A VERY RARE COMPLETE EXAMPLE. In 1672 Richard Blome published ‘A Description of the Island of Jamaica’, which included some significant maps relating to North America. Despite the wording of its title, the book gives a general account of the English colonies in America. The preparation of the book relied heavily on the help of Sir Thomas Lynch, Governor of Jamaica, and Colonel Thomas Modyford, owner of extensive lands on the island, hence the title.
The island of Jamaica had been captured by the English in 1655. For some time after, the Spanish attempted to regain possession and the English tacitly encouraged piracy against the Spanish. As a result, Port Royal, sitting on a peninsula near the capital Kingston, became a hotbed of pirates including Sir Henry Morgan, Calico Jack and Blackbeard. Morgan did so well he would become Lieutenant Governor of the island. Calico Jack was ultimately hung there in 1720 along with another pirate Charles Vane. The Treaty of Madrid, 1670, officially ceded Jamaica to the English and gave it considerable trading rights in the Spanish Americas.
Piracy on the island is described thus: ‘there are reckoned to belong to the Island, of Privateers, Hunters, Sloop and Boatmen (which ply about the Isle) at the least 3000 lusty and stout Fighting Men, whose courage hath been sufficiently evidenced in their late exploit, and attempt made against the Spaniards at Panama’ (p. 42). Once the English were masters of the Island they began ‘to settle themselves in Plantations, whilst others betook themselves to the Sea as Freebooters or Privateers, the better to secure themselves against the Spaniards … by their frequent annoying them, in seizing such their ships which they could meet with, which proved very successful unto them’ (p. 49). It describes Jamaica’s ability to be ‘capable of itself to carry on a War against the Spaniards … because of the conveniences of its Ports, and its strength of Inhabitants and Shipping, having already about 20 or 30 Sayl of Privateers; and will in a short time be so numerous and potent, that they will become o obnoxious to the Spaniards …’ (p.60). The entire town was destroyed in the famous earthquake of 1692.
The book was advertised in the ‘London Gazette’ 8-11 July 1672, as in a state of ‘fair forwardness’, but a further advertisement of 17-20 March 1673 announced it would not be available until Easter of that year. There were three issues of the first edition of 1672, each with different imprints. These are T. Milbourn alone, T. Milbourn & J. Williams and T. Milbourn, for R. Clavell. There is no known priority of imprint, they most likely printed individual title pages for each individual seller.
The first portion of the book as might be expected describes Jamaica and other Caribbean islands including Bermuda. The balance of the work describes in detail, the North American colonies commencing with Carolina founded in 1663. New York also receives a chapter, having become an English colony in 1664.
The map of Carolina is only the second of the English colony, the first being the exceedingly rare Robert Horne of 1666, after which this is derived. It created confusion between the old and new settlements of ‘Charles Town’. The earlier short-lived settlement of ‘Charles Town’ was founded in 1664 by several planters from Barbados and abandoned three years later. It illustrates ‘Charles Town’ correctly near Cape Fear but applies ‘Ashley Riv’, relating to the later 1670 settlement of Charles Town, which is further south. The latter was not officially called Charleston until incorporation in 1783 and should be placed just to the south of ‘C. Romano’. The author was clearly aware of some other sources as he applies ‘C Carteret’ in the correct location; the relative location of Charleston should have been identified in the same source. We must assume, therefore, that either he did not wish to drastically alter his plate, or he did not have the full details available. He clearly did not have to hand the John Ogilby map of ‘Carolina’ published at about the same time.
There are other minor differences. At the same time as the addition of the ‘Ashly Riv’, the ‘Charles River’ was removed from the same region. The southerly extension of Cape Fear has been correctly shortened. The arms of the eight Lords Proprietors in an elaborate cartouche are illustrated lower left. Fourteen pages of descriptive text accompany the map. These reveal the climate, flora, fauna and native population of the region. Cumming and De Vorsey state that the text embodies knowledge of the John Lederer explorations, its first use in print.
A further fifty-three pages are divided into different chapters describing the middle and north-eastern colonies of the continent. Bound before them is a map of the region. It is the first English map to illustrate the middle and north-eastern colonies. It is important as it delineates the region just prior to the great expansion of cartographic knowledge which would commence with the Augustine Herrman Virginia and Maryland map in 1673 and the John Seller map of New England in 1676. Indeed, the second state of the map reflects the boundary given on the former. One of the more notable aspects of the map is its curious depiction of the St. Lawrence River waterway. At first glance The Lake of Herekoys is one of the Great Lakes. It represents Lake Champlain and can be derived from the map of Joseph Moxon published in 1664. Chesapeake Bay is depicted running northerly without the usual English depiction of a ‘hook’ at its head. This is like that displayed in Blome’s folio map of North America completed in 1668. An inset of Newfoundland reflects the Lord Baltimore’s interests in the Avalon peninsula, as stated in the dedication to him on the map.
One further map is in fact bound first in the work and chiefly describes Jamaica, but like its predecessors it bears a large inset map of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and the south-eastern portion of North America. Richard Blome (1635-1705) was the son of Jacob Bloome a member of the Stationers’ Company. Although his family name is written in contemporary documents as Bloome, he himself used Blome. He was made free of the Stationers’ Company in August 1660 at the time of the Restoration of Charles II. According to Skelton, he began as a ruler of paper and a heraldic painter, both features which are seen in his later works. His earliest known publication is a geographical treatise published in 1663. From 1667 the first of a series of maps of the world was engraved for ‘A Geographical Description of the Four Parts of the World’ which published in 1670. The first all English folio atlas of the world.
This work is extremely rare with only four examples recorded in auction since 1948! Provenance: Chapel Hill Rare Books, February 1998 at the Los Angeles Book Fair; Burden Collection. Baer (1949) no. 71A; Baynton-Williams (2005); Brown ‘European Americana’ 672/26; Burden (2007) nos. 419-21; not in Church (1907); not in Clark (1969); Cumming & De Vorsey (1998) no. 69; ESTC R232910; not in Howes (1962); McCorkle (2001) no. 672.1; Sabin (1868) 5966; not in Streeter sale.