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1625 Alexander Map of New England and Nova Scotia (first map to name Cape Cod)

[Untitiled] New Englande, New Scotlande and New Foundlande.

1625 Alexander Map of New England and Nova Scotia (first map to name Cape Cod)


The first map to name Cape Cod and illustrate Prince Edward Island.



[Untitiled] New Englande, New Scotlande and New Foundlande.
  1625 (undated)    11 x 14 in (27.94 x 35.56 cm)     1 : 15000000


An exceptional map of significant yet often underappreciated importance, this is Sir William Alexander's 1624 / 1625 map of New England, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. The map is notable for a number of first's including the first appearance of the term 'Cape Cod' on a map, the earliest mapping of Prince Edward Island, the first mapping of the French settlement of Kebec on an English map, and the first use of the term 'New Scotland' or 'Nova Scotia' on a map. The map covers from Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard north to Labrador, and from Narragansett Bay to the Grand Banks. Cartographically it is derived from the work of Samuel de Champlain (fl. 1612 - 1613), Johannes De Laet (1581 – 1649), and the previously unpublished cartography of John Mason (c. 1600–1672).

William Alexander ordered this map issued to accompany his Encouragement to Colonies a pamphlet intended to promote settlement of his charter in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The English adventurer Sir Samuel Argall (c. 1572 - 1626) destroyed the French settlement in the Bay of Fundy in 1613, in the process stymieing French expansion Nova Scotia as well as inspiring British interest in the region. In November of 1620, King James I chartered the Council of New England, granting the company's 40 or so officers the lands identified on this map, between 40º and 48º north latitude. William Alexander, a court favorite, received a subsequently charter in 1621 covering the lands east of the Saint Croix River and parts of the Acadian Peninsula. Since these lands conflicted with properties already granted to the Council, the Council was reorganized in 1623 with just 20 grants. In the meantime Alexander, imagining himself to be building a New World Empire, acquired additional patents of land from the original grantees in in Newfoundland.

William began to aggressively peruse the colonization and development of his new lands, initially by publishing the tract, Encouragement to Colonies, which accompanied this map, and later through the development of an actual Scottish colony at Port Royal under his son, also William Alexander. Despite the pamphlet's impressive illustration of the rich fishing grounds off the grand banks, the colony never attracted considerable numbers and after reports from his son of the harsh winters, the effort was abandoned. Nonetheless, Alexander's financial investment to this cause was enormous and cost him much of his fortune. Ultimately, the English returned the lands to France under the 1632 articles of the Treaty of St. Germain. Moreover, competition from the Massachusetts Bay Company and support for the Puritan cause defeated the Alexander's vision.

Despite the failure of Alexander's colony, the map he published remained significant for many reasons. It is cartographically far more advanced than on previous maps of the region. It is the first map to name the 20 grantees of the Council of New England – arrayed in a cookie-cutter like fashion along the coast. Apparently when these grants were being issued the lords cut up a Smith map into little sections and pulled their grants from a hat! The intent was to establish feudal estates on their holdings, akin to what was later achieved by the Dutch on the Hudson River. The only colonies from this effort to survived were Ferdinando Gorges' settlements in Maine.

Further more it is the first nap to name Cape Cod, as well as introduce new, English toponymy for the region, including Nova Scotia (New Scotland), the provinces of Caledonia and Alexandria, and the renaming of the Clyde, Twede, and Sulway Rivers. This is also the first map to illustrate Prince Edward Island. Note that the French settlements of Kebec and Tadousac are confined to the territory north of the Saint Lawrence River.

This map exists in two cartographically identical states. The first state is distinguishable from the second only by the page numbers, 1872 and 1873, appear in the upper right and left corners of the map. It was issued twice in 1625, first in An Encouragement to Colonies and again in Samuel Purchas' Pilgrimes. All in all, this is an iconic map of New England and essential for any serious early New England or Canada collection.


Alexander, William, An Encouragement to Colonies…, (London) 1625. Also in Purchas, Samuel, the Elder, Hakluytus posthumus, or, Purchas his Pilgrimes, (London), 1625.    


Very good. Wide margins. Original pressmark visible. Blank on verso.


Burden, P., The Mapping of America: A List of Printed Maps, 1151-1670, #208.
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