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The Sir Francis Drake Collection: About the Collection

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake's accomplishments as an explorer and naval strategist were unparalleled. His most notable feat was circumnavigating the earth from 1577-80, the first such voyage since Magellan's in 1522 and the only one up to that time captained by the same man from start to finish. Drake's expeditions to the Caribbean and the Pacific, undertaken during the circumnavigation and in subsequent voyages, revealed significant new geographical data about the New World and added greatly to Queen Elizabeth I's [1533-1603] treasury.

The Collector
Assembled by Hans Peter Kraus and his wife Hanni in only twelve years, these materials reveal a great breadth and scope in the primary and secondary materials that concern Sir Francis Drake. Kraus was one of the foremost booksellers of the second half of the twentieth century. Born in Austria in 1907, he exhibited a precocious mind and a love of collecting from an early age—which soon turned to a love of collecting books. He became a bookseller under the traditional antiquarian Austrian guild system—first becoming an apprentice. In 1939, during the Nazi Occupation, Kraus and his family fled Austria for the United States. Within two weeks of his arrival in New York, Kraus met Hanni, his future wife and business partner. The couple established an antiquarian bookselling firm, H. P. Kraus, Inc., and amassed the stock and the connections needed for success. Their legendary firm opened in the early 1940s and did not close until 2003. The firm collected and sold many first rate editions.

The Collection
In a 1968 James Ford Bell Lecture, Kraus explained how a chance comment about the enormous profit reaped by Sir Francis Drake and Queen Elizabeth from the around-the-world voyage piqued his interest and led him to study Drake's life. The more that Kraus learned, the more fascinated he became, and he resolved to put together a collection of contemporary materials related to Drake and his journeys. In 1980 Hans and Hanni Kraus generously donated their collection to the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. The combination of the Library's other rich collections from this period and the resources of the neighboring Folger Shakespeare Library make Washington a preeminent center for the study of the Elizabethan era.

The Kraus Collection consists of 60 items--16 manuscripts, 29 books, 8 maps and views, and 7 medals and portraits. The materials range in date from 1579 to 1765 and are written in English, Spanish, Latin, Italian, German, French, and Dutch.

Manuscripts range in date from 1579 to 1603. They are mostly correspondence between various governing officials and diplomats of the Spanish and English crowns regarding Drake's activities in Spanish America and are written in Spanish, English, Latin, and Italian. Many of the other documents concern legal or financial topics, including the record of Drake's sale of a 71-year lease of a house called the "The Herbar."

Books range in date from 1581 to 1695 and are published in Spanish, English, Latin, German, French, and Dutch. Topics include general histories of exploration, trade, and navigation on the high seas including Drake's circumnavigation of the world. Other topics are of a more political nature and either extol Drake's accomplishments or decry his plunders in Spanish America. Still other accounts are biographies of the crowned heads Queen Elizabeth I and King Philip II [1527-1598].

Maps and views
Maps and views range in date from 1570 to 1765 and were created by Spanish, Belgian, and English cartographers. Spanish America is depicted with drawings of fortresses and harbors as well as with maps of St. Augustine, South America, and the West Indies. There are also drawings depicting the Spanish Armada and the sea battles between the Spanish and the English. There is also a map of the world with an engraving of Drake and a map of Devonshire, England.

Medals and Portraits
Medals and portraits range in date from 1583 to 1598 and are English, Spanish, and Dutch in origin. Two engraved medals commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada and two medals by Michael Mercator depict engravings of the world. There is also an engraving of Drake on paper, a series of portraits of sea explorers, and an oil portrait of Lord William Cecil Burghley, Queen Elizabeth I's secretary from 1558 to 1572.

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