Francofurti ad Moenum: Typis Ioannis Feyrabend, Impensis Theodori de Bry., Anno M. D. LXXXXIIII. 1594.
Folio: 33 x 23.2 cm. , 145,  p., XXIIII lvs. (minus final blank.) With an added double-page map. Collation: ):():(⁴, ):():(⁴, A-Q4, R6 (with blank leaf R6); Aa-Ee4, Ff6 (- blank leaf Ff6). Complete.
FIRST LATIN EDITION, SECOND ISSUE OF THE FOURTH PART OF DE BRY’S GRAND VOYAGES. With the 2nd issue points on the engraved title pages noted by Church and the added Arabic numerals on the plates of the second part.
Illustrated with 2 engraved title pages, engraved coats-of-arms with virtues, 1 large folding map, 24 large engravings. Bound in 19th.c quarter sheep and marbled boards, wear to hinges and extremities. A very good copy, complete with the map. Light spotting in the first part, a few leaves with small rust spots, outer margin of first title strengthened on verso but with no loss to the sheet. One plate with minor printing flaw from where the sheets were folded during printing. The map is in fine shape but with the decorative border shaved on two sides and, on the left, trimmed just inside the image, affecting the leading edge of a few letters.
This book constitutes the fourth part of the first Latin edition of Theodor de Bry's “Grand Voyages” (“America”), the most famous collection of travel narratives from the Americas, printed in fourteen parts from 1590 to 1634.
This volume contains book one of Girolamo Benzoni’s influential “Historia del Mondo Nuovo”, in which the Milanese merchant-adventurer narrates his experiences in the Caribbean and the Yucatan. Benzoni spent fourteen years in the New World before returning to Europe. His work, first printed in 1565, would prove enormously popular, and this popularity would increase dramatically with its publication by de Bry, which was amplified by new, striking illustrations.
The book is illustrated with 24 large -and now iconic- engravings by de Bry depicting Columbus’ first voyage, his early encounters with the Amerindians, scenes from Benzoni’s own eye-witness experiences in the New World, and the Amerindians’ (often violent) encounters with the Spanish. The long captions to these engravings constitute a paratext to Benzoni’s work, in which both the cruelty of the Spanish (whom Benzoni despised) and the “savagery” of the Amerindians (toward whom Benzoni was more sympathetic) are described.
The double-page map shows the islands of the West Indies, and the lands bordering the Caribbean, including Florida and the Southeast of North America bordering the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan peninsula, central America, and northern parts of South America. It includes images of Columbus' ships and various notes regarding his four voyages.
“The narrative by Benzoni, a Milanese traveler who spent fourteen years in the New World beginning in 1541, is often used to gauge the outlook of the De Brys. While in the service of Spain, Benzoni observed and recorded Spanish atrocities in Peru [and the Caribbean] and collected many other first-hand reports on the inroads made by the conquistadors elsewhere…
“Benzoni explains to his audience exactly why he braved a transatlantic crossing in 1541. Like many of his contemporaries, he sought adventure. He definitely found it, traversing breathtaking surroundings, encountering tattooed and pierced natives, engaging in deadly battles, and barely surviving almost continual hardship. More than once, Benzoni found himself at death’s door yet managed to escape with his life… Like other early travelers, Benzoni became an amateur naturalist. He recorded detailed descriptions of indigenous flora and fauna, almost always oddly colored by the pressing pains of hunger or thirst. At the same time, his writings engage in explicit political commentary. Although a traveler in Spanish America, he despised the Spanish. At almost every turn, Benzoni criticizes Spanish methods of conquest and governance, while frequently siding with Native Americans.
“More than a decade after he initially departed northern Italy for parts unknown, he found himself expelled from the overseas kingdoms of Spain. He packed his thousands of ducats and left, set to retrace his steps to Europe. Unfortunately, he suffered shipwreck and inclement weather before he got far. He had to stay in Havana for several miserable months waiting for a vessel strong enough, and weather good enough, to carry him home. He ultimately arrived in Spain in 1556, penniless, exhausted, and full of stories. With nothing left to peddle but his memories, he decided to write them down in his ‘History of the New World’. Originally published in 1565, Benzoni’s history quickly captured the attention of readers across Europe.
