Contextualizing Race in Leonhard Thurneysser’s Account of Portugal

Carolin Alff

[print edition page number: 369]
“They have mostly a broad face and all of them pitch-dark or coal-black curly hair [ … ]”[1] or so the Swiss traveller Leonhard Thurneysser zum Thurn (1531–1596) begins his eighteen-page long observation on the African diaspora in sixteenth-century Lisbon. In this passage he addresses three features that have marked the stereotypical appearance of people of color in European discourses: black skin, a broad face, and curly hair. Many further examples in Thurneysser’s text will seem outright racist to today’s readers, since a number of his descriptions became degrading tropes for people of color in later centuries and therefore resemble aspects of modern racism. Studying this text with students today requires a strong discussion of context, for reading it will challenge students especially when they have experienced racism themselves. This paper aims to provide tools and examples for teachers to deconstruct the text and tropes of this historic source so that a discussion of race can be integrated into the study of early modern European culture. The underlining question of this essay is: Does Thurneysser’s description of the African diaspora in Lisbon offer us insights into constructions of race in the sixteenth century?

Scientific racism — the belief that a person’s origin and physical attributes determined their unchangeable social and natural position in this [370] world — was not fully formulated until the nineteenth century.[2] According to Ivan Hannaford, the general use of the term “race” in European languages commenced in the sixteenth century, precisely when Thurneysser wrote his description.[3] Thurneysser’s account, however, does not use the term. As such, many disciplines view discussing race in this period as an anachronistic and problematic approach to historical sources, although most agree that historic sources frequently include prejudice and discriminate against people based on skin color and place of origin.[4] Instead, these disciplines focused on the process of othering, outlining  how sixteenth-century texts describing people of color establish tropes through the process of fusing observed information gleaned from travels with philosophical, scientific, and theological ideas of otherness at the time.[5] According to these authors, the sixteenth-century accounts seem to fall [371] short of describing race as it is understood today because a person’s hierarchical position could change based on religion and wealth.[6]

What did and did not constitute race in the early modern period is worthy of reassessing and discussing with students today. Thurneysser’s text is an apt case study because of the detail in which he describes the people of color he encountered living in sixteenth-century Lisbon. His profession as a physician provides a context within the medical and natural sciences. Thurneysser’s text offers teachers and students a clear way to study race formation in the early modern world, revealing that the pseudoscience of skin color and its racist meanings were happening before the Enlightenment. Using an early modern text, students and teachers can interrogate the formation of racist stereotypes and the way they were given legitimacy.

The text about Thurneysser’s travels through Portugal is bound in a manuscript alongside other texts and kept in the State Library in Berlin (henceforth referred to as Berlin Manuscript).[7] A practical benefit of using Thurneysser’s account as teaching material is the availability and the amount of material still existing to this day. A digital copy and a transcription of the text are available online.[8] They provide access to primary source material for teachers and students. The vast number of letters and publications left by Thurneysser offers valuable additional context for [372] understanding his pseudoscientific motives in collecting and processing information gained in his travels.

This essay covers a selection of material to use when studying Thurneysser’s account of Portugal. In studying historic travel accounts it is paramount to bear in mind and remind students that the historic accounts are subjective narratives. Therefore, it is important to convey the methodological challenges that arise when studying such a source. A close reading of Thurneysser’s text, for instance, requires comparisons with other relevant travel accounts containing descriptions of the body of a person of color to determine the general significance of the text.[9] Furthermore, as it is not possible to discuss the meaning of his words with the author, an interpretation depends on understanding the text in context of the author’s life and other work. Lastly and more generally, racist tropes can be triggering to students and therefore it is important to produce an environment that protects students and teachers from being personally subjected to racism while also aiming to discuss and deconstruct racist tropes. To create this environment, teachers may choose to look into general approaches to discussing racism with students before using this material in a classroom.[10]

The analysis of sixteenth-century travel accounts frequently argues that they either contain ethnographic information or deploy unscientific tropes. I will present a multilayered approach to Thurneysser’s description to show that, contrary to such a binary analysis, a travel account such as Thurneysser’s can present a range of historic evidence. Although often claiming scientific objectivity, many sixteenth-century travel accounts contain discrimination, stereotypes, and othering of people of color that arise from outside direct physical observation.[11] At the same time, these [373] texts may also represent an interest in the cultures of people from other continents and a desire to understand cultural and physical differences, paving the way to a form of early ethnography.[12] Studying such historic descriptions, like Thurneysser’s account of the African diaspora in Lisbon, also allow students to discuss relations of race formation and ethnography in the sixteenth century and the value of such sources as historic evidence.

To discuss the range of this evidence, I suggest teachers look at the text from three perspectives. The first perspective analyzes how Thurneysser’s text contained firsthand information and tropes to exhibit ethnographic and historical information. This section forms the basis for how Thurneysser described the appearance and habits of the African diaspora in sixteenth-century Lisbon. The second perspective qualifies this information by concentrating on the specific context in which his work was produced. The third perspective will explore the bias of such reports and the tropes resulting from such information introduced in the first section more fully.


Page from the manuscript of "The Natural History of Portugal".
Figure 1. Leonhard Thurneysser, Nutural History of Portugal, Berlin, 1570–1579, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz; Handschriftenabteilung; Signatur: Ms Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 1r.

