Penn Library

CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas


de Bry Printed images disseminated preconceptions and misconceptions about the New World to eager European audiences. While often the accompaniment of textual accounts, images also came to circulate independently of texts, recurring frequently across Europe.

Fabrications though they often were, early impressions shaped European understanding of Native American peoples, their histories, and their lands. They are dramatic representations which reveal less about indigenous peoples than they do about European preoccupations.

Yet the images circulating in Europe partook over time of a variety of appearances and representations that increasingly required a more nuanced understanding than the term "Indian" seemed to permit. The image of the "Indian" gradually became images of Indians: savages, barbarians, and pagans; noble savages, as popularized by de Bry; Edenic innocents, in the version of the Black Legends; or builders of ancient cultures. These and other representations of native populations created a confusing mosaic for those who insisted on clinging to a totalizing notion of otherness.

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