Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

Mr. Philip D. Burden​
P.O. Box 863,
Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks HP6 9HD,
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A good example with wide margins in the second state. ‘Theodore de Bry’s map of Virginia, after John White, is one of the most significant cartographical milestones in colonial North American history. It was the most accurate map drawn in the sixteenth century of any part of that continent. It became the prototype of the area until long after James Moxon’s map in 1671 … This is the first map to focus on Virginia (now largely North Carolina), and records the first English attempts at colonisation in the New World’ (Burden).

‘After the failed attempts of Martin Frobisher in finding a North West Passage through to Asia, the attention of the English turned towards America itself and forming their own settlement. Both Spain and for some time France, its two main rivals for power, had developed some considerable knowledge of American waters. England did not want to be left out. The publication of Michael Lok’s map in 1582 had tantalisingly depicted at the rough latitude of Carolina a large inland sea that connected with the Pacific Ocean. This was derived from Giovanni di Verrazzano’s mistaken understanding of the Carolina Sounds when he passed by the Outer Banks in 1524. It was also positioned conveniently between the French centred on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Spanish in Florida.

A reconnoitre was sent out by Walter Raleigh in 1584 under the command of Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow to select a suitable landing site. They chose Roanoke Island and after six weeks returned to England. Immediately Raleigh started preparations for a permanent settlement, and in January 1585 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. The new colony was to be named in her honour Virginia. In April Sir Richard Grenville left Plymouth and in late June started some initial explorations of the Carolina Sounds. Landing at Roanoke they built a fort and prepared for the winter; Grenville returned home leaving a number of men behind. Small parties were sent out which included the scientist and surveyor Thomas Harriot and the artist John White. Between them they recorded and mapped the areas they visited. White sketched some beautifully finished drawings, a number of which reside today at the British Library. In the meantime the colony suffered from bad provisions and poor relations, both with the Indians and between themselves. When Sir Francis Drake passed by in June 1586 at the end of his West Indian voyage, and saw the state they were in, he carried all of the survivors with him back to England. For a brief period the colony was abandoned. Later in the summer Grenville arrived and finding nobody there promptly left only fifteen men and returned. These men disappeared, probably lost to Indian attacks.

The fourth voyage to the area arrived in July 1587 and White, who was now Governor, set about restoring the remains of the settlement. He was, however, persuaded to sail back for England to obtain more supplies. He was never to see his daughter again, or his grand-daughter Virginia Dare who was the first English person born in America. By the time he arrived back in England, it was under serious threat of attack from the Spanish Armada, so no ships could be spared. On his eventual return to the area during the summer of 1590 he found no survivors. To this day nobody knows the fate of the colonists.

With the understandable distractions of the Spanish Armada interest in the Roanoke colony in England was fading. To keep this up, in 1588 Thomas Harriot published his A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia. At this time Theodore de Bry was in London trying to acquire Jacques le Moyne’s original drawings of the French colonial attempt in Florida during the 1560s. He had in mind to publish an illustrated account of the venture. However, Raleigh and others persuaded him to publish Harriot’s account and illustrate it with White’s drawings. It was published in Frankfurt, 1590, in four languages; Latin, German, French and English. They were published, we are told by Cumming, within ten days of each other.

The map concerned depicts the area from Chesapeake Bay to Cape Lookout. It exhibits greater knowledge than on any of the surviving manuscripts. Possibly this is from knowledge gained during White’s brief visit in 1587 and signifies some lost manuscript. Here we find the first printed use of the name Chesapeake, Chesepiooc Sinus, and the second of Roanoke (the first being Mazza). It depicts the positions of the Indian villages in the area and is adorned with the Royal Arms of England. The latter’s ships are shown at sea with Indian canoes traversing the inland waters. The two native scenes shown are taken from illustrations in the book’ (Burden). Provenance: private English collection since 1996. Alexander (1976) pp. 60-89 (illustrating most of the plates in the de Bry); Burden 1996) no. 76 state 2; Church (1907) nos. 140-4 & 176-8; Cumming (1962) no. 12 and pp. 13-17 (see nos. 6-8 for White’s manuscript maps); Cumming, Skelton & Quinn (1972) pp. 178-80 & 193-205; Durant (1981); Fite and Freeman (1926) pp. 92-5; Garratt (1979) p. 4 G1; Lorent (1946) pp. 121-277; Morrison (1983) no. 3; Quinn (1955); Sabin (1868) no. 8784; Schwartz and Ehrenberg (1980) pp. 76-81.


Americæ pars, Nunc Virginia dicta, primum ab Anglis inventa sumtibus Dn. Walteri Raleigh Equestris ordinis Viri Anno Dni.M.D LXXXV

Theodore de Bry, Frankfurt, 1590
305 x 415 mm., with good margins in good condition.
Stock number: 8221
$ 18,500
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