“Benzoni’s narrative contributed to a growing corpus of travel narratives that related the explorations and adventures of Europeans as they traveled to parts unknown. His work was very well received for several reasons: he included harrowing stories, he offered descriptions of the indigenous animals and plants that Europeans had never even imagined, and he described a completely new group of people and beliefs. Just as Spain’s continental ascendency seemed unstoppable, Benzoni offered a vitriolic description of the barbarity of the Spanish that brought their moral authority to rule and exploit the New World into question. The mix of adventure, exotic people and places, and anti-Spanish diatribe made ‘The History of the New World’ an immediate best seller. Benzoni’s narrative provides a unique first-hand account of the Spanish conquest by an Italian. Its anti-Spanish rhetoric represents an understudied but historically significant contribution to the Black Legend of Spanish colonialism. As a whole, ‘The History of the New World’ provides readers with a rich ethnographic text that offered its early modern readers a tantalizing blend of travelogue, adventure tale, and anti-Spanish propaganda…
From the time of his arrival in the Americas, Benzoni’s narrative is filled with episodes that vividly depict the brutality of slavery. Traveling with and among the Spanish, he witnesses (and participates in) continuous efforts to enslave the indigenous people. Despite his involvement, Benzoni is clearly sympathetic to the plight of the enslaved:
“While we were in Amaracapanna, Captain Pedro de Cáliz arrived with more than 4,000 slaves. He had captured many more but they had died on the journey from hunger, over-work, and exhaustion, as well as from sorrow at leaving their country, their fathers, their mothers, or their children. When some of the slaves could not walk, the Spaniards tried to prevent them from making war later by burying their swords in their sides or in their breasts.
“It was really an upsetting thing to see the way these sad, naked, tired, and lame creatures were treated. They were exhausted with hunger, illness, and sadness. The unlucky mothers were all tied with rope or chains around their necks or arms and had two or three children, overcome with tears of grief, hanging around their necks or on their shoulders. Nor was there a woman who had not been violated by the predators. Because there were so many Spaniards who indulged their lust, many were left broken. This captain had gone 700 miles inland into a country that was full of people when the Spanish arrived, but by the time I arrived very little was left undestroyed…
“All the slaves that the Spaniards take in this province are hauled to Cubagua, home of the king’s offices that collect royal taxes of twenty percent on pearls, gold, slaves, and other things. They brand the slaves on the face and arms with a letter C and then the governors and captains do what they please with them. Sometimes they give them to the soldiers, who periodically sell them or gamble them away to one another. When the Spanish ships arrive, they trade the slaves for wine, flour, biscuits, and other necessities. The merchants then send the slaves to the island of Hispaniola or take them elsewhere and sell them. They fill the caravels with them, keeping them below decks. Because almost all of them were captured inland, the sea tortures them. Not being able to move there, under the cargo hold, they stand in vomit and the results of their other needs like animals. And when the sea is calm they lack water and other necessities. They are made miserable by the heat and the stink and the thirst and the close quarters until they die wretchedly.
“Today all of the country around the Gulf of Paria and other places are empty of the Spaniards. Because there are no more pearls, gold, or fish, they have no other income except slaves. There are few of them since the governor has given the Indians their freedom, so most Spaniards have gone to other countries.”
“Although Benzoni frequently sides with Native Americans against what he perceives (or at least portrays) as the savage Spanish, cannibalism is a recurring theme in his ‘History’. The attribution of cannibalism to some Native American groups began almost as soon as the Spanish arrived in the Caribbean. This accusation served the interest of Spanish conquistadors, because, unlike the so-called civilized groups, cannibals could be dealt with more harshly. When legislation began to limit the enslavement of native peoples, exceptions were made for cannibals. In the early colonization of the Carib- bean, these distinctions were mapped onto the ethnic markers applied to indigenous groups. Caribs were labeled cannibals and subjected to enslavement, while Aruacas (Arawaks) were not cannibals and therefore enjoyed legal protections. Significantly, this early distinction between “good” and “bad” indios, a view clearly perpetuated by Benzoni’s ‘History’, had lasting consequences in obscuring the cultural landscape of the early Americas.”(Schwaller and Byars, introduction to their edition, Benzoni, “The History of the New World”(2017))
Ethnography and Natural History:
Benzoni’s narrative is filled with careful observations of flora, fauna, and above all, the culture of the Indigenous. He describes their clothing, diet, technology, and many aspects of their social structure and customs, including religion and ritual.
“I believe that most of the countryside south of Paria is the most beautiful and fruitful of any I have seen in any part of the Indies. It has a large and fertile plain where there are always flowers, some that smell nice and some with a terrible odor. The trees are perpetually in bloom as if it were always spring, though not all of them bear fruit. In some parts there is medicinal cassia. The province is usually hot and damp and full of mosquitoes that are very annoying at night. There are also swarms of locusts that harm the plants severely.
“The men wear a codpiece shaped like a cannon made of squash that covers their manhood and leaves the rest to hang freely. The codpieces used to be covered in pearls and gold but the Spanish put a stop to that. Married women cover their shameful parts with a cloth called a pamanilia. The young girls wear only a cord. Wealthy lords are allowed to take as many wives as they want, but only one is legitimate. She commands all the others. The poorer people only take three or four and they get rid of them when they get older so they can take younger wives. Each of the wives are deflowered by holy men called piacchi.
“Their main food source is fish. They also make wine out of maize and out of other various fruits and roots. They eat human flesh, and spiders, worms, other disgusting things, and lice, like the monkeys. They make a rare mixture out of oyster shells—the kind that make pearls—that they char with the leaves of the axi tree to preserve their teeth. They temper these with a little water and spread it over their teeth, which become as black as charcoal, but then are conserved forever without pain. They pierce their nostrils, lips, and ears. They paint their body with the juice of red and black herbs. Really, the uglier they become, the more beautiful they think they are.
“The beds of the principal lords are made with a tarp, longer than it is wide, like a sheet. The tarp is suspended in the air on two large poles, and they sleep on that. Those who sleep in the countryside keep a large fire burning continuously so they won’t get cold. This is the normal way of sleeping in all the provinces.
“The principal arms they carry are bows with two kinds of poisoned arrows, either of palm wood or of a kind of reeds that grow by the river. Instead of iron tips they use hard fish scales and pieces of flint covered with a black cement which is pure venom made from roots, herbs, ants, apples, and some other beastly mixture combined and boiled with difficulty and diligence by the old women. The vapor that comes from it is so dangerous that most of the women die. When the tincture is fresh, the man who was wounded by this arrow swells and is so hurt that he goes mad and dies quickly. If the poison is old it loses its efficacy, so the wounded can be remedied by lancing the swollen place with a red-hot iron. I have known several Spaniards who were saved this way.”(Translation by Byars)
Church 154; Sabin Vol. III p. 36-37; Huth catalogue, vol. 2, p. 411; JCB, pre-1675, I: p. 393-4; Burden, Mapping of America no. 83
Descriptions of the plates (from JCB catalogue):
Departure from Spanish port. Includes fortifications, ships, boats, scenes of fishing, dwellings, churches, lighthouses or towers. Girolamo Benzoni left from the port of Sanlúcar in Spain in 1541. He spent fourteen years traveling in the New World.
Fish and flying fish surround three ships in the ocean. At left a wind-head represents a storm brewing.
The text describes flying fish which flew out of the water to escape predators below only to be caught by birds above. It also discusses dolphins or fish which have a beak like a goose and a hole on top for breathing.
Native American woman with a ring through her nose presents a basket of fruit to European gentlemen. Includes guns or muskets and sword.
Benzoni describes a “strange old woman” who had a large wooden ring in her nose and heavy earrings. She brought a basket of fruit and claimed to be the wife of a local cacique or chief.
European soldiers lead native American men, women, and children on a forced march. Includes guns or muskets and swords. Captain Pedro de Calice, commander of Spanish soldiers, in Ameracapana (present-day Pritu, near Cumana, Venezuela), captured many native Americans to work in the pearl fisheries of Cubagua.
Native Americans test the immortality or divinity of the Spanish by drowning them in a river. Includes guns or muskets and dwellings. Native Americans of Boriquén (present-day San Juan, Puerto Rico) held a Spanish soldier named Salsedo under water to see if he could survive drowning. His death convinced the natives that the Spanish were not invincible and inspired a revolt among them.
Christopher Columbus stands on board a ship being drawn by Diana toward the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, and Jamaica [?] and surrounded by mythological sea nymphs or sirens and sea horses with Neptune or Poseidon being drawn by hippocampi (or sea horses) in the background. Includes sea monsters, fish, anchors, banner depicting the crucifixion, a dove with a Greek cross over its head, bow and arrows, and a banner with Columbus' coat of arms. Jan van der Straet, also known as Joannes [or Johannes] Stradanus, compiled a series of four prints under the title Americae retectio in 1592, issued in celebration of the centennial of Columbus' discovery of the New World. This image is reduced from that print.
Christopher Columbus talks at a dining table about the New World. An egg stands on a plate before him while servants carry in food. Columbus supposedly showed how the impossible can be possible by demonstrating how an egg can be made to stand on end. He flattened one end and stood it on a plate. This trick originally may be attributed to Brunelleschi.
