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An Engraving of The First European Settlement in Florida, Fort Caroline – Pic of the Week

This post is coauthored by Nathan Dorn, rare book curator, and Robert Brammer, senior legal information specialist.

Our picture of the week is an image of Fort Caroline, Florida, which was founded by French Huguenots on June 22nd of 1564. This print has a complicated, but interesting history. It is part of a 1591 imprint of Theodor de Bry’s work entitled, Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americae provi[n]cia Gallis acciderunt, or A Brief Narration of what happened to the Gauls in the American Province of Florida. The edition depicted here is in German and was the second edition of the title to be produced in 1591. The first edition appeared in Latin. These prints are supposedly based on the work of a French artist named Jacque Le Moyne De Morgues, who accompanied the French settlers to Fort Caroline to paint the local Indian population and fauna. The trouble is the images contain a number of impossibilities which an eyewitness of life in America probably would not have included. For example, some of the prints depict the Indians using European battle formations, which were not familiar to them, and working with metal tools, which they did not have at that time. These and other examples, as well as the discrepancy in style between Le Moyne’s known works and the plates in this work, have led some scholars to hypothesize that these engravings were created by de Bry either as approximate recreations of Le Moyne’s work or as inventions out of whole cloth.

Engraving of Fort Caroline from Brevis Narratio by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Engraving of Fort Caroline from Brevis Narratio by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Plagued by internal strife, the colony had a brief and unsteady existence. Aristocratic colonists were disdainful of performing the manual labor necessary to survive on the frontier; other settlers deserted to take up a more profitable life of piracy; and relations with the neighboring Timucua Indian population upon whom the colonists often depended for food turned sour.

 Engraving of a French column at the May (St. Johns) River from Brevis Narratio by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Engraving of a French column at the May (St. Johns) River from Brevis Narratio by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Although Fort Caroline was weakened by these factors, it was a Spanish military expedition that finally brought about its end. In 1565, King Phillip II of Spain sent a military force led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to eliminate the French settlement which he saw as an encroachment on Spanish America. Menéndez briefly met a small fleet of French ships led by Jean Ribault at sea off the coast of Florida. Jean Ribault had been dispatched by the King of France to resupply Fort Caroline, but the skirmish was not decisive. A hurricane drove Ribault’s ships south toward the site of modern day Daytona Beach. Menéndez, in the meantime, returned to the Timucuan village of Seloy,  the site of modern day Saint Augustine, and marched his men overland through the hurricane to take advantage of Ribault’s absence to sack the lightly guarded Fort Caroline.  Ribault’s ships sank in the hurricane and he and his men made their way to the beach and marched north. Ribault and many of his men surrendered to Menéndez, at what is now known as Matanzas Inlet, with the expectation they would be treated favorably. They were badly mistaken. King Philip II and Menéndez did not simply oppose the French settlement because it was a threat to the Spanish treasure fleet, they also set out to destroy it because the French Huguenots were deemed a threat to Catholic faith.  Nearly all of the Ribault’s men, including Ribault himself, were executed by Menéndez. Only a few professed Catholics and artisans were spared. 

An engraving of a not terribly accurate map of Florida from Brevis Narratio by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

An engraving of a not terribly accurate map of Florida from Brevis Narratio by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

The exact location of the French fort is still in dispute. Many scholars place it somewhere near modern day Jacksonville, while some have argued that it was actually as far north as Georgia on the Altamaha River. A shipwreck was recently discovered off the coast of Cape Canaveral that appears to have a fleur-de-lis on its cannon. Some believe this ship is one of Ribault’s fleet that was lost in the hurricane, while others contend it is a merchant vessel that holds French artifacts. The distinction is crucial to the outcome of a U.S. District Court case involving the State of Florida, the Republic of France, and Global Marine Exploration over the rights to the vessel. Some reports claim this ship holds a column with a fleur-de-lis, similar to the one depicted in the engraving above.  

Either alligators were 80 feet long and had external ears in 1564 or there are some inaccuracies in this engraving by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Either alligators were 80 feet long and had external ears in 1564 or there are some inaccuracies in this engraving by Theodor de Bry. (1591). //lccn.loc.gov/07009869. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Bamberg Criminal Code of 1507 – Pic of the Week

On Monday, I had the pleasure of assembling a display of rare books for guests attending the 2017 Burton Awards ceremony held at the Library of Congress.  Created by Williams C. Burton, the awards acknowledge, celebrate, and reward outstanding achievements in the legal field, including for legal writing, regulatory reform and public service. The display […]

Virginia House of Burgesses—Pic of the Week

Spring may be the best time of year to take a break and visit Virginia’s historic triangle and Williamsburg, Virginia, especially the Virginia House of Burgesses. Spring is the anniversary time of so many historic revolutionary moments in Virginia. The House of Burgesses is the oldest English-speaking representative assembly in the New World, dating back […]

Judge Crazy Walking—Pic of the Week

In preparing the Law Library’s various products, there’s often an element of creativity.  Recently, my colleague Carla and I have been brainstorming some visual ideas for the Indigenous Law Portal. As I was looking for images, I chanced upon this image of Judge Crazy Walking. I, like many folks, often wonder who someone in a […]

The Myriopticon, A Historical Panorama of the Rebellion

This post is coauthored by Nathan Dorn, rare book curator, and Robert Brammer, senior legal information specialist. Our latest video comes to you from the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room of the Library of Congress. To help us commemorate the Appomattox Campaign that took place 152 years ago and concluded on April 9, 1865 with Robert E. Lee’s […]

Pic of the Week: Interns Spend Spring Break in D.C.

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of welcoming three interns from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to Washington, D.C. on their spring break.  They are graduate students pursuing a master of science degree in library and information science. These future librarians have been volunteering remotely on several different metadata projects of the Law Library […]

James Madison Birthday Commemoration—Pics of the Week

On Thursday, March 16, 2017, the Law Library of Congress and the Library Manuscript Division commemorated James Madison’s 266th birthday. The event was held in the James Madison Memorial Building, which is the United States’ official memorial to the fourth president. The Law Librarian of Congress, Jane Sánchez, spoke about James Madison’s contributions to the […]