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Hand-Colored De Bry Engravings of 1590

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Picturing the New World: The Hand-Colored De Bry Engravings of 1590 is a resource from UNC Libraries that presents the digitized engravings Theodore De Bry (1528–98) illustrated for A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. These hand-colored engravings were based on the watercolors of John White, who became part of the first British colony in North America, which was established off the coast of what is now North Carolina in 1585. Although the colonists were only there for about a year, White painted the environment and people of North America.

In 1588, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia was published, containing stories and descriptions about the new land. De Bry worked directly from John White’s watercolors to create 27 engravings for the illustrated edition to create what would be the first published images of Native Americans. However, the digital collection notes:

While the De Bry engravings shown on this site represent the earliest published images of Native Americans, viewers should be careful not to interpret these as accurate depictions of the inhabitants of North Carolina in the late sixteenth century. The images shown here are twice removed from John White’s original watercolors. In the engravings created by Theodore De Bry, there are many subtle but significant changes from White’s originals: the facial structure of most of the people has been altered, resulting in portraits that look more like Europeans; the musculature on most of the people is much more defined in the De Bry engravings; and the poses of many of the subjects seem to reflect classical statuary. The colorist for this volume has contributed to the distortion of the original images by adding a pale skin tone and blonde hair to some of the people and decorating much of the vegetation in colors that are unlike anything that occurs naturally in this part of the world.

For more information and to explore the digital collection, visit Picturing the New World: The Hand-Colored De Bry Engravings of 1590.

 

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