Christopher Columbus takes his leave from Ferdinand and Isabella, king and queen of Spain. In the background is the harbor of Cadiz with ships and boats. Includes the royal Spanish coat of arms, horses, and soldiers.
Christopher Columbus's landfall in the New World. A group of Europeans are greeted by native Americans who offer treasure in the form of jewelry, shells, and boxes. Three ships stand at anchor while European soldiers raise a cross. Other native Americans flee in the background. Social interactions include first encounter of Europeans with native Americans. Also includes muskets or guns, swords, and boat.
Christopher Columbus punishes his mutinous Spaniards by hanging them while a priest rushes to intervene. A group of men in the background fight. Includes spears and muskets or guns. Columbus returned to Hispaniola in September 1494 to discover that the Spaniards who had been left there had revolted and turned against him and his brother, Bartholomew. Columbus had some of the seditious Spaniards hanged, leading a Benedictine monk to deny Columbus the sacrament. That monk later wrote the Spanish king of Columbus' and his brother's wrongdoings which caused the king to recall Columbus to Spain.
Hurricane strikes land, capsizing a ship and causing Spanish soldiers and native Americans to flee. Includes guns or muskets, swords, and spears. The test describes a violent hurricane which struck Hispaniola.
Native Americans from the island of Cubaga dive and collect pearl oysters from boats or canoes. On an island in the background, a group of native Americans trade pearls with Europeans. Built environment includes settlement with dwellings and ships. The text describes discovery by Christopher Columbus of a native American tribe near the Gulf of Paria and the island of Cubagua (between present-day Trinidad and Venezuela) who collected pearl oysters. Pearls were one of the items that Columbus was specifically asked to find and one which he eventually did discover. Between 1513 and 1540, the number of pearls taken from Cubagua alone approached 120 million.
Columbus and his brother, Bartholomew, are captured in Hispaniola and dismissed from service. Chains are put on Columbus's legs. Includes ships and soldiers with spears. The newly appointed governor of Hispaniola arrived in August 1500 and had Columbus's brother, Diego arrested. When Columbus and his brother, Bartholomew arrived they were also arrested and were sent back to Spain.
The battle between Christopher Columbus and Francisco Porras on the island of Jamaica. In the foreground native Americans in a canoe land on shore. Also includes ships, shields, spears, and guns or muskets. On May 29, 1504, Columbus and his men arrived in Jamaica where Francisco Porras and his brother tried to mutiny against Columbus's authority. Porras was eventually arrested.
Ferdinand Magellan sits on board ship surrounded by mythological figures including Apollo with sun and lyre, Zeus on his throne of clouds, Adam and Eve, a bird carrying an elephant, a native American swallowing an arrow, and a depiction of the Tierra del Fuego. Also includes cannon, banner with the double-headed Hapsburg eagle, anchor, broken mast, navigational instruments such as armillary sphere and dividers, sea monsters, and sea nymphs. The large bird carrying the elephant represents the effort to discover a passage to the East Indies. Jan van der Straet, also known as Joannes [or Johannes] Stradanus, compiled a series of four prints under the title Americae retectio in 1592, issued in celebration of the centennial of Columbus' discovery of the New World.
Native Americans kill European monks and soldiers using war clubs, bows, and arrows. Includes dwellings, guns or muskets, and ships. Some monks left Cubagua to proselytize among the native Americans near Cumana, present-day Venezuela. The native Americans, however, tired of Spanish interference, massacred many monks and Spanish traders. Some of the Spaniards managed to escape and went to Dominica where they reported the massacre to Bartholomew Columbus, who was governor of that island.
Europeans on a ship hang native Americans, some of whom escape by jumping overboard. Includes cannons firing and dwellings. Some of the Spaniards who had witnessed the massacre of Spaniards by native Americans near Cumana, present-day Venezuela, raised an army on the island of Dominica under the command of Diego d'Ocampo. When the ship arrived back at Cumana, d'Ocampo duped the natives by hiding the soldiers below deck, attacking them once they were lured aboard and hanging all who did not escape.
Europeans attack a native American settlement, burning dwellings and palisades, and killing the inhabitants. The governor of Cartagena, Alonso de Ojeda, launched a surprise attack in retaliation for the loss of his soldiers who were killed by native Americans on an earlier expedition to the interior of present-day Colombia to search for gold. Ojeda was aided by the arrival of Diego de Nicuesa's fleet. The settlement was burned and all its inhabitants were captured or killed.
