Lintrium conficiendorum ratio (A Method of Making Canoes)
Two Indigenous men are portrayed using fire and shells to dig out a canoe in this colored engraving by Theodor de Bry possibly based on a watercolor painting by John White. The image shows life as it was lived by the Algonquian-speaking Natives in the Outer Banks region of present-day North Carolina. These Indigenous people are closely related in language and culture to the Indigenous people of Tidewater Virginia, and White's and de Bry's works are an important source of historical and ethnographic information about both groups.
Most of de Bry's engravings of Indigenous life were based on White paintings, but no such painting exists here; de Bry instead may have depended entirely on descriptions by Thomas Hariot, who accompanied White and approximately 600 colonists to Roanoke in 1585. In a caption to the engraving, Hariot described Indigenous boat-making techniques as "wonderfull," especially considering their want of "Instruments of yron." After burning down a tree (often cypress) at the roots and base, the Indigenous people "raise yt uppon [posts] laid over cross wise uppon forked posts, as suche a reasonable heighte as they may handsomlye worke uppo[n] yt. Then take they of the barke with certayne shells." They scraped away the tree's insides with shell's and the help of a small fire: "makinge a new fyre they burne yt agayne, and so they [continue] sometimes burninge and sometymes scrapinge." This process was time- and labor-intensive; some boats found preserved by archaeologists in the Carolina Sounds are up to thirty-five feet long.
De Bry's engravings accompanied A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia, Hariot's description of his year at Roanoke, which was intended to serve, in part, as a justification for further colonizing efforts. These rare, hand-colored versions of the illustrations appeared in a 1590 edition published in Latin.