I will first set the scene by briefly describing the historic details of the African diaspora in Lisbon and Thurneysser’s manuscript. Sixteenth-century Lisbon was a “global city,” housing and hosting inhabitants from many [374] parts of the world.[13] Trade fueled the existence of this multiethnic community. The city was visually described as “games of chess, with as many blacks and whites” living in Lisbon at the time, although the majority of people making up the African diaspora came to the city as slaves.[14] Thurneysser’s observations from Portugal were recorded in four parts (plants, small animals, miscellaneous, and larger animals). His description of the African diaspora is part of the miscellaneous section, where he recorded information that was obviously important to him but that did not fall into the other categories. This section included a description of Lichens, the hazing practiced by Norwegian tradesmen and his observations of sea tides. The four parts of his observations in Portugal were written consecutively in the same handwriting on paper that possesses the same watermark. Each section however is meant to stand on its own, as all but one (missing) possess a title page (Figure 1) and begin with a new page count.[15] The Berlin Manuscript is a compendium, which is a collection of many texts, that contains eleven sections in total. Except for the four components regarding Portugal, all other parts are independent of each other and penned by several different scribes with varying topics and many incomplete.[16] In the Berlin Manuscript, Thurneysser’s workshop recorded and bound together the information about the African diaspora with pharmaceutical and botanical explorations from other sources. [376]

Ethnographic and Historic Information

The first perspective to Thurneysser’s text requires students to closely read and characterize the information in the account as well as the way Thurneysser obtained it. By analyzing the text from this angle, students are led to identify the uniqueness of the detail of Thurneysser’s text and what value it has as a historic source for the lives of the African diaspora in Lisbon. They are equally meant to learn how to distinguish between information gathered directly and information conveying preconceived tropes. A close reading of the text should additionally introduce students to the type of information on physical appearance and habits of the African diaspora circulating in the sixteenth century.

Thurneysser’s observations of the African diaspora suggest that he was in close proximity to his subjects when he described them. Thurneysser reconstructs in writing the face of a person of color by specifying the texture, which suggests he himself had touched the person he was describing.[17] Continuing from the quote beginning this paper, he writes that “[ … ] both the men, as well as the women” possess black curly hair, “which they shear away or raze down to the skin, and which, as soon as it grows again a little, becomes strangely curly.”[18] The text carries on by describing the feel of the hair: “the same feels also very hard to the touch.”[19] His language uses tactility and personal observation as the method for perceiving and understanding the faces of a Black man and woman. It suggests that he collected his information from firsthand experience.

It should be conveyed to students that the amount of detail with which Thurneysser describes the body of a person of color has no parallel in other accounts of the sixteenth century. His intricate information reaches an invasive depth, as he goes as far as to describe the genitals of the man [377] he was observing and touching.[20] He adds to his account instances of body mutilations as beautifications: “Several among them had been strangely adorned as youths by cutting them on both sides of their mouth, [ … ] which they consider to be a great adornment.”[21] In almost equal detail as his portrayal of the faces, he concludes his description of the body of a man of color with descriptions of the appearance and feel of the legs, hands, and feet, the last of which follows: “Thus they have also very small and cracked heels, which look more whitish, but otherwise are, together with the foot soles very hard, [ … ].”[22] Students may be able to understand the uniqueness of Thurneysser’s text when contextualized through the information that was available in popular sixteenth-century publications. His text, for instance, refrains from referring back to medieval representations of the monstrous races to communicate a different appearance.[23] For a clear contrast between Thurneysser’s description and the monstrous races, students can study creatures with traits of animals and excess or missing body parts (Figure 2) that were still depicted as populating the African continent in contemporary cosmographies and accompanying maps, such as in Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographiae universalis, published in Basel in several editions from 1544 onwards.[24] Comparing Thurneysser’s account to other literature circulating at the time allows students to debate in what ways Thurneysser’s detailed description of the African body exhibits an interest in understanding the appearance of a foreign culture and people from Africa. This type of information is termed ethnographic by studies of early modern culture. The label should be [379] treated critically, as it does not automatically question the invasive nature of such a description. Calling a text ethnographic also neglects to fully contextualize the implicit biases that exist between the author, a Swiss doctor, and the subject, the African Diaspora, based on social positions and culture.


Page from the "Cosmographiae Universalis". A woodcut on the page shows the figures of five men, each with exaggerated, animalistic, or missing body parts.
Figure 2. Sebastian Münster, Cosmographiae universalis, Basel, Heinrich Petri, 1550, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Signatur: Hbks/E 4, p. 1151.

Following a very comprehensive description of the faces, students should be encouraged to analyze his portrayal of the body, which focuses on skin color. He writes: “They are also very coal-black or pitch-black on the whole body.”[25] When studying the skin, he does differentiate certain physical traits, such as skin texture and skin color, that are softer or lighter between people from different African countries: “they (Ethiopians and Arabs) are the mightiest and most beautiful ones. They also have a most smooth, glossy and even skin, and also their bodies are the most perfect and strong, as compared to other moors [ … ].”[26] Thurneysser associates a positive judgment with the lighter-skinned inhabitants of North Africa as opposed to people from sub-Saharan Africa. Thurneysser also describes his perceptions of difference in skin tone and the country of origin. He writes: “the moors [ … ] who came from the islands of D. Thomae or the Capotos Viridis or the green head or from Malagetta or have been brought, are not that black, but rather of a dark-brown color and mainly in their faces, but they have mostly the same shape, kind and appearance of their hair, noses, lips, skin, pudenda, and their feet.”[27] He even takes note of irregular appearances to the norm such as the existence of people that were born “from two coal-black parents, which nevertheless was completely [380] white, yes, even whiter than a German can be [ … ].”[28] For Thurneysser, skin color becomes the main differentiating attribute between people of color from the African continent and their varying places of origin.

After describing their appearance, Thurneysser writes about the behaviors found among the African diaspora. He describes women and men of African descent as especially violent, ambivalent to pain, and revengeful.[29] Their sexuality is painted as unchaste and hypersexual.[30] He explicitly compares white women and women of color to stress the sexual nature of the latter by stating, “that the women are quite merry, adroit and delightful in love-making, yes much sweeter, passionate and lustful than ours.”[31] Thurneysser does not specify how he gathered this information and whether it was firsthand. Students can compare the detailed description of the body with his general descriptions of habits and behavior — the differences in the amount of detail suggests that Thurneysser recorded some information from first-hand experience and some from common stereotypes circulating in Lisbon at the time.[32] [381]

Thurneysser’s description of the slave market in Lisbon is one of the most detailed to exist today. Earlier texts, such as Nuremberg physician Hieronymus Münzer’s (1437/47–1508) account, for example, only casually mentioned the existence of slaves in Lisbon.[33] In contrast, Thurneysser’s account paints an image of the gruesome sale of people on the shores of Portugal in the sixteenth century. Thurneysser describes the sale of enslaved people that he calls “Nigriten” (Blacks) as follows:

