Theodore De Bry

Theodore De Bry (1528-1598) was one of the most famous engravers of his era and is best known today for producing some of the earliest engravings of the “New World” and Asia. Born into a well to do family of Goldsmiths in Liege in the Spanish Netherlands (Modern day Belgium), De Bry lived in a turbulent time when the Spanish Netherlands were rebelling against Spanish rule. This rebellion would eventually lead to the creation of modern day Holland and Belgium. Due to the turmoil, De Bry fled the country and spent time in London where he famously met Richard Hakluyt, best known for creating the most important early English travel collection, and Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, who had been involved in the failed attempt by the French to colonise America. 

Eventually he settled in Frankfurt, Germany, where he created his famous printing firm with his sons. Their books were usually sold at the annual Frankfurt book fair - the most important book fair in Europe in the late 16th and early 17th Century - from where the books would spread throughout Europe and even further afield. The firm would remain active for several generations, passing to his sons, Johan Theodore (1561-1623) and Johan Israel De Bry before it would eventually be split between their daughter’s husbands - Matthew Merian and the Englishman - William Fitzer. 


De Bry was celebrated in his time for the delicacy and accuracy of his engravings. Today he is best known for his Grands and Petits Voyages - a large and important collection of some of the earliest European accounts of the New World and Asia. The collection was produced over many years (1590-1634) and contained 27 individual parts published in Latin and German in multiple editions and over several generations of the De Bry family. Several hundred engravings and maps were produced by the firm over this period. Due to the multiple editions over many years, collation of the work is famously challenging, but several important collections are found in the John Carter Brown Library, The New York Public Library, and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK.

Please follow these links for further information on the Grands and Petits Voyages

The Grands Voyages

The Petits Voyages