Folios 96v–97r

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Histoire Naturelle des Indes

Illustrated manuscript

ca. 1586
Binding: 30 x 21 cm; individual leaves: 29.3 x 19.7 cm.

Bequest of Clara S. Peck, 1983

MA 3900 (fol. 96v–97)
Item description: 

In 1983, The Morgan Library & Museum received, as the bequest of Clara S. Peck, an extraordinary volume whose beautiful paintings and descriptions document the plant, animal, and human life of the Caribbean late in the sixteenth century. Spaniards had already begun to exert influence over the indigenous people of the area when explorers from England and France arrived, among them Sir Francis Drake. The volume, known as the Drake Manuscript and titled Histoire Naturelle des Indes when it was bound in the eighteenth century, gives us a wonderful picture of daily life at the time of Drake's many visits to the region. Although Drake's connection to the manuscript is uncertain, he is mentioned on more than one occasion by the authors. Drake himself is known to have painted, but none of his work survives.

Contents: 199 images of West Indian plants, animals and human life, with accompanying manuscript captions written in late sixteenth-century French.

Medium: Most of the illustrations consist of a black chalk underdrawing and a combination of pen and brown ink with watercolor; on some images selected areas have also been glazed with a gum.

Binding: Bound or rebound in brown leather in the late 18th century.

Pagination: Penciled folio numbers (1–125) in lower right corner of each page were added by The Morgan Library & Museum. Folios 92v–93, 93v–94, and 95v–96 are fold-out leaves.

Translation: 

Comme Les Yndes Font La Chasse Au Poisson (How the Indians Hunt for Fish)

The Indians go to the seashore and seeing a fish playing outside the water, quickly shoot at it with their arrows, making it die for when it is struck, it can no longer swim nor go to the bottom of the water.

Leport Appelle' Le Nombre De Dieu (Port Called Nombre De Dios)

This is a beautiful and spacious harbor having a depth of seven to eight fathoms of water in which the fleet of ships from Spain arrives to trade merchandise with those from Peru which is located in a mountainous region where the air is heavy and unhealthy and the Spaniard cannot live there for a long time.