An interesting set of German coats of arms, found at the start of De Bry's America section of his Grands Voyages.
This delicately engraved and impressively designed set of coats of arms seeks to praise German Electors that would have been influential in De Bry's region of Germany. At the center is the coat of arms of Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emporer, and it is surrounded by the coats of arms of the electors of the Rhine Palatinate, Saxony, Brandenburg, Trevirens, Cologne, and Mainz.
This engraving served to open the American section of De Bry's work, which covered important early voyages to the East Coast of the United States, including the White voyage to Virginia and the French Huguenot expedition to Florida.
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 were 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 focused 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.