From America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World
Dutch, c. 1619–before 1680
Published in 1671 by John Ogilby
English, b. Scotland, 1600–1676
The engravings on view here by Jacob van Meurs, from John Ogilby’s America, were printed from plates that were first employed to decorate a slightly earlier book by Arnoldus Montanus, titled The New and Unknown World, published in Amsterdam by van Meurs in 1671. Ogilby brought out an English translation, replete with van Meurs’ sixty-six engravings and additional material on the British colonies, later that same year. Neither Ogilby nor van Meurs, nor Montanus, for that matter, had visited the Americas, and as a result, the book conveyed countless misconceptions, particularly regarding the continents’ flora and fauna. Nonetheless, America became widely read and consulted as a standard source on the natural history of the New World for many years after its appearance.
This print illustrates several animals, described on the previous page in America, from an island known then as Maragnan, today São Luís Island, in the Bay of Maranhão, off the coast of Northeastern Brazil. To the left is a “deformed slow creeping beast called Ai, whose head is like a man’s and covered with rough and grey hair, on each foot three claws close together.” On the far right, a monkey “called the Zimme Cayon, hairy all over, with a long white beard, an old man’s face, bald ears, black eyes and a long tail, which they wind about a bough, and so hanging, swing themselves from one tree to another.”