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The new world and its peoples
Detailed information about the new world was slow to circulate in sixteenth-century Europe. Most of the explorers'accounts were published only in limited numbers, if they were published at all. The Venetian scholar and statesman Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) attempted to remedy this by collecting, editing and translating into Italian the most important accounts, including those of Columbus, Cortes and Pizarro. The results were published in a three-volume illustrated work, the first volume of which appeared in 1550. This work continued to be reprinted into the early seventeenth century. Ramusio's work played a crucial role in popularizing the study of the non-European world, and the illustrations, such as this view of the city of Cuzco, provided many Europeans with their first comprehensive set of images of the worlds previously unknown to them.
The success of Ramusio's work paved the way for other writers and compilers, notably Richard Hakluyt in England and Theodore de Bry in the Netherlands. De Bry (1528-1598) was a talented engraver who was responsible for some of the best maps and most influential images of the Americas at the end of the sixteenth century. His map of Central and South America shows the state of public knowledge of American geography at the time, but the imagery used in the map is also revealing. The Spanish and French coats of arms displayed prominently at the top of the map mark the Americas as being under European control, as is also suggested by the large European ship and the European-style town symbols. De Bry is most famous now for his magnificent multi-volume illustrated work on America in which the native peoples are portrayed as savage brutes. This was not a case of simple racism; his Americans look very much like classical nudes. Instead, he held that the natives had fallen into such barbarism because they lived without the civilizing influence of Christianity. His shocking images of Native Americans were widely seen in England at the beginning of English settlement in America, and contributed to the English mistrust and hostility toward them.
|Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections|