Le Moyne, Jacques and Theodor de Bry
- Brevis Narratio eorum quae in florida Americae provi[n]cia Gallis acciderunt ... quae est seconda pars Americae. Frankfurt: Theodor De Bry, 1591
- paper, ink, cloth, leather
With the publication of this work, together with Hariot's Virginia, De Bry launched what would later become known as his Grand Voyages. These first two works are without question the most important of the series both in terms of their contemporary influence and their historical and ethnographic value to modern scholars and collectors. The text of the Brevis narratio... describes the earliest French settlements of what are now portions of the United States and are here united by De Bry with engravings based on watercolors by a member of the expedition to the New World. To most of the Old World, this work presented the first accurate eyewitness depiction and account of Native Americans.
In the mid-1560s two French expeditions led by Jean Ribault and René Goulaine de Laudonnière sought to establish a Hugenot settlement in Florida. Among those accompanying Laudonnière was Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues: born in Dieppe, France in about 1533, he was appointed artist to the expedition which sailed in April 1564. Arguably the first western artist to visit the New World, Le Moyne recorded the scenery of Florida and the lives of the Timucua Indians in great detail, as well as charting the coastline of Florida and much of present-day South Carolina. Unfortunately, the nascent French colony was seen as a threat by the Spanish, the dominant European power in the region, and in September 1565 a force led by Pedro Menendez massacred the French colonists at Fort Caroline. Le Moyne and several others, however, made a miraculous escape.
The story of their struggles was not published until 1588, when, at the instigation of Richard Hakluyt, Laudonnière's journal was published in Paris. Later that year, master engraver and publisher Theodor De Bry traveled to London, and met with Le Moyne in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain illustrations of the region to accompany a new edition of Laudonnière's journal. Following Le Moyne's death the following year, De Bry returned to London and purchased the watercolors from his widow. It was on this trip to London that De Bry met Hakluyt, who informed him of the British expeditions to Virginia, shared with him both Hariot's journal and White's watercolors from the expedition and suggested the publication of a series of illustrated voyages to America, beginning with Hariot/White and Laudonnière/Le Moyne. De Bry returned to Frankfurt and in 1590 published the former in Latin, German, French and English; the following year he published the latter in Latin and German, presumably having found that there was only a small market for the other languages.
Le Moyne's extraordinary illustrations of the Florida Indians, which appear on forty-two leaves of this work in their first published form, rank with those of John White as early depictions of Native Americans. They show all aspects of Indian life, including settlements, ceremonies, wars, agriculture, hunting, and preparation of food. They also show scenes of the French settlement and their involvement with the Indians. These images were widely copied for centuries, and many later supposedly original illustrations of American Indians are actually copies of Le Moyne's illustrations.
The map, which appeared for the first time with this text, is one of the most elaborate of the Florida peninsula to appear in the 16th century, giving the names assigned by the French and Spanish. Cumming provides an elaborate description, and John Matthew Baxter describes it as "…the most remarkable and important map, which has been preserved from the sixteenth century maps, of that part of the East Coast which lies between Cape Hatteras and Cape Florida … [It is] the first French map to show Florida … [and is] considered the most important map of Florida."
Some copies of this first Latin edition include a leaf bound after the last of the plates which includes a colophon with the same wording as the final colophon -- it is not present in this copy, but Sabin notes that it is only found in "some copies."