Rare and extremely important map of the Northeastern parts of North America, which first appeared in William Alexander's An Encouragement to Colonies, in 1624, to promote settlement in this newly colonized region of America.
Alexander's map was prepared to promote his recently acquired colonial grant from King James I. In 1620, James I created the Council for New England, and granted it the territory between 40 and 48 degrees north latitude. In 1621, James granted his fellow Scot and court favorite, William Alexander, title to Nova Scotia and part of the Gaspe Peninsula, a grant which conflicted with the Council of New England's holdings. As a result, James simply rescinded part of the Council's grant. Around the same time, Alexander also obtained title to much of southwest Newfoundland from the original patentees. After some false starts, Alexander sought to stimulate migration to his vast domains by publishing An Encouragement to Colonies (1624, 2nd edition 1625).
Alexander's map shows northeast North America from the Elizabeth Islands to Labrador and as far inland as the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers. The map is the best depiction of the coast to date, as one can clearly make out "Cape Cod" (the first appearance of this name on a map), Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket; Boston Harbor, the Charles River and Cape Anne; Casco Bay, the Kennebec and the Penobscot; and a well-defined Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, with the Grand Bank clearly delineated. Alexander's sources are unclear, as his map differs substantially from other printed maps of the period. This is most noticeable in his presentation of the banks and shoals in the Atlantic, which far exceeds in detail other maps of the time.
The map includes a number of placenames, including a number of firsts. To the North lies " New France," including the first appearance of "Kebec" on an English map. In a bit of wishful cartography, the French are shown confined to the north of the St. Lawrence.
To the Northeast are "New Found Lande" and "New Scot Lande," the latter encompassing present-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. On New Found Lande one finds a notional settlement at " Alexandria" as well as the holdings of Sir George Calvert. Calvert invested a fortune in his colony of Avalon (which apparently boasted paved streets!), but after wintering there he abandoned the effort, obtained a new grant further south, and founded the province of Maryland. As for New Scot Lande, Alexander divided it into the provinces of "Alexandria" and "Caledonia" (shown on the map), which in turn were subdivided into dozens of baronies to be offered for sale. To further entice his fellow countrymen to this most unfamiliar-and largely inhospitable-land, Alexander scattered the region with familiar names such as Caledonia, Forthe, Clyde, Twede and Sulway.
The third broad sphere of control is "New Englande," shown distributed among twenty lords and other worthies. These were members of the Council of New England, among whom in 1623, the region was divided. The intent was that they would establish feudal estates on their holdings, not dissimilar to what was later accomplished by the Dutch patroons along the Hudson River.
With the exception of Ferdinando Gorges, who established the first permanent settlements in Maine, all of the English colonial endeavors depicted on this map failed. After establishing a short-lived colony at Port Royal (now Annapolis Royal), in Nova Scotia, Alexander lost his title in 1632 when the region was returned to France as part of a peace settlement.
There are two states of the map, which can be distinguished as follows:
- 1624: No plate numbers in the upper corners
- 1625: 1872 and 1873 in the upper corners