Captain John Smith's Map of Virginia

By Library of Virginia

"The Englishmen's Arrival in Virginia" (1590) by Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

Early Virginia

The earliest descriptions of "Virginia" were from the English perspective and relied heavily upon the drawings of John White and text written by Thomas Harriot in " A Briefe and True Report on the Newfoundland of Virginia..."  that were published by Theodore de Bry. De Bry's engravings are based on John White's original drawings from life.

America Pars, Nunc Virginia Dicta… (1590) by John White, Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

Theodore de Bry engraved this pictorial map of "Virginia" and it is based on manuscript maps from John White's drawings. It is the first map of Virginia published to be entitled "Virginia".

Native American place names in North Carolina's Outer Banks are listed.

America Pars, Nunc Virginia Dicta… (1590) by John White, Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

The Chesapeake Bay's entrance is well-defined; it shows Cape Charles and today's Virginia Peninsula between the James and York Rivers. The White/de Bry map predates Smith's map of Virginia.

"How They Catch Fish" (1590) by Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

Hariot's readers were impressed by his descriptions of Native American fishing techniques.

Indians fastened a sharp, hollow tail from a fish similar to a sea crab to reeds or the end of a long rod and speared fish with this long point. Reed traps with narrow endings were constructed, too.

"How They Build Boats" (1590) by Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

Most of de Bry's engravings are based on White's drawings; but this engraving is an exception. Scholars believe he depended entirely upon Hariot's written description in "A Briefe and True Report..."

Two men are using fire and shells to dig out a canoe, some of which were 35 feet in length. Hariot described their practices as "wonderfull, considering their want of instruments of iron."

Virginia: Discovered and Discribed by Captain John Smith. Graven by William Hole. 1606. (1624) by John SmithOriginal Source: Virginia / discovered and discribed by Captayn John Smith 1606 ; graven by William Hole.

Smith's Virginia

In May 1607 English colonists settled at Jamestown Island along Virginia's Peninsula. Captain John Smith emerged as one of the colony's leaders and participated in surveying the Chesapeake Bay and those rivers flowing into it. In 1612 Smith published "A Map of Virginia with a Description of the Countrey, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion" and the map included therein became the prototype map of Virginia until Augustine Herrman's map of Virginia and Maryland was published in 1673.  The images surrounding the map are based upon De Bry's engravings of John White's drawings. 

Smith's map of Virginia was the first published to define the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's Tidewater region. Its geographical features are overpowered by its illustrative features.

Major words are in large Roman capitals, the names of Indian tribes are in upper case italics, the names of villages and geographical features are in regular italics and principal features are in Roman.

Virginia: Discovered and Discribed by Captain John Smith. Graven by William Hole. 1606. (1624) by John SmithOriginal Source: Virginia / discovered and discribed by Captayn John Smith 1606 ; graven by William Hole.

In a "Map of Virginia" Smith describes the tall Susquehanna Indian: "his haire, the one side was long, the other shorn close with a ridge over his crown...he wore wolves skin at his back for his quiver."

"Map of the Ould Virginia" (1907) by Robert VaughnOriginal Source: The generall historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer isles / John Smith. Glasgow : J. MacLehose and Sons, 1907

These plates depict Smith's experiences in Virginia and are inspired by de Bry's engravings. The map is a copy of the De Bry/White map of Virginia with British place names.

"Dancing at Their Great Feasts" (1590) by Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

One of the scenes depicting Smith's adventures in Virginia is based on this engraving. Dwellers in various forms of attire are celebrating at a feast.

Unus Americanus ex Virginia (1645) by Wenceslaus HollarOriginal Source: Library of Virginia

Jacques, an Algonquian speaking warrior of the Munsee-Delaware tribe was taken prisoner in 1644 and transported to Amsterdam. His likeness is representative of Algonquian tribes living in Virginia.

Virginia and Maryland (1676) by John SpeedOriginal Source: An epitome of Mr. John Speed's Theatre of the empire of Great Britain / John Speed. London : Printed for Tho. Basset and Ric. Chiswell, 1676

Smith's Map and Its Many Derivatives

John Smith's map of Virginia was copied by several European map publishers. And, the De Bry/White engravings continued to be used to illustrate Virginia's Native American populations. The first American reprint was published in 1819 and in 1999 a re-strike from this copperplate was printed as part of collaborative effort between the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Commonwealth University.  

Nova Virginiae Tabula. Ex officina Guiljelmi Blaeuw (1630) by William BlaeuOriginal Source: Nova Virginiae tabula / D. Griip, sculpt, ca 1630

Jodocus Hondius Jr. engraved the original plate for this map. Upon his death his widow sold the plate to Willem Blaeu. This is larger than Smith's map of Virginia; the De Bry/White images were retained.