Shipbuilding in Veragua. Men saw planks and construct a ship. In the background, a shipwrecked vessel lies in the ocean, men build dwellings and sow fields. Includes boat building tools such as adzes, axes, pitch cooking over a fire, cross-saw, pliers, mallet, and anvil. Members of Diego de Nicuesa's expedition to Panama were forced to build a new vessel re-using material from their ship which was wrecked under their commander, Lope de Olaño, who destroyed his fleet to keep his men from deserting while he looked for the mouth of the Veragua River. This ship was the first to be built by Europeans in the New World. The details of shipbuilding probably derive from a Flemish shipyard close at hand to the artist. This image was later modified to show Noah building the Ark.
Native Americans pour molten gold into the throats of Spaniards. In background is a scene of cannibalism. Native Americans butcher and roast limbs over a grill. Also includes dwellings, hearth, and knife.
In retribution for European greed, native Americans along the coast of Panama are shown obliging the invader's craving for gold by pouring molten metal down their throats.
Native Americans offer gold to Spanish soldiers. In the background a priest baptizes native Americans and Europeans sight an ocean from a promontory. Includes dwellings, baskets, swords, and guns or muskets.
Nuñez de Balboa, hearing of a vast sea to the south of his colony in the Gulf of Uraba set off in 1513 to discover it. On the way his soldiers begain to quarrel over some pearls which they had stolen. In disgust one of their native guides said that he would led them to where they would find enough gold to satisfy their greed. He led them to the top of a high hill in Darien from which they sighted the Pacific Ocean.
European soldiers watch as dogs tear apart native Americans. Includes guns or muskets, swords, dwelling, and bird. While crossing the isthmus of Panama in 1513, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa came across native Americans from the province of Quarenca, dressed as women, committing acts of sodomy. As punishment, Balboa had the men thrown to the dogs.
Native Americans commit suicide. Includes death from poison, stone knives and spears, from jumping off high places, drowning, hanging, and beating. Mothers and fathers kill their own children.
Native Americans are shown committing suicide to escape Spanish brutality.
Native Americans dance and worship before a many-headed idol in a temple or dwelling. Includes feathered headdresses and garments, offerings of baskets of food, man playing musical instrument or drum, and winged devils. Benzoni describes the feast days of native Americans in Hispaniola. The cacique or chief would lead his people by beating a drum to the worship of their idol, a strange hydra-like creature with several heads.
Map of the Caribbean islands, including part of North America or Florida, the Yucatan (shown as an island?), Panama, and the northern part of South America. Includes sea monsters, ships, royal coat of arms of Spain, lines of latitude and longitude, location of settlements and rivers, and some topographical details.
Various legends on the map mark the four voyages of Christopher Columbus and make an early mention of the Gulf Stream. A cross marks "Gunahani," or Columbus's first landfall.
Title page showing native Americans and [Columbus's three] ships. At top is an idol with native Americans worshiping at his temple. Cultural artifacts include feathered headdresses and garments, jewelry or ornaments, drums, and Theodor de Bry's motto (with ants swarming up a tree). The two men flanking the page hold a plant, necklace, and staff.
1. The western hemisphere is shown flanked by figures of Janus and Flora. Above are medallion portraits of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci. A sea god supports the western hemisphere. At bottom is a representation of the coast of Italy with Genoa shown on the coast and Florence shown at far right. At top charioteers carry shields bearing the arms of Genoa and Florence.
Janus represents Genoa and is shown with Neptune mounted on a war chariot and the symbol of Genoa. Flora holding flowers represents Florence and is shown with Mars, the god of war, the first patron of Florence and the fleur de lis, symbol of that city. Jan van der Straet, also known as Joannes [or Johannes] Stradanus, compiled a series of four prints under the title Americae retectio in 1592, issued in celebration of the centennial of Columbus' discovery of the New World.
2. Christopher Columbus is shown standing on board a ship holding a navigational instrument or quadrant in one hand with the other hand on his sword. He is surrounded by mythological figures. Includes sea god and nymphs, lilies, turtle, lions, gorgon's head on shield, and swords. Also on the ship are a broken mast, the flag of Genoa, anchors, a suit of armor, and cannons. Jan van der Straet, also known as Joannes [or Johannes] Stradanus, compiled a series of four prints under the title Americae retectio in 1592, issued in celebration of the centennial of Columbus' discovery of the New World. Straet's original print was a figure of Vespucci, but here represents Christopher Columbus and is reduced from the original print.
Church 154; Sabin Vol. III p. 36-37; Huth catalogue, vol. 2, p. 411; JCB, pre-1675, I: p. 393-4; Burden, Mapping of America no. 83