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Representations of the Overseas World in the De Bry Collection of Voyages, 1590-1634

This book reveals how one publishing firm's editorial strategy helped to legitimate European colonialism in the early modern era.

Michiel van Groesen
01 September 2008

The De Bry collection of voyages was one of the most monumental publications in early modern Europe. A coffee-table book issued simultaneously in German and Latin, it comprised twenty-five volumes of European travel accounts to America, Africa, and Asia, containing 600 often graphic, very influential copper engravings. Theodore de Bry and his two sons drastically changed the canonical reports in their Frankfurt workshop. I argue that they manipulated the texts for a confessionally divided readership. The German editions were aimed at a Protestant audience, the Latin translations were sold in Catholic Europe. The images, identical in both editions, reflected and shaped negative stereotypes of non-European (and non-Christian) societies, and were meant to appeal to all European readers regardless of confessional allegiance. Both the thirteen-volume America-series and the twelve-volume India Orientalis-series became collectors' items almost overnight, and have remained so to this day.

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