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Bry, Theodor de (1528-1598)

Theodor de Bry (1528-1598)

Artist, engraver, publisher

Sources

Refugee. Many Europeans first glimpsed the wonders of the New World in prints executed by the engraver Theodor de Bry. De Bry, a Lutheran originally from Spanish-controlled Flanders, fled to the Protestant city of Strasbourg, Germany, in 1570 due to Spanish persecution of non-Catholics. In Strasbourg, which was the European center of the book trade, he worked and studied with the French Huguenot engraver Etienne Delaune. During a twenty-eight-year period, from 1590 to 1618, de Bry and his sons published in Europe ten illustrated volumes titled Great Voyages which depicted the conquest of the Americas by English, French, Dutch, and Spanish colonists. The purpose of these volumes was to encourage colonization of the New World.

The Invention of America. The lavishly illustrated Great Voyages circulated widely and were published not only in German and Latin but also in English and French. The texts were an instant success among both the European aristocracy and merchant classes. Furthermore, the printed illustrations were sold on the streets of European cities, thus reaching an even larger audience. Although de Bry himself never ventured to the New World, he was responsible for shaping many Europeans notions of it. As explorers discovered America, de Bry and others were busy inventing it in the minds of the masses.

The Engravings. De Brys engravings relied on life drawings by such artist-explorers as John White and Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, as well as on textual descriptions by adventurers such as Hans Staden or Jean de Léry. The first volume of the Great Voyages, published in 1590 with engravings after sketches by White, described the English expedition to Virginia. A second volume followed in 1591 detailing the French Huguenots experiences in Florida in 1565 with engravings after Le Moyne de Morguess sketches. A fourth volume on the Spanish colonization focused on the mistreatment of the indigenous population, betraying de Brys decidedly anti-Spanish bias. After the artists death his two sons took over production of the Great Voyages, ensuring that European audiences would have access to these fanciful descriptions of the Americas throughout the colonial period.

Technique and Style. The engraving process itself, which allows for the dissemination of multiple copies of an image, was partly responsible for the success of de Brys Great Voyages. The process is complex. Using a sharp implement called a burin, the artist scratches the image onto a metal plate, which is then inked in order to print the image on paper. De Brys engravings demonstrate his great artistic talents. They are executed in the Mannerist style current in the late sixteenth century, as demonstrated by the elongated, muscular, and idealized figures, and reveal his talent for drawing and composition.

Sources

Bernadette Bûcher, Icon and Conquest: Structural Analysis of the Illustrations of de Brys Great Voyages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981);

Hugh Honour, The New Golden Land: European Images of America from the Discoveries to the Present Time (New York: Pantheon, 1975).

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Bry, Théodore de

Théodore de Bry (tēōdôr´ də brē, brī), 1528–98, Flemish engraver and publisher, b. Liège. He spent most of his life in Frankfurt-am-Main. He visited London, where he executed a series of 12 plates, The Procession of the Knights of the Garter, and another of 34 plates, The Funeral of Sir Philip Sidney. The British geographer Hakluyt assisted him in obtaining materials for an illustrated collection of voyages and travels, Collectiones peregrinationum (1590–1634). Bry also published a series of portraits of famous men and illustrated the works of Thomas Hariot and J. J. Boissard. His son John Théodore de Bry, 1561–1623, assisted him and continued or completed several of his works.

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"Bry, Théodore de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bry, Théodore de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bry-theodore-de

"Bry, Théodore de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bry-theodore-de