South American Voyages – A Fundamental Work on Brazil - With the Map

AMERICAS. VOYAGES AND TRAVELS. Bry, Theodor de (1528-1598); Staden, Hans von (ca. 1525- ca. 1576); Léry, Jean de (1534-1611); Barré, Nicolas (active 1555)

Americae Tertia Pars Memorabile[m] Provinciae Brasiliae Historiam: Contine[n]s, Germanico Primùm Sermone Scriptam à Ioa[n]ne Stadio Homburgensi Hesso, Nunc Autem Latinitate Donatam à Teucrio Annaeo Priuato Colchanthe Po: & Med: Addita Est Narratio Profectionis Ioannis Lerij in Eamdem Provinciam, Qua[m] Ille Initio Gallicè Conscripsit, Postea Verò Latinam Fecit. His Accessit Descriptio Morum & Ferocitatis Incolarum Illius Regionis, Atque Colloquium Ipsorum Idiomate Conscriptum. Omnia recens evulgata, & eiconibus in aes incisis ac ad vivum expressis illustrata, ad normam exemplaris praedictorum autorum: studio & diligentia Theodori de Bry Leodiensis, atque civis Francofurtensis anno M DXCII. [Second title]: Navigatio in Brasiliam Americae.

Frankfurt: Apud Ioannem Wechelum, impensis Theodori de Bry, 1592 but ? 1597


Folio: 33.7 x 23.3 cm. [16], 134, [2], 137-296, [15] pp. The 2 engraved titles and the plate of arms are integral to the collation. With a large folding map. Collation: a-b4, A-Z4, Aa-Qq4 (leaf a2 mis-signed as a, leaf Ll2 as L2; leaf Qq4, a blank, absent).


With de Bry’s name in the compartment on the engraved title to the first part, the leaf with the seven coats of arms with the blank spaces filled in by the six virtues bound as leaf a3, the engraving of Adam and Eve is on p. [144], and the corrected illustration on p. 56. (See Church)

Illustrated with 2 engraved title pages, engraved coats-of-arms with virtues, 1 large folding map, 46 large engravings. Bound in modern calf. A very good copy, complete with the map, but with some stains and variable browning. Six signatures (I-L, N-P) have heavier browning (see picture), not affecting the engravings. Some marginal worming in the bottom blank margin of a few signatures has been repaired. The map is in fine shape with just a slight defect along one fold.

This book constitutes the third part of the first Latin edition of Theodor de Bry's Great Voyages. It comprises the most important contemporary accounts of Brazil, its flora, fauna, and its indigenous people (see below). The engravings, which depict native Brazilians engaged in dancing, warfare, and cannibalism, had a profound impact on the European imagination. 

The folding map, one of the most accurate maps of South America up to that time, shows the provinces of Peru and Brazil, the southern part of North America, and the Caribbean. The cartography of North America is based upon Jacques Le Moyne's map of Florida, which De Bry published in 1591.

“The collection of voyages, named after the De Bry publishing family coordinating the project, was one of the most monumental geographical publications of the early modern period, ranking alongside treatises like Sebastian Münster’s ‘Cosmographia’, Abraham Ortelius’ ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’, and Joan Blaeu’s ‘Atlas Maior’. The collection encompassed twenty-five folio volumes containing nearly fifty travel accounts of European expeditions to the overseas world. These accounts were presented in two more or less identical series: thirteen volumes reported on the New World, the so-called ‘America’ (or ‘India Occidentalis’) series, while the remaining twelve books, the ‘India Orientalis’ series, conveyed information on Africa and the ‘Orient’. The De Brys published each volume in both German and Latin. Around six hundred large copper engravings illustrating the narratives further ensured the collection’s reputation.

“The engravings provided early modern Europe with the first comprehensive iconographic representation of the overseas world and its inhabitants. The images were of the highest artistic quality, made by the De Brys and their associate Matthaeus Merian, who were regarded as some of the best copper engravers in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe.”(Groesen, The De Bry collection of voyages)

The first section of this volume is an account of two voyages made to Brazil in 1547-1548 and 1549-1555 by Hans von Staden, originally published in German at Marburg in 1557 under the title: Warhaftige historia vnd beschreibung eyner landtschafft der wilden, leuthen in der newenwelt America gelegen. Translated into Latin by Adam Lencier. 

Staden traveled to Brazil in 1547 on a Portuguese ship ordered to "seize as prizes any French ships which he might find in Brazil trading with the savages." On his second voyage in 1549, he was shipwrecked near a Portuguese colony while en route to Rio de La Plata in present day Uruguay. Staden endured a long captivity among the Tupinambá, during which he learned a great deal about their traditions, rituals, and customs (including cannibalism), all of which he described in his account. While the veracity of Staden’s claims of cannibalism are still debated, his hair-raising accounts (amplified by De Bry’s illustrations of this grisly practice) inspired fascination and revulsion in his European audience.

The second section (p. [135]-284) is the French Calvinist Jean de Léry's account of a voyage to Brazil in 1556-1568, originally published in French in 1578. The Latin translation appears to have been made by the author himself and was first published in 1586, from which it was doubtless taken by De Bry. (cf. Church 148).

