspect he may have engraved the important parts of the plates and left the less demanding work, such as the background, to his son Johann, also an excellent engraver, who took over engraving after de Bry’s death. That would not be unusual; painters of that period often used others to fill in backgrounds and details on their larger canvasses. Incidentally, the monogram “T.B.” was used only in Part I, and only Georg Keller, an employee, was permitted to sign his work in later parts (van Groesen, Thesis, p. 96).

For the first edition most plates are half-page, numbered above the image with Roman numerals (as in the Register) and with corresponding Arabic numerals in the image. Plates XVII, XIX, XX and XXII are full-page and Plates XIII and XVIII are double-page engravings numbered on the image page with Arabic numerals only. Their Roman plate numbers are shown above the text on the facing page at the left.

Most images were based on John White’s watercolors of the Algonquins of eastern North Carolina. He documented, firsthand, the Carolina Indians’ way of life to include their daily activities and their dwellings, villages, religion and handling of the dead.
The Idol Kiwasa (Plates XXI & XXII). White’s only illustration related to the Algonquian religion is found at left in the charnel house (Plate XXII - above) where he included a small image of the pagan idol Kiwasa seated overlooking the dead chieftains. However, the designer of the previous plate, XXI (the idol Kiwasa), is not likely John White due to obvious differences in artistic style and in the body ornaments shown. Instead, it has been attributed to drawings by Jacques le Moyne, who had accompanied French adventurer René de Laudonnière on his second voyage to Florida in 1565. While there, he and le Moyne barely escaped an attack by the Spanish and returned to England en route back to France. Laudonniére had to leave his journals and ship’s logs as he fled Fort Caroline (which he had earlier built on St. Johns Bluff in what is now Jacksonville) and le Moyne had to leave his sketches. Accounts and drawings of this second expedition were later made from memory. However, all but one of le Moyne’s later watercolors have also been lost (Daniels, web 3 Oct 2020), so authorship of Plate XXI may still be questionable.
As to the author of Plate XXI (the idol), van Groesen offers another theory in his 2019 book. He claims the small image of Kiwasa in Smith’s Plate XXII (The Tomb) was enlarged by the de Bry enterprise and used as the basis for Plate XXI, the idol Kiwasa (Groesen, Taschen edition, p. 17-18). It is possible Jodocus van Winghe drew the plate design (see the last paragraph of Chapter 1 for more information about van Winghe). There is a Smith watercolor for The Tomb, which does include the small Kiwasa, but none for the Kiwasa plate. No monograph appears for the engraver of the Kiwasa plate. Why not? Especially if it had been created and engraved in de Bry’s shop.
A clue to the answer is the Arabic number on the engraved plate; the number “2” is unlike those on other images bearing initials “T.B.”. Theodore de Bry most likely did not engrave it, although perhaps Johann did.
Thomas Hariot devotes most of his text to commodities, but does have one section (about six pages) called “Of the nature and manners of the people.” In that he presents, inter alia, “They thinke that all gods are of humane shape, & therefore they represent them by images in the formes of men… one alone called Kew’as.” Hariot also writes that “we” had seen several Algonquian idols (Hulton, p. 26); it is likely that “we” refers to White because he placed one in his watercolor for Plate XXII (The Tomb).

One argument in favor of le Moyne is due to the Idol’s hat (or hairstyle), which is seen clearly on Plate XXI (Idol) and the title page, and less distinctly on Plate XXII (Tomb). That hat is seen in several engravings attributed to le Moyne in Part II (Florida), including in plates 28 and 39 of Part II (Alexander, p.45 & p.56). However, the hat is not seen anywhere else on Plates II through XX of Part I. This leads me to believe Smith or van Winghe (or both) saw the hat on drawings de Bry purchased for Part II and added the hat to the idol to distinguish the immortal from the mortal.
Plate XXI (Idol)
Plate XXII (Tomb)
Plate XXXIX from Part II (Florida)
I like van Groesen’s answer better than attributing the entire plate to le Moyne. Was the Idol in le Moyne’s Florida package bought by de Bry from le Moyne’s wife in 1588? If so, why is the Florida Idol among the Virginia plates? The two areas are about 800 miles apart, and Algonquin-speaking Indians extended north into Canada, but not south of the Carolinas. Le Moyne may have seen an idol in Florida, but not that of the Algonquins. It is therefore much more likely that the hat/hairstyle was copied from le Moyne's drawings, rather than the entire drawing originating from le Moyne.
An image of the idol is also shown near the top of the engraved title page with his feet resting on a buffalo skull. This probably means that Plate XXI (Kiwasa) was completed before the title page was drawn. Michiel van Groesen had this to say about Kiwasa in his paper published in the Journal (p. 14):

“The inclusion of a pagan idol on the collection’s first frontispiece was a significant decision in terms of marketing. Booksellers used title-pages to attract customers to their publications, and the beautifully engraved title-pages of the voyages almost certainly served this purpose. The De Brys made paganism an instrumental part of their commercial strategy.”

Renumbering the plates. For the second and third German editions of Part I, the map was dropped from the listing, and the engravings of the Algonquins were renumbered one Roman numeral lower; that is, Plate II, known as “The Arrival of the Englishmen” in the 1590 English edition, becomes Plate I; the third engraving becomes Plate II; continuing until the last becomes Plate XXII, rather than XXIII. However, the engraved Arabic numerals on the plates were not changed, so there is a mismatch by one digit. This combination of the new Roman numerals and the mismatched Arabic can be used to determine the edition of a disbound numbered plate. Why did the de Brys choose not to number the Adam and Eve plate as Roman numeral I in lieu of renumbering 22 other plates? Was it to give the Adam and Eve more prominence as a separate page than it would have as part of a series? Perhaps it was because the subject matter is so different (as are the separately numbered Picts and the single map) and the Adam and Eve stands alone, not a part of a biblical series.

