Map of the Week: Grierson Pirate of Herman Moll’s Codfish Map of North America

To His Grace Hugh, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate and Metropolitan of all Ireland and One of the Lords Justices of the said Kingdom this map of North America According to the Newest and most Exact Observations is most humbly Dedicated by your Graces most humble Serv: Geo: Grierson.

To His Grace Hugh, Lord Archbishop of Armagh, Primate and Metropolitan of all Ireland and One of the Lords Justices of the said Kingdom this map of North America According to the Newest and most Exact Observations is most humbly Dedicated by your Graces most humble Serv: Geo: Grierson.

An antique map discovery of the utmost rarity. Ostensibly, this is a fine example of Hermann Moll’s important and highly desirable 1720 Codfish Map, entitled “To the Right Honourable John Lord Sommers…” Upon closer inspection however, an entirely different picture emerges – this is in fact the Irish map publisher George Grierson’s 1732 piracy of Moll’s Codfish Map, entitled, “To his Grace Hugh Lord Archbishop…”. Although clearly copied from Moll’s map, Grierson’s map is actually a completely new engraving, with original cartouche work, an Irish-centric dedication, and a host of lesser variations throughout. Grierson’s piracies of Moll’s maps are far rarer and more desirable than Moll’s own work, the present example being the only known Grierson Codfish Map to have ever been on the market and possibly the only one extant.

Grierson published this map, and many others, in the year of Moll’s death, 1732, a clear piracy of Moll’s The World Described, most largest and impressive atlas. Today no known complete example of Grierson’s The World Described has survived, though very rarely individual maps, like the present example, do surface. In The Cartographer and the Literati – Herman Moll and his Intellectual Circle ( Edwin Mellen Press, 1997), Dennis Reinhartz notes that

two editions of [Moll’s Large Atlas] The World Described… were done by the Dublin publisher George Grierson… all of the maps in the Irish editions were completely re-engraved, even to the point of understandably having been rededicated to contemporary Irish notables. The Grierson atlas had new and/or changed cartouches, dedications, details, and comments. It also showed obvious erasers and additions, and some of the maps were updated.

Moll’s map, “To the Right Honourable John Lord Sommers…”, was originally published in 1718 or 1720 (there is some dispute on the matter) in counterclaim to Guillaume de L’Isle’s most influential map, the 1718 “Carte de La Louisiane de du Cours du Mississipi”. Moll and many other Englishmen were infuriated by De L’Isle’s cartographic advocacy for French hegemony in the region, including a vast Louisiana looming over the English coastal colonies and the ceding of Carolina to France. Moll’s response was this, a much larger and more inclusive map that, though drawing much of its basic cartography from De L’Isle’s definitive map, advocates for the British colonies particularly in Carolina.

This map gets is common name, the “Codfish Map”, from the illustration, at left center, of the Newfoundland cod fishery. Dried cod was possibly the most important North American export of the 18th century, and was a mainstay of the British Royal Navy. The British also operated the largest cod fishing fleet in the Grand Banks. Moll illustrates all stages of the fishery, from the catching, to the drying, to the cleaning and packing, to the clothing of a typical fisherman.

This is also one of the last maps to represent California as an Island. Moll’s confidence in the insular California theory, despite prevailing wisdom of the time, came from his claim that he “had in [his] office mariners who have sailed round it.” The idea of an insular California first appeared as a work of fiction in Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo’s c. 1510 romance Las Sergas de Esplandian, where he writes

Know, that on the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons.

Baja California was subsequently discovered in 1533 by Fortun Ximenez, who had been sent to the area by Hernan Cortez. When Cortez himself traveled to Baja, he must have had Montalvo’s novel in mind, for he immediately claimed the “Island of California” for the Spanish King. By the late 16th and early 17th century ample evidence had been amassed, through explorations of the region by Francisco de Ulloa, Hernando de Alarcon and others, that California was in fact a peninsula. However, by this time other factors were in play. Francis Drake had sailed north and claimed “New Albion” (identified here on the northwest coast of California Island) near modern day Washington or Vancouver for England. The Spanish thus needed to promote Cortez’s claim on the “Island of California” to preempt English claims on the western coast of North America. The significant influence of the Spanish crown on European cartographers caused a major resurgence of the Insular California theory. Just before this map was made Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary, traveled overland from Mexico to California, proving conclusively the peninsularity of California.