Léry’s account is based on his experiences among the Tupí. In addition to being an indispensable narrative of the French colonists’ interaction with the native Brazilians, it is a rich mine of ethnographic, geographic, and scientific observations. He describes Tupinambá society in detail: their dress (including the paint with which they adorn their bodies and the practice of piercing) family life, marriage, childbirth and the raising of children, funeral rites, medicine and healing, religion (including shamanism), music and song, diet and the preparation of food, warfare, etc. The final section is written in part in the language of the Tupinambá.

The third section (p. 285-295) contains the two letters of Nicolas Barré, who accompanied Villegagnon (founder of the Fort Coligny colony, on the eastern coast of Brazil), related to Brazil and dated the 1st of February and 25th of May, 1552. It has a letterpress t.p. and imprint. The initials C.C.A., on the title page on p. 285 stand for Carolus Clusius Artebatensis, i.e. Charles de L'Écluse, the celebrated botanist. Cf. Church.

Church 149; Borba de Moraes I, p. 249 (vol. 3) “contains the greatest number of accounts of voyages to Brazil.” Brunet vol. 1, col. 1323-1324; Huth catalogue, vol. 2, p. 409-410; JCB, pre-1675, I: p. 390-391; Sabin 8784, p. 33-37; Muller 1862

Staden’s Account:

“Staden was in Lisbon in 1547, where there was a German commercial colony, in hope of finding employment as a ship's gunner. He set sail in June of that year on a ship transporting convicts, which had orders to attack any French interlopers off the Brazil coast. He reached Pernambuco in January 1548 and then returned to Portugal in October 1548 but sailed again in March 1549 on a Spanish vessel that was part of a new expedition to Rio de la Plata. Unfavorable weather broke up the fleet, which was partially reunited at the Portuguese colony of Sao Vicente (Santos). Here the Portuguese were allied with the Tupiniquin, which meant that the Tupinambá to the north were hostile to their settlement, the Tupinambá in turn being allied with the French. Staden was persuaded to stay in Portuguese service for a further two years, acting as a gunner in a new Portuguese fort to the east of Sao Vincente on the island of Sao Amaro, opposite the existing fort of Brikioka. It was during this period that he was captured by the Tupinambá and the bulk of his text describes the events leading up to this episode and his subsequent captivity.

“While out hunting in the vicinity of the fort, Staden was surprised by a party of Tupinambá warriors. Stripped naked and beaten, Staden was immediately carried off by his captors toward their settlement of Uwattibi (Ubatuba). Given his treatment and the words of his captors, it was apparent that he was destined for sacrifice -kawewi pepicke- as a prisoner of war. However, his two years of service in the fort had given him opportunity to learn the Tupi language and this was to serve him well. As Staden candidly tells us: “At this time I knew less of their customs than I knew later, and I thought to myself: now they are preparing to kill me".
“Staden at least had the wit to understand that if he were to be taken for a Portuguese he would almost certainly die and so he begins what is to be an interminable struggle to play off the fact that he was not a Portuguese but a "German," or, more precisely, from Hesse in Germany, and so should be exempted from the cycle of political revenge between Portuguese and Tupinambá. To that end, and notwithstanding his positive identification by a Tupinambá captured in a Portuguese and Tupiniquin raid and enslaved to the Portuguese at Brikioka, he attempted to persuade a French trader who was living four miles (staden) from Uwattibi to vouch for the fact that he was not Portuguese:

‘Then they took me to him, naked as I was, and I found him to be a youth known to the savages by the name Karwattuware. He commenced to speak to me in French, which I could not well understand, and the savages stood round about and listened. Then when I was unable to reply to him, he spoke to the savages in their own tongue and said: ‘Kill him and eat him, the good-for-nothing, for he is indeed a Portuguese, your enemy and mine.’ This I understood, and I begged him for the love of God to tell them not to eat me, but he replied only: ‘They will certainly eat you.’

“Staden was abandoned to his fate; ‘the savages said only: 'He is indeed a true Portuguese. Now he cries. Truly he is afraid to die’.’ He was duly prepared to be ritually killed but a timely attack of toothache, which his captors tried to remedy by a forcible dental extraction, led him to refuse food and he grew correspondingly thin, although they ‘threatened that if I do not eat and grow fat again they would kill me before the appointed day’. Questioned as to the disposition of the Portuguese, Staden suggested that it was the Tupiniquin who were planning to attack his captors. When this prediction came true, not only was Staden's status as a possible prophet-sham established but he also reluctantly joined them in defending Uwattibi against the Tupiniquin attack. Following this prophetic event Staden went on to suggest, when asked one night why he looked at the moon so intently, that the moon was angry with the Tupinambá. This proved, whether by luck or judgment, to be a most culturally effective observation since it produced both curiosity and alarm among his captors. When his captors themselves subsequently fell sick this became a further opportunity for Staden to perform as a shamanic healer and, since epidemic disease was ravaging Tupi populations at this time, this must be a highly significant factor in the plausibility given to Staden's acting out of shamanic roles. Staden suggested that he could intercede with his god to relieve the Tupinambá of the sickness that afflicted them. However, this was not initially effective; as Staden tells us, ‘I went to and fro laying my hands on their heads as they desired me to do, but God did not suffer it and they began to die. Nonetheless, the ultimate recovery of the chieftains Jeppipo Wasu, Vratinge Wasu, and Kenrimakui, despite the deaths of other members of their families, meant that there was no more talk of eating me. But they guarded me closely and would not suffer me to go about unattended.’