Among the same, however, who are being walked about and offered for sale, there are plenty of men, women, youths and maids stark naked or nude, some of them, however, have their private parts covered, but are otherwise naked. The merchants feel or touch them everywhere, specially around the navel, which when sticking out of the belly, and if the belly is swollen or inflated, they do not buy them, because they believe that it is the symptom of a dangerous malady. Thus they also have to show their private parts or genitals and open them, stretch their feet, as well as raise and lower their arms repeatedly, allowing them [the merchants] to evaluate and recognize their strength by lifting and lowering something [ … ].[34] [382]

As a useful resource to prepare for a discussion of this description, teachers and students can refer to the analysis of the historian Bernardo Herold, who published a transcription and English translation of Thurneysser’s text in 2017.[35] Without Thurneysser’s travel account and a small amount of other texts, we would not have a literary record of such an event and how it took place, and no firsthand account penned by an enslaved person of color from the sixteenth century has so far come to light.[36] However, despite their relevance as contemporaneous sources and as testimonials of an African history otherwise lost, their value does not exclude them from containing stereotypes and degrading tropes. The particular context of Thurneysser’s account, which I will describe in the next section, qualifies the historic and ethnographic information contained within it and establishes the ground on which Thurneysser investigated and formulated terms of race.

The Body as Research

This section provides details of Thurneysser’s life and professional practice so that students can discuss his motivation for recording both first-hand observations and cultural tropes in his work. Bernardo Herold argues that, as “a naturalist,” Thurneysser described the bodies of women and men of color “as if they were mere botanical and zoological species,” but Herold neglects to explore this further.[37] My analysis aims to provide students with the knowledge to discuss whether Thureysser’s text, from a contemporaneous perspective, acts as a scientific exploration of the black body.

Although the text about his voyage to Portugal carries the dates 1555–1556, it was during his years in Berlin that one of his scribes, presumably Adam Seidel (dates unknown), penned the text of Thurneysser’s [383] journey to Lisbon.[38] From 1570–1579 Thurneysser was the personal doctor to the Elector of Brandenburg, Johann Georg (1571–1598).[39] The steady income and social recognition that he received from this position enabled Thurneysser’s intellectual life to flourish.[40] He maintained a vivid correspondence with many humanists, alchemists, doctors, printers, and members of the European nobility.[41] Thurneysser ventured into many fields, including printing, alchemy, botany (he set up a botanical garden and a small zoo), pharmacy, metallurgy, and astronomy.[42]

Thurneysser’s workshop in Berlin processed empirical information to determine the natural properties of living beings. The four parts of the Berlin Manuscript contain enquiries into the properties of the natural world in the form of botanical lists and descriptions as well as notes on materials and cures for diseases. Overall, the manuscript highlights gathering empirical knowledge about plants and animals to comprehend the [384] world, as well as healing methods and the human body.[43] On the title page of every section, Thurneysser puts this approach of gathering empirical information into his own words by stressing that the experiences of a traveler will “surpass almost all / studies in academies / and diligence in philosophy.”[44] Another docphysician, Nicolaus Müller (dates unkown), with whom Thurneysser corresponded in 1577, mirrored this way of gathering information for practicing medicine by writing that he was a “student in nature.”[45] Observing and collecting information becomes Thurneysser’s scientific approach. As such, the description of people of color in Lisbon thus takes on the impression of a scientific survey to identify their attributes.

Thurneysser’s approach differed from those of other authors of European travel accounts.[46] Contemporary texts of this kind focused on African countries and their inhabitants as commodities that could be exploited economically for European advantage.[47] For example, Newe unbekanthe landte from 1508 provides an example for the stark contrast of customary travel accounts in German and Thurneysser’s approach.[48] In the preamble to the text, Jobst Ruchamer (1486–1515), the translator of the text from Italian to German, promises “strange wonderful animals, [385] birds, delicious trees, spices, several precious stones, pearls, and gold.”[49] The text focuses primarily on the economic potential of such a journey, including the possibility of purchasing enslaved people by recounting Alvise Ca’da Mostos’s (1432–1483) journey around the African coast in which Ca’da Mosto was given the opportunity to purchase one hundred enslaved people from a king on the West African coast.[50]

Thurneysser’s detailed description, in contrast, is primarily concerned with the body. He details the appearance of Africans from head to foot as outlined in section one. He also makes note of signs for possible illnesses when describing the sale of enslaved people.[51] His text is only occasionally interspersed with entries about bartering practices, religion, fertility of the land, and payment methods.[52] The descriptions of habits and behavior primarily aim to characterize the people and not the commodities for trade.

Students may now discuss what focusing on the people means for Thurneysser’s understanding of the African diaspora. For Thurneysser, the physical determinates, such as facial features and skin color, characterized people he termed Mohren (Moors), Nigiten (Blacks), and Aethiopier (Ethiopians or Africans).[53] By doing so he presents the appearance, especially skin color, of the African diaspora as unchangeable characteristics through which he defines them. Thurneysser thereby determines racial markers without using the term explicitly.

To convey whether Thurneysser used racial markers for people other than the African diaspora, it is necessary to discuss whether he used the same approach for people from other countries. Unfortunately, in Thurneysser’s account of his voyage to Portugal, there is no description of the bodies of people from other nations that students could compare to the detailed analysis with which Thurneysser describes the bodies [386] of the African diaspora. The miscellaneous section also describes Thurneysser’s encounter with Norwegian tradesmen and their unusual rituals, but the tone of this description is entirely different. It describes the hard life of merchants from “Lappia und Pilappia,” countries where “nothing grows from the ground.”[54] His main concern is to describe the brutal hazing procedures with which every new member of this trade group was confronted with: “many who did not have a very strong nature or physical condition died in the act and were murdered by them.”[55] Thurneysser recorded this description of Norwegian tradesmen because they are gruesome and exceptional. This account next to the description of the African diaspora alone highlights that he aimed to address what was to him the unusual nature of the African diaspora, which included people from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa in Portugal. The motivation of describing unusual characteristics presupposes difference, and therefore produces an underlying implicit bias toward the subject throughout the text.


Book open to a page with a labeled human skeleton. The arms and legs are covered in flesh and the skull is covered by a piece of paper.
Figure 3. Leonhard Thurneysser, Confirmatio Concertationis, 1576, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz; Abteilung Historische Drucke; Signatur: 4” Kc 920 : R, fol. 28r.

