CLERCK, Nicolaes de.
AMERICANUM- PORTRAITS OF PRINCES AND NAVIGATORS
Tooneel der beroemder Hertogen, Princen, Graven ende Krygs-Helden van Christenrijck binnen dese drey laeste eeuwenDelft, Nicolaes de Clerck, 1617
FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. (viii) 325. Gothic letter, with Roman. Engraved t-p with angel above, heraldic shields to centre, and male allegorical figures below, 82 half-page engraved portraits, decorated initials and ornaments. T-p slightly dusty, lower edge a trifle frayed, intermittent slight browning (paper probably not properly dried), small ink burn just touching one letter on E4 and S4, minor see-through or offsetting from couple of pls, light water stain to few lower or upper margins, small paper flaws to three lower outer blank corners. A very good copy in contemporary vellum, yapp edges, C19 bookplate of James William Ellsworth to front pastedown, glued paper slip stamped ‘Armand’ (C19).
A fascinating history of the most important princes (including two from the New World), noblemen and heroes (mostly explorers and navigators) of Christianity, beautifully illustrated with numerous engraved portraits, here in fine impression. The Flemish Nicolaes de Clerck (fl. 1599-25), printer in Delft, specialised in engravings from plates designed and engraved by skilled artists like Jacques de Gheyn the Younger. He also himself produced maps and dozens of portraits of political figures for historical publications (‘Drawing’, 191). In 1600, he was rewarded financially for ‘having dedicated and presented to the States General the depictions of the genealogy of the illustrious house of Nassau and the feats of war’ (Klinkert, ‘Information’, 62). Each section of ‘Tooneel’ begins with a textual genealogy, focusing at length on major figures, depicted in handsome portraits. These include Cesare Borgia, Alessandro Farnese, William of Orange, Cosimo I de’ Medici, Gaston de Foix, Edward Prince of Wales and Philip the Good. The portraits (and biographies) of the Americana section were drawn from André Thevet’s famous ‘Les vrais pourtraits et vies des hommes illustres’ (1584). These include Montezuma, King of Mexico, Atahualpa, King of Peru, Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizzarro, Ferdinando Magellano and Amerigo Vespucci (this last filed in the section of de’ Medici, his patrons). Thevet’s ‘Les vrais pourtraits’ was hitherto the closest attempt to replicate a faithful image of New World figures. Montezuma was the only prince whose image Thevet had not managed to acquire, so he used as a source the Aztec ‘Codex Mendoza’ (c.1529-33); nobody was allowed to look at the king, though Cortés had described him in a letter to Charles V. For Atahualpa, Thevet used an image from his personal collection; no native portrait has survived (Hajovsky, ‘André Thevet’, 335). An unexpected Americanum, with fresh illustrations in the Netherlandish style.Only three copies recorded in the US (Folger, Lehigh and JFB).Alden 617/42; Sabin 13637. Not in BM STC Dutch, Graesse or Lipperheide. W. Liedtke et al., Vermeer and the Delft School (London, 2001); C.M. Klinkert, ‘Information or Indoctrination?’, in Selling and Rejecting Politics in Early Modern Europe, ed. M. Gosman et al. (Leuven, 2007), 59-70; P.T. Hayovski, ‘André Thevet’s ‘true’ portrait of Moctezuma and its European legacy’, Word & Image 25 (2009), 335-52.