Nova Virginiae Tabula Petrus Kaerius Caelavit (1628/1634) by Johannes Janssonius Jr.Original Source: Atlas minor Gerardi Mercatoris a? I. Hondio plurimis aeneis tabulis auctus et illustratus / Gerhard Mercator. Amsterdam : Jan Jansson, 1628

This was the first derivative to appear in an atlas and the only one to depict North America in Johannes Janssonius's "Atlas Minor Gerardi Mercatoris." The engraver's name, Pieter van den Keere, is in the rounded cartouche.

Virginia Erforshet und Beschriben durch Capitain Iohan Schmidt (1627) by Matheus MerianOriginal Source: Dreyzehender Theil Americae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt : C. Rötel, 1628

Smith's map was copied and published in Latin, English and German. This German derivative was published in Frankfurt in 1627 or sometime thereafter.

Nova Virginiae Tabula I (1630/1636) by Pieter van den KeereOriginal Source: Atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mvndi et fabricati figvra / Gerhard Mercator. French edition, 1630 or 1636

Not every map publisher incorporated the De Bry/White images. Maps of Virginia that were published in smaller atlases tended to incorporate geographical depictions of the colony, only.

Nova Virginiae Tabula IV (1633/1635) by Henry HondiusOriginal Source: Atlas, ou, Representation du monde universel / Gerhard Mercator. Amsterdam : Henry Hondius, 1633 and 1635

This is the only Smith derivative in which the Susquehanna Indian faces the Chesapeake Bay.

"Virginia" (1635) by Ralph HallOriginal Source: Historia mundi / Gerhard Mercator. London : Printed by T. Cotes for Michael Sparke and Samuel Cartwright, 1635

Engraved by Ralph Hall this silly, pictorial map displays little concern for geographic accuracy! It is surrounded by three illustrations that are poor copies of the DeBry/White images.

"Praying Around the Fire with Rattles" (1590) by Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

Hall's first illustration copies DeBry's illustration of Indians celebrating around a camp fire. The rattles are made from gourds with small stones or kernels and are fastened to a stick.

"The Tomb of the Weroans" (1590) by Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

The second illustration copies the De Bry/White engraving of "The Tomb of the Weroans."

"The Town of Pomeiock" (1590) by Theodore de BryOriginal Source: Admiranda narratio fida tamen, de commodis et incolarum ritibus Virginiae / Theodor de Bry. Frankfurt am Main : Johann Wechel, 1590

The third resembles the Town of Pomeiock.

Nova Virginiae Tabula (1671) by Montanus, Arnoldus (1625?-1683)Library of Virginia

Printed in 1671 for John Ogilby's "America" this colorful map includes a title printed on drapery supported by cherubs and an explanation that is framed with two Indian figures, a goat and a llama.

Title printed on drapery supported by cherubs.

"Nova Virginiae Tabula" is known also as the "llama map" of Virginia.

Virginie Grande Region de l'Amerique Septentrionale Pierre Vander AA (1729) by Jacob MeursOriginal Source: La galerie agreable du monde / Pieter van der Aa. Leiden : Pierre vander Aa, [1729?]

Cartouches became more stylized in the second half of the 17th century as shown in this derivative engraved by Jacob Meurs for inclusion in "La Galerie Agreable du Monde."

A Map of Virginia and Maryland (1676) by John SpeedOriginal Source: The theatre of the empire of Great-Britain / John Speed. London : Printed for T. Basset and R. Chiswel, 1676y of virginia

Augustine Herrman's seminal map of Virginia replaced Smith's. Turn of the 18th century maps of Virginia often included geographical features not shown on Smith's map of Virginia such as the Delaware Bay.

Virginia. Discovered and Described by Captayn John Smith 1606. (1819) by John SmithOriginal Source: Virginia / discouered and discribed by Captayn John Smith, 1606.

This facsimile of Smith's map of Virginia was included in the the 1819 printing of his "The True Travels, Adventures and Observations... in Europe, Asia, Africke and America" that was published in Richmond, Virginia.

The name of the engraver, William Hole, as been omitted.

Title page of "The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles…" (1624) by Smith, John (1580-1631)Library of Virginia

Credits: Story

Research, text and arrangement by Cassandra Britt Farrell with assistance from Audrey McElhinney and Sonya Coleman.

Imaging by Mark Fagerburg and Ben Steck Photo & Imaging Services department.

All images from Map Collection, Picture Collection, Rare Book Collection, Manuscripts and Special Collections, Library of Virginia

Credits: All media
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