Students may contextualize Thurneysser’s description of the African body further by comparing it to his medical practice in Berlin. As a physician, Thurneysser customarily described female and male bodies intimately. His publications, such as an anatomical study he published in Berlin in 1576, demonstrate that he treated the body in general as a source for empirical information.[56] The bust and stomach of the represented human body (Figure 3) in this publication could be opened and anatomical features removed.[57] Thurneysser’s correspondence also reflects his medical approach of providing treatments through an analysis of a patient’s body. Frequently, the patients would describe their ailments, and on this basis, Thurneysser would provide an ointment or recommendation. In many [388] instances, they would also send him urine samples,[58] which Thurneysser would analyze. The descriptions included detailed and very private information about the body. One example is a note by an unknown author, found alongside a letter sent in 1577 by a book merchant named Samuel Selfiste (dates unknown). The note details that the writer’s wife’s “body from below appears firm together with the genitals as well as from the back up to the naval is very swollen and hurts very much.”[59] In another, Jacob Maijer (dates unknown), a painter from Austria, describes himself as suffering from the following: “several years after another with sickness and severe stomach pain, weighed down with fever and crying, and when I am rid of the fever and crying, I still always have the mentioned stomach sickness [ … ] and open blisters on me [ … ].”[60] The correspondents also did not hesitate to analyze the sexual lives of others. Such as Anna Bürgermeister (dates unknown), who wrote to Thurneysser explaining that her daughter’s husband “could not consummate their marriage” and asked Thurneysser to prescribe a remedy.[61] These insights into his medical practice can show students that Thurneysser’s invasive approach to the body of the Africa diaspora matched his general approach to the human body as a physician. It included the analysis of physical details that encroached on an individual’s privacy, regardless of race. Thurneysser applied his medical practice to his observation of the Africa diaspora with an implicit bias and one important exception: nowhere else in his medical profession does he analyze skin color as the defining trait for the origin of a person. This indicates an inherent racial bias toward the African diaspora centered on the discussion of skin color that will be explored fully in the next section. [389]

Degrading Tropes and Stereotypes

As students may already have found when discussing the content and context of Thurneysser’s text in sections one and two, his description of the body of a person of color in the African diaspora in Lisbon goes beyond the mere sensory observation and forms explicit judgments.[62] Students may observe that parallels exist between Thurneysser’s description of the body of a person of color and his description of the assessment slave purchasers made of the bodies of enslaved people being sold at the slave market. He articulates his descriptions of people of color as things he had seen and touched. His senses reveal the nature of their bodies, habits, and feelings. Thurneysser progresses from head to feet. He also describes touch and sight as the instruments used at the slave market to assess the price of a person. As quoted in the first section, he details the brutal treatment of enslaved people and writes of the examinations of male and female reproductive organs by the slave masters which he had detailed and assessed in his preceding description. The process of observation taken by Thurneysser mirrors the objectifying and dehumanizing approach of people in Lisbon purchasing enslaved men and women of color.

Students may discover that Thurneysser’s account lists exaggerated bodily features as generalizations to describe the physical appearance of a person of color. Black people are described as possessing “strangely curly” hair,[63] “flat and depressed noses,”[64] “an uncommonly large and ugly gap or mouth hole,”[65] and “very white teeth.”[66] Students can compare this description with the image and text in Four Books on Human Proportion and an appended essay on aesthetics by famous artist Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), which was published in 1528 about thirty years prior to the [390] genesis of Thurneysser’s text.[67] In this treatise, the artist outlines faces in profile of different proportions. One such face (Figure 4) displays similar characteristics with exaggerated bodily features to those described in Thurneysser’s text. Students may observe that Thurneysser explicitly formulates an aesthetic judgment when describing facial physiognomies. He writes about the eyes that “they open them horribly wide and slowly [ … ] when they are alone” and “the noses being built at their tips with a repugnant or ugly wideness.”[68] His description of the body uses more neutral terms and even some positively inclined adjectives such as “strong” and “solid.”[69] The dichotomy between the face and the body of a person of color also appears in Dürer’s Essay on Aesthetics.[70] Dürer draws a line between the face of a person of color as ugly and the body as beautiful.[71] Thurneysser’s aesthetic judgment of these goes beyond his own medical approach and reveals his biased judgment that was not free from general stereotypes. Dürer’s publication and Thurneysser’s account both present stereotypical facial features associated with the appearance of a person of color in the German-speaking regions of sixteenth-century Europe. Although the term race is not explicitly used by either of these authors, it is present in their general stereotypes associated with the face and body of a person of African descent. [392]


Book open to a page with sketches of male profiles. Each face has a grid drawn over it.
Figure 4. Albrecht Dürer, Four Books on Human Proportion, 1528, Nuremberg, Hieronymus Andreae, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Signatur: Rar. 612, fol. 90v.

Students may identify strong emotions and a lascivious nature as further tropes for habits that characterize people of color in such accounts.[72] The earlier-mentioned account of Alvise Ca’da Mosto describes polygamy on several occasions.[73] The count of Budomel whom he meets and befriends likes to “sleep with the maidens, as well as with his wives. And his wives do not regard such [behavior] as wrong/ as it is often the tradition/ This is why the count often changes accommodation.”[74] He goes on to describe the men and women as “very unchaste.”[75] The account of Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563–1611) published in 1597 utilizes a similar description as Newe unbekanthe landte: “Their wives are very unchaste, especially with [men from] foreign nations and they do not think of it as a disgrace.”[76] None of these authors specifies whether their descriptions arise from firsthand knowledge or observation. They thus reproduce the trope of a hypersexual and polygamous society inhabiting the African continent throughout the sixteenth century. These tropes are present in Thurneysser’s description of the hypersexual nature of women of color living in Lisbon. Although this type of comment may still fall within his medical domain, as evidenced by the example of his letters mentioned above, his judgment of their presumed social practices as a hypersexual society, which he describes as “unchaste” and “impertinent,” falls outside of his professional opinion. It depends on Thurneysser’s moral framework (and the general moral framework in Christian Europe), and shows that racial thought connecting physical characteristics with judgments of their habits already existed in the early modern world. [393]