Although the mismatched numbering discussed above differentiates the first edition from the second and third, it does not help distinguish between the second and the third. One more step is necessary. That step is easy for most plates: in the third edition, the titles are preceded by the word “Virginia.” The exceptions to this rule are Plate V, which is preceded by “Virginiæ,” and Plate XVII, which is not preceded by anything. There is one problem for the German editions (and probably the other languages): a full page image (XVII, XIX, XX or the Picts) not in a bound volume presents no clues as to the language or edition since the text was printed on a separate sheet, and the Adam and Eve presents no clue as to language. See Appendices 2-1 and 3-1 (to be included in Chapter 3) to help solve some of that problem for German plates.

The engraved portions of the plates (the images) remained the same in all three German editions of Part I (with minor exceptions for the Dedication, the Adam and Eve and engraved plates 9 and 10, as previously discussed). However, parts of the text related to individual plates changed for the second and for the third editions. Identifying details, too numerous to appear here, are shown in Appendix 2-1. Such a table for the Latin editions of Part I is beyond the scope of this paper. There is no need for a French or English language table as each has only one edition.

Mixed editions. Some of de Bry’s Voyages seen on the market during the last decade have had one or more plates identified as being from a different edition or re-issue. That can occur from various events, such as: 1) the publisher ran out of a particular print and substitutes one from a different edition or re-issue on hand; 2) during rebinding of a book where a print was damaged or missing, the plate is replaced by one made for another edition or re-issue; and 3) printers’ errors such as mismatching text and image, wrong sequence, or poor registration. Some of the books have been rebound more than once. Let us hope that all offerings of these valuable books have been rigorously checked against the content listed by an authority on the matter, such as Church.
APPENDIX 2-1. Table of German plate Identifiers

This table may be used to identify the edition from which a loose Algonquian plate was removed. The map, Plate ( I ), was removed from the second and third editions of Part I, and the Algonquian German plates were renumbered one number lower, thus starting with number “I”, not “II” as in the first edition. The table below is constructed so that the same image appears across the table; the second and third editions in the table have been shifted down to achieve that objective.

If the text page is not available for a single page image (XVII, XIX, XX and XXII), use the text on the back of the image plate unless that side is blank. Your edition will be the same as that of the text for the following image. If a single page plate has no accompanying text page and is blank on its other side, there is no way to determine the language or edition. Data for the table was extracted from pages 406-414, Church. The * column refers to the Plate Number and the ** column refers to the number of lines of text on the page.


Alexander, Michael (Ed.). Discovering the New World based on the works of Theodore De Bry. London: London Editions, 1976. [Excerpts of several languages and volumes, including English.]

Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of America. Rickmansworth: Raleigh Publications, 1996.

Church, Elihu Dwight. A Catalogue of Books Relating to the discovery of North and South America, Forming a Part of Library of E. D. Church. Compiled and annotated George Watson Cole. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1907. [Essential for a de Bry cataloguer.]

Daniels, Gary C. September 23, 2011. Jacques le Moyne. From The New World website:

De Bry, Theodore. Wunderbarliche, doch warhafftige Erklärung, von der Gelegenheit vnd Sitten der Wilden in Virginia. Frankfurt am Main: Johann Wechel, 1590. [My German copy of Part I.]

Duggan, Lawrence G. No date given. Elector: Prince. Encyclopædia Brittanica. Web site:

Faupel, W. John. A brief and true Report of the new found Land of Virginia: a Study of the De Bry Engravings. Antique Atlas Publications: West Sussex, 1989. [Examines 21 Part I volumes; 87 pages.]

Hulton, Paul. America 1585: The Complete Drawings of John White, University of North Carolina Press and British Museum Publications, 1984. [38 pages of background text, 76 White watercolors, the Sloane copies, descriptions of the plates and figures; total 213 pages.]

Hulton, Paul. Thomas Hariot A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia: The complete 1590 Theodore de Bry edition. New York: Dover Publications, 1972. [Part I, English text and plates; 89 pages.]

Huth, Henry, The Huth Library: A Catalogue of the printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters and Engravings, collected by Henry Huth, Vol. II. D-H. London: Ellis and White, 1880. [Similar to Church, but somewhat less detail.]

Lorant, Stefan (Ed.). The New World: The first Pictures of America made by John White and Jacques Le Moyne…, New York: Duell, Sloan & Pierce, 1946. [Parts I and II, English text and plates.]

Mariner’s Museum Library. A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2007. [Part I, Latin text and plates.]

van Groesen, Michiel. (2007). The De Bry collection of voyages (1590-1634): editorial strategy and the representations of the overseas world. Amsterdam: in eigen beheer [self-management]. [Groesen’s 2007 PhD thesis, 272 pages plus approximately 100 pages of supporting material. The best reference I found]

van Groesen, Michiel. The De Bry Collection of Voyages (1590-1634): Early America reconsidered. Journal of Early Modern History 12. 1-24, 2008
van Groesen, Michiel (ED.) and Larry E. Wise. Theodore de Bry America: The Complete Plates 1590-1602. Köln: Taschen, 2019. [Reprints of all 218 Latin plates from the first nine volumes of the Grands Voyages.]