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Exhibitions | Online | Histoire Naturelle des Indes

Image from Drake manuscript

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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.

The work presented in this digital facsimile is from the hands of two or more artists, most likely French, and the descriptions are French as well. French Huguenots were known to have traveled with Drake, but whether these artists were with him remains unproven. In Verlyn Klinkenborg's introduction to the facsimile, we are given the background necessary to appreciate this magnificent manuscript to its fullest extent.

Read Verlyn Klinkenborg's introduction »
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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.