Thurneysser brackets these unscientific descriptions with a broad display of contemporary scientific arguments regarding the origin of black skin, thus giving an air of legitimacy to the entirety of his observations. He shows a desire to understand the mystery of black skin, which “is almost hidden to human reason.”[77] This desire becomes a central point toward the end of his account. Framed as a scientific challenge, Thurneysser elaborately formulates the “cause of the swarthiness or blackness.” [78] Thurneysser debunks a widespread assumption that black skin is caused by the sun by pointing out that this cannot be so because “they are born from their mother’s womb as black, and that not only in their countries, but also in Lusitania Hispania, and all other places where they have been led.”[79] Instead, he concludes that next to the sun blackening the skin and altering the “semen” of the parents, the color came from the “property of the same soil,” and “the principal reason for their blackness sprouts or flows from a certain [combination of] position[s] of a number of stars, which have a special relationship with said countries.”[80] Thurneysser thus lists astrology as a reason for black skin, which inevitably categorizes a geographic area by divine creation. Furthermore, students may consider that the theoretical basis for Thurneysser’s practice in medicine was also based in [394] Christian theology, as Peter Morys has argued.[81] His reasons for black skin take it to be an unchangeable characteristic based on the properties of the respective countries of origin. In this it still remains different from today’s definition of black skin as a hereditary characteristic. Although Thurneysser does not note explicit moral or theological judgments for his observations of black skin,[82] he presents his arguments within a scientific context indebted to contemporary theological principals, and which lent the work particular legitimacy.

Lastly, anecdotal evidence as part of his description of a Norwegian who’s skin is covered in soot brings to light and can show students the bias Thurneysser possessed in regards to black skin. The first challenge for northern tradesmen as part of the hazing rituals, which Thurneysser describes in the same section as his description of the African diaspora, commences in such a fashion where “they first hang him into a dirty chimney or wall with his feet into the air they let him hang there for several hours.”[83] Underneath him, they burn dead animals until he “totally stinks of carcass, yes, that he resembles more a black moor than a white Norwegian.”[84] This comparison to a person of color does not only pertain to the skin color, but, in connection with his comment of smelling like rotting carcasses, reveals Thurneysser’s general negative use of the reference to a person of color in this context. [395]

Pseudoscientific Racism and Historical Record

Stereotypical facial features, an excessive amount of strength, ambivalence to pain, a hypersexual nature, and other tropes expressed by Thurneysser in his descriptions of Africans exist to this day. Studying sixteenth-century sources such as Thurneysser’s text shows that twentieth-century racism does not exist in a vacuum, but that it is based on a long tradition of bias and tropes that predate the Enlightenment. Only by reconstructing the history of racial thought may one come to understand the processes that produced implicit racism and racist tropes. This paper offers an important contribution to researching Thurneysser and the formation of race in the early modern period. Deconstructing his text allows students to study race in the early modern world.

Thurneysser’s unique description shows that he used a pseudoscientific approach based on the collection of empirical information to cultivate definitions and characteristics for people of African descent in Lisbon with an underlying implicit bias. He associates these characteristics with tropes and judgments of their habits and behavior, thereby formulating racist categories that connect these behavioral markers with physical markers. A concept of race, although Thurneysser does not use the term explicitly, where physical attributes define the social character of a person of color, underlies his observations. The uniqueness of Thurneysser’s text may call into question whether his description formulated a widely disseminated view of the African diaspora in Lisbon. The lack of comparable descriptions also means that it is not possible to answer this question. I can conclude that while his pseudoscientific approach to such a description may be unique, the tropes are common in comparable contemporary accounts of the sixteenth century. Connecting scientific theory and common tropes was an important step in the formation of race. Thurneysser’s text can offer a first insight into this process.

This paper also frames the study of race formation and tropes in early modern sources in their particular historic context. It looks at a range of evidence gained from them. A sixteenth-century travel account never has just one perspective. Thurneysser’s text is a rare historical record of the life of the African diaspora and the slave trade in Lisbon, it is the most extensive example of a pseudoscientific exploration of the body of a person [396] of color by a sixteenth-century physician known today, and it contains implicit and explicit biases and tropes in its description of people of African descent in sixteenth-century Lisbon. Studying his text allows students to discuss the value of such historical records in light of the bias they also contain.

Discussion Questions

  1. What kind of definitions of race exist? How can we think of race historically? (See further reading.)
  2. What is the difference between the pseudoscientific racism discussed in this chapter, and what we call scientific racism?
  3. To what extent does Leonard Thurneysser’s text reflect the opinions of his contemporaries?

Suggestions for Further Reading

Davis, David. “Constructing Race. A reflection.” The William and Mary Quarterly 54 no. 1 (1997): 7–18.

Goldenberg, David M. The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Heng, Geraldine. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Murphy, Hannah. “Re-writing race in early modern European medicine.” History Compass 19 no. 11 (2021): e12692.

Strickland, Debra Higgs. “Monstrosity and Race in the Late Middle Ages.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous, edited by Asa Simon Mittman with Peter J. Dendle, 365–386. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge, 2016.

