Marvelous image of Girolamo Benzoni, aboard his ship, as he approaches the Caribbean on his voyage to the New World in 1541.
Benzoni sailed to the New World in 1541, travelling through the Caribbean, Central and South America, before returning to Spain and then to Italy in 1556. In 1565, the first account of his travels in the New World appeared under the title Historia del Mondo Nuovo, which was translated into English and French over the next 30 years. Among the more entertaining elements of Benzoni's account of his time in the New World is his report of flying fish witnessed by the crew, after sailing west for 14 days out of the Canaries.
De Bry's interpretation of this famous passage from Benzoni's account provides a lively image of Benzoni alone, on the deck of his flagship, surrounded by flying fish, with two other sailing ships in the distance, a windhead, several curious sea monsters, and a representation of land (likely intended to represent the New World, since Benzoni's ship is pointed in the direction of land) on the horizon.
Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) was a prominent Flemish engraver and publisher best known for his engravings of the New World. Born in Liege, de Bry hailed from the portion of Flanders then controlled by Spain. The de Brys were a family of jewelers and engravers, and young Theodor was trained in those artisanal trades.
As a Lutheran, however, his life and livelihood was threatened when the Spanish Inquisition cracked down on non-Catholics. De Bry was banished and his goods seized in 1570. He fled to Strasbourg, where he studied under the Huguenot engraver Etienne Delaune. He also traveled to Antwerp, London, and Frankfurt, where he settled with his family.
In 1590, de Bry began to publish his Les Grands Voyages, which would eventually stretch to thirty volumes released by de Bry and his two sons. The volumes contained not only important engraved images of the New World, the first many had seen of the geographic novelties, but also several important maps. He also published a collection focus on India Orientalis. Les Grands Voyages was published in German, Latin, French, and English, extending de Bry’s fame and his view of the New World.