ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED IMAGES OF AN INDIGENOUS AMERICAN

Abtruck ains lateinnischen sandtbrieues an babstliche heiligkeit, von künigklicher wurden zu Portegall diss iars aussgangen, von der erobere stat Malacha: anderen künigrychen und herschafften in India, auch gegen auffgang der sunnen, erstlich zu Rom in latein getruckt und nachmaln iu [sic] teüsch gebracht. 

[Strassburg, Matthias Hüpfüff, 1513.] 

4to, ff. [7], [1, blank]; with large woodcut to title-page (see below), woodcut initials; title very slightly dust-stained, some light marginal dampstaining, nonetheless an excellent copy; disbound, with small leather tab to fore-edge of first leaf; preserved in a morocco and cloth slipcase with cloth chemise, spine lettered in gilt.

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Abtruck ains lateinnischen sandtbrieues an babstliche heiligkeit, von künigklicher wurden zu Portegall diss iars aussgangen, von der erobere stat Malacha: anderen künigrychen und herschafften in India, auch gegen auffgang der sunnen, erstlich zu Rom in latein getruckt und nachmaln iu [sic] teüsch gebracht. 

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An extremely rare German translation of a newsletter reporting the 1511 Portuguese conquest of Malacca and describing its rich potential as a commercial centre, interestingly illustrated with one of the earliest depictions of an indigenous American. 

The letter from Manuel I to Pope Leo X, first issued in Latin and published in Rome earlier in 1513, relates the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese military commander Afonso de Albuquerque in June 1511.  In addition to providing details of this victorious battle, the report includes descriptions of the wealth to be found in the region and the importance of the city as a trading nexus.  In particular, the text emphasises how courteously the merchants were treated, in order to ensure future commerce. 

Albuquerque’s voyages and military exploits between 1503 and 1515 were instrumental in consolidating Portugal’s expansion to India and Malaya.  The present pamphlet also records his actions after he departed Malaya and returned to Goa in 1512.  These include descriptions of skirmishes with the Moors and embassies to other parts of India and Asia related to the payment of tribute to the Portuguese crown.  As in the descriptions of Malacca, the potential wealth to be found in the region is emphasised. 

While the text of the pamphlet is entirely about the East Indies, the title-page contains one of the earliest illustrations of an indigenous American.  This woodcut shows a man and woman as supporters of the arms of Portugal: the woman, nude with a flowering plant in one hand, holds the bottom of the crown with the other as the man steadies the shield with his left hand and grasps a bow with his right.  The man, with full beard, wears a feather crown, skirt, and leg decorations. 

The woodblock had previously been used to illustrate the titlepage of another German newsletter reporting Portuguese activities in the East, Manuel I’s Geschichte kurtzlich durch die von Portugalien in India, Morenland, and andern erdtrich, published in Nuremburg c. 1507.  This depiction of the male figure appears, in turn, to be derived from images of indigenous South Americans found in an illustrated Vespucci broadside printed in Nuremberg c. 1505–1506 and broadsides based on Vespucci’s third voyage printed in Augsburg c. 1505–1506 (the publisher of the present work also issued an illustrated edition of Vespucci in 1505).  At this early time Europeans might well have supposed that the people of Malacca and the people Vespucci encountered in the New World were one and the same.  All these broadsides and pamphlets, including the present work, were published within seven or eight years in three different centres of German printing. 

No copies of this seven-leaf edition are recorded in OCLC or RLIN, and only a single copy of another 1513 German translation, printed in Augsburg and consisting of five leaves, is located in the US, at the James Ford Bell Library.  However, the British Library holds copies of both translations, and the imprint information for this edition is based on Robert Proctor’s research on German books in the British Museum. 

Bell M125 (variant translation, [5] leaves); Howgego A43 (Albuquerque); Proctor, Index of German books 1501–1520 in the British Museum, p. 31, no. 10035.  OCLC 35837666 (variant translation, [5] leaves, James Ford Bell only). 

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