The intriguing and speculative explorations of the Baron Louis Armand de Lahonton appear in the northwestern quadrant of North America. Lahonton (1666-1715) was a French military officer commanding the fort of St. Joseph, near modern day Port Huron, Michigan. Abandoning his post to live and travel with local Chippewa tribes, Lahonton claims to have explored much of the Upper Mississippi Valley and even discovered a heretofore unknown river, which he dubbed the Longue River. This river he claims to have followed a good distance from its convergence with the Mississippi. Beyond the point where he himself traveled, Lahonton wrote of further lands along the river described by his guides. These include a great saline lake or sea at the base of a mountain ranger. This range, he reported, could be easily crossed, from which further rivers would lead to the mysterious lands of the Mozeemleck, and presumably the Pacific. Lahonton’s work has been both dismissed as fancy and defended speculation by various scholars. Could Lahonton have been describing indigenous reports of the Great Salt Lake? What river was he on? Perhaps we will never know. What we do know is that on his return to Europe, Lahonton published his travels in an enormously popular book. Lahonton’s book inspired many important cartographers of his day, Moll, De L’Isle, Popple, Sanson, and Chatelain to name just a few, to include on their maps both the Longue River and the saline sea beyond. The concept of an inland river passage to the Pacific fired the imagination of the French and English, who were aggressively searching for just such a route. Unlike the Spanish, with easy access to the Pacific through the narrow isthmus of Mexico and the Port of Acapulco, the French and English had no easy route by which to offer their furs and other commodities to the affluent markets of Asia. A passage such as Lahonton suggested was just what was needed and wishful thinking more than any factual exploration fuelled the inclusion of Lahonton’s speculations on so many maps.

Just to the south of Lahonton’s Longue River, past “Parts Unknown”, the kingdom of Great Teguayo (Great Teguaio) is noted. Teguayo was believed to be one of the seven Kingdoms of Gold presumably to be discovered in the unexplored American west. The name Teguayo first appears in the Benevides Memorial, where it is described as a kingdom of great wealth to rival Quivara, another mythical kingdom which curiously does not appear on this map. The idea was later popularized in Europe by the nefarious Spaniard and deposed governor of New Mexico, the Count of Penalosa, who imagining himself a later day Pizzaro, promoted the Teguayo legend to the royalty of Europe. Originally Teguayo was said to lie west of the Mississippi and north of the Gulf of Mexico, but for some reason, Moll situates it far to the west.

Much like Moll’s map of the West Indies, this map can also be understood as a guide to English piracy and privateering in the Americas. Moll, most likely through his acquaintance with the pirates William Dampier and Woodes Rogers, offers a wealth of information on the traffic of silver bearing Spanish treasure fleets en route from the Mexican port of Veracruz, through the islands, to Spanish ports in Europe. Following the dotted line, Moll identifies the Spanish treasure fleet’s entrada into the Caribbean via the passage between Granada and Trinidad. The fleet then sailed westwards, skirting the Spanish Main until they reached Cartagena, where they rested and provisioned before heading northwards, rounding western Cuba and stopping in Havana. Using the strong Gulf Stream current – shown here – ships would sail northwards from Havana while being steadily forced to the southeast thus alighting at the deep water port of Veracruz. On the return, laden with silver from the mines of San Luis Potosi, the Spanish fleet took advantage of eastward blowing trade winds, which helped to overcome the strong current on the sail to Havana. From Havana they would travel northwards via the narrow passage between Florida and the Bahamas before cutting eastward and out to sea at St. Augustine. It was here, in this crucial passage between the English dominated Bahamas and Spanish Florida, where the most nefarious pirates lay in wait for their prey. In addition to descriptions of the sailing routes and currents, Moll provides insets of six important treasure ports, including Port Royal, Veracruz, Havana, Porto Bella, and Cartagena. As privateer fleets grew in strength and number in the early 18th century full scale assaults on major ports became increasingly common. Moll’s choice of these key treasure ports leaves little doubt regarding his intentions and sources.

As a whole this is a truly remarkable map, rich with captivating elements, beautifully rendered, unique in its piratical executions, and extraordinary rare. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for the right collector.