THE FIRST MAP OF NEW ENGLAND
SMITH, CAPTAIN JOHN
New England. The most remarqueable parts thus named. By the high and mighty Prince Charles, Prince of great Britaine Observed and described by Captayn John Smith
Black and white copper, engraving, 12” x 14”. With an oval portrait of Smith in the upper left corner entitled The Portraicteur of Captayne John Smith/Admiral of New England. Below the portrait is a six line poem in homage to Smith. [in the lower left corner:] “Simon Paseus Sculpsit.”
This is one of the legendary early maps for America: “the foundation map of New England cartography, the one that gave [New England] its name and the first devoted to the region” (Burden 187). The map is also a landmark for English engraving.
After a period of inactivity following his Virginia escapades, Captain John Smith was invited by four London merchants to explore the coastline north of Virginia, with instructions to return with a profitable cargo. Smith arrived off the Kennebec River with two ships in May 1614. One of Smith’s ships concentrated on catching fish and gathering other valuable commodities, while Smith continued down the coast to chart and explore.
Smith immediately recognized the poor state of the existing cartography for the region. He noted that he had six or seven maps.
“of those northern parts, so unlike each to other, and most so differing from any true proportion, or resemblance of the Countrey, as they did me no more good, then so much waste paper.”
He then set about surveying and constructing a proper map of the region, just as he had for Virginia several years earlier. Returning to England in December 1615, Smith had the map published with his A Description of New England in June 1616. According to a legend on the map, much of the nomenclature was provided by Charles, Prince of Wales, the future Charles I. Several of these placenames are still in use, including Cape Anne, Charles River, and Plymouth.
The map was engraved by the outstanding Dutch engraver, Simon de Passe, who worked in London from 1616 to 1621. De Passe added a number of finely engraved decorative elements. He was most famous for his portraits, and here includes a striking depiction of Smith. Griffiths notes that de Passe’s English portraits “marked an epoch not only in the British print but in the developement of the European portrait engraving,” most importantly for his introduction of “a new type of auricular frame … It is curious that such an advanced type should first be popularized in England.”
The separately dated (“Ao 1616”) portrait of Smith on the map, which may have been de Passe’s first published in England, predates his use of the auricular style. But the “scale of leagues” in the lower right corner clearly exhibits the “extraordinary curling and folding decoration” that typifies the auricular, and which de Passe soon incorporated into his portrait frames. The auricular quickly became a hallmark of the Baroque style.
This is state nine of the map, which is important as the first to show the correct position for Boston, and the first to name Charlestown.
Benes, New England Prospect, entry 3; Burden, Mapping of North America, entry 187; Deak, Picturing America, entry 19; Fite & Freeman, A Book of Old Maps, entry 34; Krieger & Cobb, Mapping Boston, pp. 82-83; McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, entry 614.1; Pritchard & Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude, entry 6; Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, plate 53; Suarez, Shedding the Veil, entry 42. For Simon de Passe, see Anthony Griffiths, The Print in Stuart Britain 1603-1689, pp. 56-63.
Inventory No. 8561