A veteran of the English colonial efforts in Ireland and the Caribbean,John Smith was among the first settlers at Jamestown in May 1607. In June 1607 Smith set out with Captain Christopher Newport and Robert Tindall to explore the James River as far as the fall line at present-day Richmond. A year later Smith and fourteen men explored the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac, Patuxent, Susquehanna, and Rappahannock Rivers. Small Maltese crosses on the map denote the limit of Smith’s own explorations. Beyond these marks Smith relied on geographic information supplied by the Native Virginians he encountered during the course of his journey. His detailed notes on the contours of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers resulted in a map that would serve as the mother map for the region for more than half a century.
This map is visually dominated by two vignettes. One is labeled “Powhatan Held this state & fashion when Capt Smith was delivered to him prisoner 1607.” The other vignette is labeled “The Sasquesahanougs… a Gyant like people & thus atyred.” This figure is similar to the figure of “A weroan or great Lorde of Virginia” in Theodore DeBry’s engravings in Thomas Harriot’s “A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia.” However, Margaret Pritchard and Henry Talliaferro have noted subtle differences between the DeBry and Smith images. The dress of this figure closely follows Smith’s description of the Susquehanna he met during his explorations.
STATES: Coolie Verner’s “Smith’s Virginia and Its Derivatives” (Map Collectors Series, Vol. 5, No. 45. London: The Map Collector’s Circle, 1968) remains the definitive cartobibliography for the many states of this map. Though Smith’s map was widely copied, there are only twelve states of the “original” Smith map first published in Oxford in 1612. This copy is the 10th state.
RELATED OBJECTS: The Thomas A. Gray Rare Book and Manuscript Collection contains a copy of this map still bound into the 1632 edition of John Smith’s “The Generall Historie of Virginia” (TAG 258 / MESDA Acc. 5851.1). The MESDA Collection also contains a copy of this map published in Amsterdam in 1633 (MESDA Acc. 4373)
REFERENCES: Pritchard and Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude, 5
Burden, Mapping of North America, 164
This particular copy is the example published in “Degrees of Latitude.”