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Document Number: AJ-119
Author: Gottfried, Johann Ludwig, 17th cent.
Title: Newe Welt vnd americanische Historien [illustrations--excerpt]
Source: Gottfriedt, Johann Ludwig. Newe Welt vnd americanische Historien. (Franckfurt: Bey denen Merianischen Erben, 1655). 49 selected plates.
Pages/Illustrations: 50 / 49
Citable URL:

Author Note

Little is known about the German publisher Johann Ludwig Gottfried (seventeenth century), who inherited the Theodor De Bry’s (1528-1598) publishing firm and then issued the illustrations shown here.

Note on the Illustrations

When the French set out to establish the first permanent colony in North America in 1564, they sent along a painter, Jacques Le Moynes des Morgues, to record their experiment (see AJ-141). Similarly, when English colonists set out for Virginia in 1587, artist John White was instructed to draw and paint the landscape, plants, animals, and inhabitants of the New World (see AJ-035 to AJ-038).

Although both colonies quickly perishedthe French massacred by the Spanish, and the English simply vanishing from Roanoke Islandthe paintings and drawings of Le Moynes des Morgues and White found their way to de Bry’s Frankfurt publishing firm. De Bry copied them into copperplate engravings and, beginning in 1590, published them alongside eyewitness textual accounts. These illustrated books proved so popular that he expanded the series to include all the great Renaissance voyages of exsploration.

Between 1590 and 1634, de Bry and his sons issued thirteen volumes containing illustrated accounts of the expeditions of Magellan, Columbus, Vespucci, Cortes, Balboa, Raleigh, Drake, Smith, and many others. In most cases, theirs were the first images ever made of the Americas by Europeans.

In 1631 Johann Ludwig Gottfried, a printer who had worked on the volumes and inherited the de Bry family publishing firm, issued a one-volume condensation that used many of the original copper plates and supplemented them with new ones of more recent voyages. This work was reprinted in 1655, and we have included here all the 1655 images of North America, as well as several depicting the Caribbean at the time of the four Columbus voyages.

Although the Florida and Roanoke pictures were made on the scene by participants, most of de Bry’s other images were drawn by European artists who had never set foot in America, working from textual descriptions. This helps to explain the wildly inaccurate and fanciful depictions of mermaids, dragons, and other mythical creatures that occasionally appear.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

"Early Images of Virginia Indians" is an informative web site that discusses the interpretation of historical images, including various de Bry engravings. It can be found at the Virginia Historical Society's web site at

The New World by Stephan Lorant (N.Y.: Duell, Sloan & Pierce, 1946) contains all de Bry’s images of Florida and Roanoke, as well as the full texts of his captions and all the texts he printed.

John White’s original watercolors are reproduced alongside de Bry's engravings at the "Virtual Jamestown" web site at

A summary of de Bry’s career and the publication of all his illustrations is “Theodore de Bry and His Illustrated Voyages and Travels” at

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