The Town of Pomeioc and Town of Secota

PD2007005.  The Town of Secota, one of a pair of copper-plate engravings on paper, by Theodor De Bry (1528-1598), Frankurt, Germany, ca. 1591, after an original watercolor drawing on vellum, by John White (fl. 1585-86), Governor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s “Lost Colony” of North Carolina.  Frame 16” x 13”, Engraving 13 3/16’’ x  9 7/16”.

PD2014011.  The Town of Pomeioc, one of a pair of copper-plate engravings  on paper, by Theodor De Bry (1528-1598), Frankurt, Germany, ca. 1591, after an original watercolor drawing on vellum, by John White (fl. 1585-86), Governor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s “Lost Colony” of North Carolina. Frame 16 1/8” x 12 1/8”. Engraving 12 3/8’’ x 8 5/8”.

COMMENTARY:  These rare sixteenth century engravings of Native American villages depict scenes in present day North Carolina, in one of the most important moments in the ethnographic and art history of the New World.  In the 1580s, Sir Walter Raleigh made several unsuccessful attempts to establish an English settlement on Roanoke Island, on the outer banks of what was at the time Virginia.  In 1585, hoping to raise interest among potential settlers in Britain, he enticed the artist and cartographer John White to join an expedition by hiring him to record images of the New World for publication.  White would become Governor of the colony in 1587, and when he returned to England thirteen months later, he did so with some seventy watercolors on vellum that depicted the natives, their settlements, their activities, and the natural history of their surroundings.

The Dutch-born artist Theodor de Bry engraved twenty-three of White’s drawings in quarto format between 1588 and 1591. Though taking certain liberties with White’s originals (he sometimes added human figures from imagination), he nonetheless played a central role in introducing the mysterious continent to a wide European audience. In 1590, he added to the volume adescription of the 1585 voyage written by the English explorer Thomas Hariot, and entitling the new edition A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia[1](England: Francoforti ad Moenum: Typis Ioannis Wecheli, svmtibvs vero Theodori de Bry,1590)—andproduced it in Latin, German, French, and English language editions (the present engravings appear to hail from the German publication). The 1590 volumes proved so popular that every year afterward—from 1591 until de Bry’s death in 1598—he followed up with a new book depicting another aspect of life in the New World, though none others that depicted present day Virginia or North Carolina.[2]

The text accompanying The Town of Pomeioc, Plate XIX reads as follows:

“The towns of this country are in a manner like those which are in Florida, yet they are not so strong nor yet preserved with so great care.  They are compassed about with poles struck fast in the ground, but they are not very strong.  The entrance is very narrow as may be seen by this picture, which is made according to the form of the town of Pomeiooc.   There are but few houses therein, save those which belong to the king and his nobles. On the one side is their temple separated from the other houses, and marked with the letter A.  It is built round and covered with skin mats, and as it were compassed about.  With curtain without windows, and has no light but by the door.  On the other side is the king’s lodging marked with the letter B. Their dwellings are built with certain posts fastened together, and covered with mats which they turn up as high as they think good, and so receive in the light and other.  Some are also covered with boughs of trees, as every man lusts or likes best.  They keep their feasts and make good cheer together in the middle of the town as it is described in the 17th Figure.  When the town stands far from the water they dig a great pond noted with the letter C whence they fetch as much water as they need”.

The text accompanying The Town of Secotareads as follows:

“Their towns that are not enclosed with poles are commonly fairer than such as are enclosed, as appears in this figure which lively expresses the town of Secotam. For the houses are Scattered here and there, and they have garden expressed by the letter E. wherein grows Tobacco which the inhabitants call Uppowoc. They have also groves wherein they take deer, and fields wherein they sow their corn. In their cornfields they build as it were a scaffold where on they set a cottage like to a round chair, signified by F. wherein they place one to watch, for there are such number of fowl, and beasts, that unless they keep the better watch, they would soon devour all their corn. For which cause the watchman makes continual cries and noise. They sow their corn with a certain distance noted by H. otherwise one stalk would choke the growth of another and the corn would not come unto his ripeness G. For the leaves thereof are large, like unto the leaves of great reeds. They have also a several broad plot C. where they meet with their neighbors, to celebrate their chief solemn feasts as the 18 picture does declare: and a place D. where after they have ended their feast they make merry together. Over against this place they have a round plot B. where they assemble themselves to make their solemn prayers. Not far from which place there is a large building A. wherein are the tombs of their kings and princes, as will appear by the 22 figure likewise they have garden noted by the letter I. wherein they use to sow pumpkins. Also a place marked with K. wherein they make a fire at their solemn feasts, and hard without the town a river L. from whence they fetch their water. This people therefore void of all covetousness live cheerfully and at their heart’s ease. But they solemnize their feasts in the night, and therefore they keep very great fires to avoid darkness, and to testify their Joy.”

The images here offered represent two of the most desirable images from among all of de Bry’s works, and are rarely available in the market as individual plates, much less, as a pair.  It has been 7 years since these rare images have come to market together as a pair.

CONDITION:  Both images reflect strong and relatively early impressions from their respective plates, and have been cleaned and de-acidified. The “Town of Secota” survives with the plate marks intact, and a border on each of the four sides.  “The Town of Pomeioc” has lost the original margin and a strip of the original image, about ¾” wide, running from top to bottom. The frames are reproductions of seventeenth century Dutch examples with faux tortoise-shell inserts, made by South Royal Studios of Alexandria, Virginia.

PRICE: Upon Request

[1]The full title, according to the Library of Congress is ‪A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia: of the commodities and of the nature and manners of the naturall inhabitants. Discouered by the English colony there seated by Sir Richard Greinuile … in … 1585 … This fore booke is made in English by Thomas Hariot.

[2]White’s original drawings are in Queens Collection, on deposit in the British Museum.Following his death, his family continued to publish the works periodically until 1634.