Gold Smelting, Panama, 1560s-1570s

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Histoire naturelle des Indes: the Drake manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library [a full color facsimile edition with English translations]; preface by Charles E. Pierce; forward by Patrick O'Brian; introduction by Verlyn Klinkenborg; translations by Ruth S. Kraemer (New York, 1996), folio 102, translation, pp. 267-68. (Image shown here courtesy of The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. MA3900; copyright held by the Morgan Library.)

Titled, "The Royal or Ordinary Forge Where the Gold Coming from the Mines is Made. Erected by the King of Spain to Levy his tribute," this Illustration shows a couple of Spaniards working at the forge; what appears to be a "Negro" is depicted (left) operating the bellows. The translated description states "It is not permitted nor legal for anyone, whoever it is, Negro, Spaniard, or Indian, to have a forge or furnace to smelt the gold coming out of the mines. They are obliged to bring it to the Royal Forge to pay the tribute to the King of Spain"; the description details how the tribute is made (Kraemer translation, pp. 267-68). Otherwise known as the Drake Manuscript, the watercolor drawings were done by two or more persons, perhaps French Huguenots, who traveled with Francis Drake during the course of his Caribbean expeditions. The drawings were probably done in the late 1560s or early 1570s, and the descriptions accompanying each drawing were written in French. Most of the 199 drawings are of plants, animals, and Amerindians, but the four (including the one shown here) showing blacks/Africans are among the earliest eye-witness renditions of Africans and their activities in the New World. See also images MA3900f57, MA3900f98,MA3900f100.