“Staden thus had ample opportunity and the linguistic abilities to understand and record what occurred around him, and it is this aspect of his text which speaks most strongly to his subsequent commentators. It is notable that both contemporary and subsequent sources may add to and amplify, but do not contradict or undermine, his account of the Tupinambá.

“The peculiar new status of Staden also meant the Frenchman, known by the Brazilians as “Karwattuware”, now was prepared to say that Staden was indeed a "German" and was different from the Portuguese. But despite the offer of trade goods the Tupinambá were not about to give up their strange, and powerful, new prophet-healer. Staden recounts how he observed the cannibalism of other captives and the frustrating attempts he made to escape with various visiting ships. He also joined them on raids against enemy villages and observed and commented upon the practice of war and the cannibalism of captives, including Portuguese. Finally, however, Staden was able to parlay his way aboard a French ship, although he nearly died of a serious gunshot wound when they encountered a Portuguese vessel off the Brazilian coast. He finally arrived in Honfleur, France, on February 20, 1555.”(Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil)

Léry’s Account:

Léry had arrived at the Fort Coligny colony, on the eastern coast of Brazil, in 1557. After eight months, several of his fellow Protestant missionaries were murdered by the colony’s founder, Nicholas Durand de Villegagnon. The remainder of the Calvinists were violently exiled from the island colony and forced to live on the mainland, where they depended on the natives for survival, until a ship came that would return them to France. During this brief period, Léry was able to observe many aspects of everday life among the Tupinambá.

Léry’s account is based on his experiences among the Tupí both during this period of waiting as well as during earlier expeditions as part of Villagagnon’s enterprise. In addition to being an indispensable narrative of the French colonists and their interaction with the native Brazilians, it is a rich mine of ethnographic (including) linguistic, geographic, and scientific observations. He describes Tupinabá society in detail: their dress (including the paint with which they adorn their bodies and the practice of piercing) family life, marriage, childbirth and the raising of children, funeral rites, medicine and healing, religion (including shamanism), diet and the preparation of food, warfare, etc. The final section is written in part in the language of the Tupinambá.

“The account that Lery gives is of an ordered polygamy resembling the patriarchal society of Biblical times. Lery sees and praises Tupí society as one -for all that its people go naked- in which there is no sexual tension, no imaginative elaboration of the erotic, no ‘romance.’ Tupí women are offered as admirable examples for European women: hard­working in the growing and preparing of food, courageous and resilient in childbirth, unsparing of their bodies in nourishing their children. While there are other sides to Lery's representation of women -the naked nocturnal wanderers, the demon-possessed celebrants at the religious rites, the devourers of human flesh- in their families they are domestic and maternal beings, producers of the Tupí babies whom they raise with much humane good sense… Probably no part of the book is more important than Chapter XVIII, on civil order and hospitality. It is the obverse on the one on cannibalism; it treats of the trust within the tribe, and the laws of hospitality that apply to any stranger who is recognized as an ally.”(Whatley)

When Léry (inevitably) describes cannibalism, he assesses the practice within the context of Tupí warfare. After battles, captured enemies were eaten after elaborate rituals. “The victim was an established enemy. According to different phases of the ritual, he was at certain moments incorporated into the community, at others rejected from it; but he had his own moment, his own song of defiance, when he was allowed to assert his own dignity and valor. The killing took place without torture, by a single great blow to the head. The cannibal feast was a social event: the distribution of the cooked flesh among neighboring groups was a gesture of solidarity and also of shared responsibility, implicitly entailing allegiance. (As a Frenchman, Lery belongs to an allied group, and he narrowly avoids offending his Tupí hosts by refusing to partake.)”(ibid.)

In the sections on natural history (Chaps. IX-XIII), Léry offers “a veritable encyclopedia of flora and fauna, rendered with such precision that modern botanists and zoologists have been able to identify almost every item he mentions: from the palms and hardwoods to the glorious panoply of birds, from the manatee to the sloth; by Lery's description, the ethologist can readily recognize the threat display of the iguana. For his classification, Lery uses an informal hybrid of various systems… His approach is an improvisational and empirical one, allowing expression of astonishment at the splendor of the parrots' plumage, of ecstasy at the smell and taste of pineapple.”(ibid.)

Church 149; Borba de Moraes I, p. 249 (vol. 3) “contains the greatest number of accounts of voyages to Brazil.” Brunet vol. 1, col. 1323-1324; Huth catalogue, vol. 2, p. 409-410; JCB, pre-1675, I: p. 390-391; Sabin 8784, p. 33-37; Muller 1862