  1. “Sie habenn gemeiniglich ein breit Angesicht, vnnd alle samblich ein gar pech oder kohlschwartzes krauses Haar[ … ].” Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Germ. Fol. 97, (hierafter, Germ. Fol. 97), fol. 133v; Unless otherwise specified all transcriptions and translations were taken from Bernardo J. Herold, “The Diary of the Swiss Leonhard Thurneysser and Black Africans in Renaissance Lisbon,” Renaissance Studies 32.3 (2017): 463–88. The manuscript should soon become available in the digital collection of the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.
  2. For a general definition of racism see Ian Law, Racism and Ethnicity: Global Debates, Dilemmas, Directions (London: Pearson Longman Publishers, 2010), 3–11; George M. Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 5–6. For an overview of the discussion of this anachronistic approach see David Davis, “Constructing Race: A Reflection,” The William and Mary Quarterly 54: 1 (1997): 7–18. For a critical discussion of the literature on race see Wulf D. Hund, “Vor, mit, nach und ohne ‘Rassen’: Reichweiten der Rassismusforschung,” in Wandel des Politischen: Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland während der 1980er-Jahre, eds. Beatrix Bouvier et al., Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 52 (Bonn: J.H.W. Dietz. Nachf., 2012), 723–61.
  3. Ivan Hannaford, Race: The History of an Idea in the West (Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and John Hopkins University Press, 1996).
  4. Among others see the contributions in Thomas F. Earle and Katherine Lowe, eds., Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
  5. For a discussion of otherness in context of sixteenth-century encounters between Europeans and people of color see Anthony Pagden, The Fall of Natural Man: The American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). For a discussion of the monstrous races see Lorraine Daston and Katherine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750 (New York, NY: Zone Books, 1998); John B. Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981).
  6. Among others see Surekha Davies, Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 39, 223; The contributions in T.F. Earle and K.J.P Lowe, eds., Black Africans in Renaissance Europe; Jean Massing, The Image of the Black in Western Art: From the “Age of Discovery” to the Age of Abolition: Europe and the World Beyond. Vol. III.2 of The Image of the Black in Western Art. Ed. David Bindman and Henry Gates, Jr. (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), xviii, 2, 397, 398, 399; Fredrickson, Racism, 24.
  7. Germ. Fol. 97.
  8. Bernardo Herold, Thomas Horst and Henrique Leitão, A História Natural de Portugal de Leonhard Thurneysser zum Thurn, ca. 1555–1556 (Lisbon: Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, 2019) [,-b,-horst,-t,-leitao,-h---historia-natural-portugal-transcricao-final2019.pdf].
  9. For an introduction and discussion of micro-history see István Szijártó and Sigurður Magnússon, What Is Microhistory? Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 2013).
  10. There are many general resources to consult when preparing for discussing racism in a classroom. One example that provides free information is the ADL: Accessed March 6, 2020.
  11. See among others Fracanzano da Montalboddo, Newe unbekanthe landte Und ein newe weldt in kurtz verganger zeythe erfunden (Nuremberg: Georg Stuchs, 1508); Balthasar Springer, Die Merfart vn(d) erfarung nüwer Schiffung vnd Wege zu viln onerkanten Inseln und Künigreichen, von dem großmechtigen Portugalischen Kunig Emanuel Erforscht. . . . wie ich, Balthasar Spre(n) ger sollichs selbs [. . .]gesehen vn(d) erfaren habe (etc.) ( Oppenheim, 1509); Walther Raleigh, Kurtze Wunderbare Beschreibung: Deß Goldreichen König=reichs Guianae in America (Nuremberg: Lievin Hulsius, 1599).
  12. For an example of a discussion of the meaning of ethnology in the sixteenth century see Anthony Pagden, The Fall of Natural Man. For a visual record of such cultural encounters as a form of early ethnography see Stephanie Leitch, Mapping Ethnography in Early Modern Germany: New Worlds in Print Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Surekha Davies, Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Mary B. Campbell, The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400–1600 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988).
  13. The description of “global city” was used in the following publication: Annemarie Geschwend and Katherine Lowe, eds., The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon (London: Paul Holberton, 2015).
  14. This description and many more were published in Katherine Lowe, “The Global Population of Renaissance Lisbon: Diversity and its Entanglements,” in The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon, edited by Annemarie Jordan Geschwend and K.J.P. Lowe (London: Paul Holberton, 2015), 61.
  15. The title page of the fourth section is missing.
  16. For a detailed analysis and description of the entire manuscript see Thomas Horst, “A Rediscovered Manuscript about Portuguese Plants and Animals: Preliminary Observations,“ in Renaissance Craftsmen and Humanistic Scholars: Circulation of Knowledge between Portugal and Germany, edited by Thomas Horst, Marília dos Santos Lopes, and Henrique Leitão (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2017), 133–74.
  17. Herold, “Thurneysser and Black Africans,” 471.
  18. “[ … ]die Menner eben so wol alls die Weiber [ … ] wellches sie gar biß auf die Haut weckscheren vnnd schneidenn, und wellches, so baldt es inen nur gar ein klein wenig widerumb wechst, gar wunderlichen krauß wirrdt.” Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 134r. More and similar examples can be found on fol. 135r and 136r.
  19. “desselb ist auch am Angriff sehr hart.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 134r.
  20. Germ. Fol. 97, fol.136r
  21. “Etzliche vnnder denselbigen warden zu einer sunderlich[en] Zier inn der Jugenndt an allen beyden Seitten deß Munndes, vonn dem Haupt oder Stirnn an, biß zu dem Munndt durchschnitten, [ … ] wellches sie vermainen ein groß Zier zu sein.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 135v.
  22. “ Sie haben sie auch gar kleine vnnd verkerbte Hackhen, wellche etwas weißlechtiger anzusehenn, sonnst aber, samt der Füessolen gar hart seindt, [ … ].” Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 136r–136v.
  23. For context on monsters and the monstrous see Asa S. Mittman with Peter J. Dendle, The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous (London: Routledge, 2013).
  24. Sebastian Münster, Cosmographiae universalis (Basel: Heinrich Petri, 1550).
  25. “Sie seindt auch sunst am ganntzen Leib gar kol und pichschwartz.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 134r.
