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Description

Early Facsimile of One of the Most Important American Images Ever Produced. From the Collection of Famed Map Scholar Edward Luther Stevenson.

Photographic facsimile of an extremely rare German broadside illustrating and describing the natives encountered by Amerigo Vespucci on his second voyage. The woodblock print is attributed to Johann Froschauer and dated to between 1503 and 1505. It includes the following caption (here translated from the original German):

This picture shows us the people and island that were discovered by the Christian king of Portugal or by his subjects. The people are thus naked, handsome, brown; their heads, necks, arms, private parts [and the] feet of men and women are lightly covered with feathers. The men also have many precious stones in their faces and chests. Nor does anyone possess anything, but all things are in common. And the men have as wives those who please them, be they mothers, sisters, or friends, among whom they make no distinction. They also fight with each other and eat each other, even the slain, and hang the same flesh in smoke. They live to be a hundred and fifty years old and have no government.

Rudolf Schuller described this image as the earliest image of a South American Indian in his article "The Oldest Known Illustration of the South American Indians," Journal de la Societe des Americanistes de Paris, N.S., 16 (1924), pages 111-118.

The Edward Luther Stevenson Collection

Edward Luther Stevenson was among the most important scholars of early cartography active at the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. He was responsible for numerous cartobibliographic books, including the first translation of Ptolemy to English, as well as a series of impressive facsimile maps produced while he was at the Hispanic Society of New York. Dr. Stevenson viewed facsimiles as integral to the study of early cartography, and he committed himself to building an unparalleled collection of photographs of early maps and globes.  Much of his collection was donated to Yale University after his death (click on the title link above for about that), but the present item comes from a large collection of photos, manuscripts, and related material that were part of Stevenson's library, but were not donated to Yale. It is truly an impressive collection and many of the items, though reproductions, have serious antiquarian merit. As Alexander O. Vietor said about Stevenson collection that went to Yale "this is the stuff of which great libraries are made."