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Tradition and innovation in Dutch ethnographic prints of Africans c. 1590-1670

In the early modern period Europeans were fascinated by the dark colour of African skin. Although this does not show in sixteenth-century prints where skin colour was not usually indicated, this would change in the first decade of the seventeenth century in the wall maps of Willem Jansz. Blaeu. Drawing on developments in printing techniques, changes in artistic fashion, contemporary ideas about scientific illustrations, developments in map making, and the business of book publishing, this article traces the origin of the convention to depict blacks without reference to their skin colour and examines the reasons for its success and demise. It also charts and explains the new model and addresses the different pace in which this convention changed in travel books and wall maps.