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Thomas Harriot’s Magnificent Book: Creating Europe’s First Illustrated Exploration Narrative

The College’s annual Thomas Harriot Lecture was inaugurated in 1990, and this year’s speaker will be Professor Larry E. Tise, late Wilbur & Orville Wright Distinguished Professor of History at East Carolina University, USA.

The title of Professor Tise’s lecture will be: Thomas Harriot’s Magnificent Book: Creating Europe’s First Illustrated Exploration Narrative.

Scholars of science and technology frequently lament that Thomas Harriot did not publish a great book during his lifetime. This judgment sadly overlooks the fact that Harriot wrote and published the most important illustrated exploration narrative of European expansion into the Americas. His Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, issued in pamphlet form in 1588, was published in 1590 with 24 elegant copperplate engravings. The vivid illustrations were carefully captioned by Harriot himself and these images indelibly fixed our mental image of native Americans from the sixteenth century to the present. This book not only established the model for exploration books, it also became the first popularly hand-coloured exploration narrative of the Renaissance era. These are among Professor Tise’s findings as he researched hand-coloured copies of Harriot’s book around the world and worked with the great art house Taschen to publish in 2019 Theodore de Bry—America: The Complete Plates, 1590-1602 (published simultaneously in English, French, and German).  

The Thomas Harriot Lecture is free to attend and attendees do not need to RSVP.

Find out more about Professor Larry E. Tise here.

Find out more about the Thomas Harriot Lecture here.