  26. “seindt sie (Æthijopice and Arabiæ) zum aller schwerist[en] vnnd schonnsten, habent auch gar ein glatte, ja glanntzenndt vnnd ebene Hautt, so seindt sie auch am Leib folkhumlichen vnnd sterckher dann die anndere Mohren, [ … ].” Germ. Fol. 97, fol.135r.
  27. “Die Mohren [ … ] auß den Innsulis D. Thomae, oder deß Capitis Viridis oder des grünen Haupts, vnnd auß Malagetta khumen vnd gebracht werdenn, seindt nicht so gar sehr schwartz, sunderen seindt einer dunckhelbraunen Farb vnnd sunderlich im Angesicht, aber sie haben doch gemeiniglichen alle einerley Form, Artt vnd Gestallt, der Haaren, Nasen, Lippen, Hautt, Schams, vnnd der Füeß.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 135v.
  28. “von zwey gar kolschwarzen Elterenn, darr doch gar weiß, ja, viel weisser dann die Teütschen, [ … ].” Germ Fol. 97, fol 142r,
  29. Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 137r.
  30. Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 138r.
  31. “seindt die Weiber fein lustig, behanndt vnd lieblich in opera Venereo, ja viel lustiger, wercklicher, vnd begiriger dann die vnnseren.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 138r.
  32. When putting this analysis of Thurneysser’s text into context, students may discover that many sixteenth-century travel descriptions, especially published accounts, mixed original information with bits from other travel narratives to a much greater extent than Thurneysser. These descriptions also drew on cosmographies, texts that explained the earth’s consistency, climate and appearance, including descriptions of people, animals, plants and geographic features.(For a discussion of authenticity of travel accounts see Mary B. Campbell, The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400–1600 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988). An example with which teachers can demonstrate this contrast is the travel account of Walter Raleigh (1552/1554–1618), whose description of his stay on the American continent stated that there “are divers nations of Canibals, and of those Ewaipanoma without heads.” (Walther Raleigh, The Discovery of the Beautiful Empire of Guiana, ed. by Sir Robert H. Schomburck [London: Hakluyt Society, 1848], 108.) These texts also contain statements specifying that their information had been verified by hearsay or observation. The German publication of Raleigh’s travel refers to “Mr. Raleigh witnessed” to lend additional authority to the information presented in the translation.
  33. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 431, 122v. For a translation of this sections see Jeremy Lawrence, “Black Africans in Renaissance Spanish literature,” in Black Africans in Renaissance Europe, edited by Thomas F. Earle and Katherine Lowe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 71.
  34. “Vnnder denselbigen aber, weil sie also herumb gefürrt und zum Kauf gestellt warden, seindt etzliche Menner vnnd Weiber, Jüngling und Jungfrawen gar mueter nackhet, oder blos, etzlich aber habendt die Scham bedeckht, vnnd seindt sunnst auch ganntz mueter nackhendt. Die Kaufleüt befühlen oder tasten sie allenhalben, vnnd sunderlich vmb den Nabel, wellcher, wann er inen ausserhalb dem Bauch heraussen steht, vnnd der Leib aufgedehnet oder aufgeblasen ist, so kauffen sie sie nicht, dann sie dasselbige für ein Anzeizeigung einer geferlichen Kranckheit an inen hallten. So müssen sie inen auch die Scham oder Geburtsglider zeigen vnd öffnen, ire Füesse außstreckhen wie den auch die Arm auf vnnd nider vnnd hin vnd wider heben, darauß sie dann ire Sterckhe abnehmen vnd erkhennen lassen sie etwas auf und niedergehen [ … ], begreiffen ire Duttennn vnd Brüste, [ … ].” Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 138v–139r.
  35. Herold, “Thurneysser and Black Africans.”
  36. Next to travel accounts, other archival documents can show a less subjective view of the life of the African diaspora in Portugal as investigated in Thomas F. Earle and Katherine Lowe, eds., Black Africans in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Katherine Lowe, “Visible Lives: Black Gondoliers and Other Black Africans in Renaissance Venice,” Renaissance Quarterly 66, no. 2 (2013): 412–52.
  37. Herold, “Thurneysser and Black Africans,” 463.
  38. Based on the opinion of Gabriele Kaiser who has studied the penmanship of both Thurneysser and Seidel. Mentioned in a conversation on August 18, 2019.
  39. For Thurneysser’s first biography see Johann K. W. Moehsen, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Wissenschaften in der Mark Brandenburg: von den ältesten Zeiten an bis zu Ende des sechszehnten Jahrhunderts (Berlin: George Jakob Decker, 1783). Gabriele Kaiser (formerly Gabriele Spitzer) published extensively on Thurneysser’s life and work, see Gabriele Spitzer, … und die Spree führt Gold: Leonard Thurneysser zum Thurn, Astrologe – Alchimist – Arzt und Drucker in Berlin des 16. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Beiträge aus der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz 3, 1996); Gabriele Kaiser, “Leonhard Thurneysser zum Thurn (1531–1596) und sein Nachlass in der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin,” in Renaissance Craftsmen and Humanistic Scholars: Circulation of Knowledge between Portugal and Germany, edited by Thomas Horst, Marília dos Santos Lopes, and Henrique Leitão (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2017), 121–31.
  40. He received as steady income (1352 Taler) from his position at the Brandenburg court and from his expertise in analyzing urine samples for the European aristocracy. For further information see Spitzer, … und die Spree führt Gold, 23.
  41. His estate in Berlin includes the letters he received from 1564–1583 in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Germ. Fol. 420–426 (provenance: in the Prussian royal library since its foundation in 1661); Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Bor. Fol. 680–687 and 691 (provenance: in the Prussian royal library since its foundation in 1661).
  42. Printing, setter, and form cutter. See Spitzer, … und die Spree führt Gold, 37–55.
  43. Thurneysser’s approach to learning is also discussed in Tobias Bulang, “Die Welterfahrung des Autodidakten: Fremde Länder und Sprachen in den Büchern Leonhard Thurneyssers zum Thurn,” Daphnis 47 (2017): 510–37
  44. “vberlegen fast aller Academiar[um] studijs vnnd fleiß in Philosophia.” Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 1r, 111r, 129r.
  45. “Schühler in der Natur.” Germ. Fol. 421b, fols. 358r–359r.
  46. For a suitable comparison see Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, Vol. VI (London: James MacLehose and Sons, 1906) [].
