Histoire Naturelle des Indes
Bequest of Clara S. Peck, 1983
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.
Lisle Appellee Fougue Ou Isle De Feu (Island Called "Fougue" or Fire Island)
This island, according to the estimation of the navigators, is three or four leagues high. During the day one always sees smoke on top and when the sun has set and night has come, one likewise sees a great fiery blaze because on the island and on the summit, the earth produces sulfur and there is thunder and lightning which cause the continuous fire. This island is located in the ocean and is one of the Cape Verde Islands, a place 10 leagues or so from the mainland. In the lower part and along the island a great number of pumice stones are found floating in the sea which is frequented by few people.