BENZONI, Girolamo; BRY, Theodor De.

BENZONI, Girolamo; BRY, Theodor De. Americae pars quinta.

[Frankfurt am Main, Johann Feyerabend], 1595.


FIRST EDITION. Folio, pp [2] 72, ff. [1] 22. Two parts in one, separate t-p to each. Double page map of New Spain, lightly trimmed at foot, strengthened, 22 engravings by De Bry of European treatment of native Americans, in good impression. Plate 13 overlaps with text. T-ps within elaborate woodcut borders depicting the conquest of the New World, historiated initials, and ornaments throughout, ‘Hia’ engraved above fifth line of title. Pretty later hand colouring to first t-p, portrait of Christopher Columbus and first historiated large initial. Age browning, particularly to final leaves, poor paper, a few edges frayed. A good, well-margined copy in modern green quarter-calf over plain boards, a.e.g.

The second or ‘counterfeit’ issue of the first edition of the fifth part of Theodore De Bry’s 8-part series on the discovery of America, complete with map of New Spain, a territory covering the southwestern portion of North America, and extensive engravings based on eyewitness accounts, accompanying text from Girolamo Benzoni’s second book of his ‘Novae Novi Orbis Historiae’. We only know of ‘two editions of the fifth part of the Great Voyages’; the second can be identified by the ‘Hia’ abbreviation on the t-p, by the 13 lines on the first page of the preface, instead of 11 and various typographical differences, including a smaller font the notes being in italics and the plates being numbered with Arabic figures instead of Roman numerals. It contains a three-part narrative spanning the years 1541-56, the work provided detailed descriptions of the native landscape, alongside accounts of Spanish exploits, including their methods of conquest and government. The present argumentum reveals the second book’s focus on Spanish ventures into the American continent and the maltreatment of the local people, ultimately contributing to the propagation of the Spanish Black Legend. The 21 chapters of text discuss the enslavement of the local population, import of slaves from Africa, encounters with pirates, local customs including the preparation of food, sleeping habits, dances and architecture, and responses to Spanish occupation. This is followed by a series of spirited engravings by De Bry, accompanied by descriptions, each one corresponding to a chapter of the text. More often than not, the Spanish conquistadors are presented committing acts of gross violence against the defenceless natives. The scenes are graphic in their portrayal, placing the harsh criticism of the Spanish into more visual terms.

While De Bry never personally left Europe, Benzoni set out for the Americas in 1541, at the age of 22, acquiring a great deal of wealth on his trip, before losing it in a shipwreck and waiting several months in Cuba for a ship back to Spain, arriving in Sanlucar in September 1556. During his travels, he visited the West Indies, Venezuela, Hispaniola, Colombia, Central America and Peru. No trace of him survives beyond his dedication for the 1572 edition of the text.

USTC: 611196; Adams: B 2995; BM Catalogue (Dutch): p160; Sabin: Vol V p.38; Alden: 595/8; not in Cox
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