  47. See for example: Balthasar Springer, Die Merfart vn(d) erfarung nüwer Schiffung vnd Wege zu viln onerkanten Inseln und Künigreichen, von dem großmechtigen Portugalischen Kunig Emanuel Erforscht … wie ich, Balthasar Spre(n) ger sollichs selbs [. . .]gesehen vn(d) erfaren habe (etc.) (Oppenheim, 1509). For the economic impetus for the German journeys to other countries see Christine R. Johnson, The German Discovery of the World: Renaissance Encounters with the Strange and Marvelous (Carlottesville, Va: University of Virginia Press, 2009).
  48. Montalboddo, Newe unbekanthe landte.
  49. “seltzame(n) wunderlichen thyren/ geflügeln, köstlichen bawmen/spetzereyen/ mancherley edeln gestayne/ perlen und golde.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 1v.
  50. Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 9v.
  51. as quoted in the section above.
  52. Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 137r, 137v, 141v, 142r,
  53. Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 133v,
  54. “ganndz vnnd gar nichts auß der Erdenn wechst.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 130v (author’s translation).
  55. “gar viel, so nicht ser starckher Natur od[er] complexion gewesen, inn dem actu gestorben, vnnd vonn inen vmb das Leben gebracht worden sein.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 131r.
  56. Spitzer,  … und die Spree führt Gold, 84.
  57. Leonhard Thurneysser, Confirmatio Concertationis (Berlin, 1576).
  58. For example of a sample sent by Fugginer Ritter, see Germ. Fol. 426, 42.
  59. “leibe von undem auff sei hart samptt dem gemecht mit zudem der hintern bis ain der nabell gahr sehrr geschwollen ist und thutt ihr so wehe[ … ].” Germ. Fol. 421b, 66b.
  60. “etliche Jar nach ainander mit krankhait und sond=erlich magen weh fiebern und geweinen bela=den, und so ich gleich vo[n] gemelte[n] fieberein und gewein ledig so hab ich doch stetts gemelte magen krankhaitt [ … ] und auff platzung an mir, [ … ].” Germ. Fol. 426, fols. 119r–119v.
  61. “die eheliche pflicht nicht pflegen kan.” Germ. Fol. 425, fol. 246r.
  62. For an overview of the Black presence in renaissance Germany see contributions in Mischa Honeck, Martin Klimke and Anne Kuhlmann, eds., Germany and the Black Diaspora: Points of Contact 1250–1914 (Oxford and New York: Berghahn, 2013).
  63. “wunderlichen krauß.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 134r.
  64. “nidere oder eingetruckhte Nasenn.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 134v.
  65. “ein gros vnnd scheützlich orificium das ist Munndtloch.” Germ. Fol. 97.
  66. “gar weisse Zeene.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 135r.
  67. Written by Albrecht Dürer 1518–1520 and published in 1528. Albrecht Dürer, HJeriñ sind begriffen vier biicher von menschlicher Proportion/ durch Albrechten D[ue]rer von Nurenberg erfunden vnd be/schriben/ z[uo] nutz allen denen/ so z[uo] diser kunst lieb tragen (Nuremberg: Hieronymus Andreae, 1528).
  68. “so sperren sie sich gar grewlich weitt vnd langsam vonneinannder [ … ] wann sie aber allain sein” and “die Naasen an irer Spitzen inn einer scheützlichenn oder heßlichen Breitte gestaltet ist.” Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 134r–134v.
  69. “starckh” and “fast.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 136v.
  70. Written by Albrecht Dürer 1518–1520 and published in 1528. Transcribed and brought into modern German, see Berthold Hinz, Albrecht Dürer: Vier Bücher von menschliche Proportionen (1528): mit einem Katalog der Holzschnitte (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2011), 229.
  71. Hinz, Albrecht Dürer.
  72. For an analysis of how sixteenth-century travel accounts highlighted the sexual nature of people encountered in South America see Peter Mason, Deconstructing America: Representations of the Other (London: Routledge, 1990).
  73. Montalboddo, Newe unbekanthe landte, fols. 8r, 10r.
  74. “schlaffen bey den mayden/ als bey seinen weybern. Und achten solches seyne weyber nicht fur unrecht/ so es der massen der gebrauche ist/ Und deswegen verwandelt der fürst offt die herberge.” Montalboddo, Newe unbekanthe landte, fol.10r
  75. “vest unkewsch.” Montalboddo, Newe unbekanthe landte.
  76. “Ihre Weiber sind sehr unkeusch und insonderheit mit frembter Nation/ und man helt es da im Land fur keine schande.” Jan Huygen van Linschoten, Ander Theil der Orientalischen || Jndien (Frankfurt: Johan Saur, 1597), 10.
  77. “ist mennschlicher Vernuunft fast verborgenn.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 139v.
  78. “Vrsach der Nigredinis oder Schwertze.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 140r
  79. “sie werden also schwartz vom Muter Leib gebohrenn, vnd zwar nicht allein inn iren Lanndtschafften, sunderen auch in Lusitania Hispania, vnnd allen annderen dahir sie gefürret warden.” Germ. Fol. 97, fol. 139v. Ancient sources including Ptolemey’s Geography and Ovid’s Metamorphoses associate the heat of the sun with skin color. The Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius disputed this in his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Antwerp: Aegidius Coppens, 1570). See Jean Michel Massing, The Image of the Black in Western Art: From the “Age of Discovery” to the Age of Abolition: Europe and the World Beyond, vol. III.2 of The Image of the Black in Western Art, edited David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011), 65, 79; Davies, Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human, 170–71.
  80. “Sperma,” “Proprietet desselbigen Erdreichs,” and “daß sollcher irer nigredinis fürnehmer Vrsach, auß einem gewiss[en] potitu etzlicher stellarum, so mit denselbigenn Lennderen, auch ein besunder Familiaritet habenn, entrpriesse oder herfliesse.” Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 140r–141r.
  81. Peter Morys, Medizin und Pharmazie in der Kosmologie Leonhard Thurneissers zum Thurn (1531–1596) (Husum: Matthiesen Verlag, Abhandlungen zu Geschichte der Medizin und der Naturwissenschaften 43, 1982), 25.
  82. Thurneysser’s faith was driven more by circumstance rather than a fierce belief. He was a Lutheran but later converted to Catholicism to integrate into the society in Rome, where he resided from 1584 to 1590. See Spitzer, … und die Spree führt Gold, 13–14; Paul H. Boerlin, Leonhard Thurneysser als Auftraggeber: Kunst im Dienst der Selbsdarstellung zwischen Humanismus und Barock (Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 1976), 27.
  83. “hang[en] sie denselbigenn erstlich inn einen vnsauberenn Scharstein oder Feürmaur, bey den Füsse inn die Höche, vnnd lassen in allda etzliche Stund[en] henngen, [ … ].” Germ. Fol. 97, fols. 132r.
  84. “gantz vnd gar wie das Aas stinnckhe, ja, daß er vielmer einem schwartzenn Mohren, dann weissen Norttweger enlich sey.” Ibid.


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