A very fine example of Guillaume Blaeu's 1635 map of the Virginia colony and the Chesapeake Bay. Oriented to the west, this map covers from Cape Henry to the Susquehanna River and inland as far as the Appellation Mountains. The Chesapeake Bay is shown in full as are many of its river estuaries, though topographically this map places a number of mountain ranges where there are in fact none. Cartographically this map is based upon John Smith's landmark map of the Virginia colony issued in 1612. Smith's fine survey work, as well as reports from indigenous American Indian tribes, and fanciful wishful thinking, combine to make this one of the most interesting maps of America to emerge in the 17th century. Philip D. Burden, the author of The Mapping of America, considers this map, Nova Virginiae Tabula, to be 'one of the most important maps of America ever produced and certainly one of the greatest influence.'
To fully understand this map one must first realize that most Europeans believed the Pacific, or at least some great bay that led to the Pacific, lay just a few days travel inland. In the minds of most Europeans of the period, the trade potential for the Virginia colony was entirely dependent upon it being a practical access point to the riches of Asia. Thus the significance of large and mysterious body of water appearing in the land of the Massawomecks, in the upper right quadrant, becomes apparent. Of course, much of this land was entirely unexplored by the European settlers in Jamestown, shown here on the Powhatan River (James River), who relied heavily upon American Indian reports for much of their cartographic knowledge of the Virginia hinterlands. The Massawomecks themselves were a rival of the Powhatan and made their home near the headwaters of the Potomac. These, like many other indigenous groups of the region made only a brief and frequently violent appearance during the 17th century before entirely disappearing, mostly from disease and war, in the early 18th century.
In the upper left quadrant there is an image of the American Indian chief of the Powhatan sitting enthroned before a great fire in his long house. One of the more popular legends regarding John Smith was his capture and trial before the chief of the Powahatan. Smith was convinced that his liberation had something to do with the youthful daughter of Chief Powahatan, Pocahontas, taking a liking to him. Although this grew into a fictitious legend of its own, the truth is more likely that Powhatan saw Smith and his Englishmen as potential allies against the rival American Indian groups, such as the Massawomecks, that were pressing hard against his borders.
There are a number of different editions of this map and its publication by various map houses in various states made it the first widely distributed map of the Virginia colony and of John Smith's important map. There was, however, a scandal relating to its publication. The map was originally drawn and engraved in 1618 by Jodocus Hondius based upon the first edition of John Smith's 1612 map. When Jodocus died in 1629, he and his brother, Henricus Hondius, while collaborating on the Hondius Atlas Major
, had established and maintained separate business for some 10 years. Jodocus' death enabled the competing cartographer, Willem Blaeu to acquire a large number of Jodocus' map plates, which he promptly published in 1630 as the Atlantis Appendix
. Henricus, in the meantime, had been counting on Jodocus' new plates to enhance his own, by then outdated, Hondius Atlas Major
. A surviving contract dated March 2, 1630 reveals that Henricus Hondius and his partner Joannes Janssonius hired engravers to produce a number of new map plates copying the work of Jodocus – now in the hands of the Blaeu firm. This map was among the most important of that group and accounts for variants of this map being issued by competing Blaeu and Hondius firms.
This particular edition features a Sasquesahanough Indian in the top right and the arms of James I of England and VI of Scotland appearing next to the cartouche with the explanation of the symbols. This map exists in two states:
State 1 - issued in 1618 with the Judoci Hondij imprint.
State 2 – issued in 1630 with the Guiljelmi Blaeuw imprint.
The present example corresponds to the seocn state. Desite only two state, this map was issued in multiple edition's of Blaeu's atlases from 1630 to 1663. The present offering was issued for the 1635 German edition of Blaeu's Novus Atlas
. An essential map for Virginia collectors.
The Amsterdam based Blaeu clan represents the single most important family in the history of cartography. The firm was founded in 1596 by Willem Janzoon Blaeu (1571-1638). It was in this initial period, from 1596 to 1672, under the leadership of the Willem Blaeu and with this assistance of his two talented sons Cornelius (1616-1648) and Johannis (1596-1673), that the firm was most active. Their greatest cartographic achievement was the publication of the magnificent multi-volume Atlas Major. To this day, the Atlas Major represents one of the finest moments in cartography. The vast scope, staggering attention to detail, historical importance, and unparalleled beauty of this great work redefined the field of cartography in ways that have endured well into to the modern era. The cartographic works of the Blaeu firm are the crowning glory of the Dutch Golden Age of Cartography. The firm shut down in 1672 when their offices were destroyed during the Great Amsterdam Fire. The fire also destroyed all of Blaeu's original printing plates and records, an incomparable loss to the history of cartography.
Very good. Minor wear along original centerfold with minor verso repair at extreme top and bottom edges. Original platemark visible. German text on verso.
Wooldridge, W. C., Mapping Virginia: From the Age of Exploration to the Civil War, #31. Burden, P., The Mapping of America: A List of Printed Maps, 1151-1670, 193.