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John Smith's Landmark Map of Virginia --the first printed map of any English Colony in America.

This famous map of Virginia is the earliest printed map of the first English colony in America. It is "one of the most important printed maps of America ever produced and certainly one of the greatest influence. It became the prototype for the area for half a century."

As noted by Burden, Smith's map is "one of the most important printed maps of America ever published and certainly one of the greatest influence. It became the prototype for the area for half a century." .Burden goes so far as to say that the map's publication considerably influenced the success of the Virginia Colony itself.

In 1606, the London Company sent its first ship to Virginia and established the Jamestown settlement. Captain John Smith accompanied the English settlers at Jamestown. Between 1607 and 1609, he explored the major rivers which flowed west into the Chesapeake Bay, recording the names of the Native Amercian villages and tribes he encountered. The limits of Smith's explorations are marked with a Maltese cross. Beyond the crosses, Smith relied on Native American accounts to delineate territories further upriver. Smith notes on the map "To the crosses hath bin discouerd what beyond is by relation."

Smith's depiction of the Native America Villages and accounts of the region is one of the primary sources for information on the region in the early 17h Century. Burden notes that "to this day the map is still used by archaeologists to locate native Indian villages. It records 166 of them, and is remarkably detailed." The illustrations of Powhatan's Council and a Sasquesahanough Indian are derived from the original drawings of John White.

Upon Smith's return to England in 1609, Smith employed William Hole to engrave a map, which was first included in a small pamphlet by Joseph Barnes of Oxford in 1612. The map would not appear again for 12 years, when it was included, along with Smith's map of New England, in his landmark work, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles, in 1624. The following year it was included in Purchas His Pilgrimes.

Smith's map was by far the most important map of Virginia published in the first part of the 17th Century. First issued in 1612, it became the prototype map of the region until Augustine Hermann's map of 1673. The map depicts a number of explorations and observations of Smith and the Jamestown settlers. There is some question as to whether the map is the work of Smith, who led most of the explorations, or the surveyor accompanying him, Nathaniel Powell. However, convention attributes the map to John Smith as his name appears on it in two publications by him and in a third by Samuel Purchas who credits Smith with the production of the map.

The present example of the map is state 10, with the revised numbers in the upper corners. The various states of the Smith map of Virginia can be identified as follows, accordiing to Burden:

  • State 1: No date, No coat of arms at bottom right.
  • State 2: 1606 date added in the scale of miles and 1607 below Powhatan illustration.
  • State 3: Smith's coat of arms added at bottom right, but without motto below coat of arms.
  • State 4: Smith motto added, along with longitude and latitude markings.
  • State 5: Gunter's Harbour added along with other place names at the head of the Chesapeake.
  • State 6: Democrites Tree added lower left of the Royal Coat of arms, two other new place names.
  • State 7: Page numbers 1692 and1693 added at top corners (first appearance in Purchas)
  • State 8: Page 41 Smith added at lower right corner, with new place names added
  • State 9: Washborne C. appears just above the ship, with other chantges
  • State 10: Page numbers changed to 1690 and 1691
  • State 11: Hair on the top of the Indian's head is cross-hatched
  • State 12: Large plate crack running through the ship and extending more than 1/2 way across the plate.
Condition Description
Full wide margins. Minor printer's create at the top margin, to the right of the Coat of Arms, just to the left of the number 40. The image shows evidence of the old folds, which have not been flattened and are still somewhat noticeable, but the map is probably the nicest example we have ever handled.
Burden #164 (State 8); Schwartz & Ehrenberg p.89-93; Fite & Freeman #32; Tooley, R.V. (Amer) p.135-60; Papenfuse & Coale p.1-2; Stephenson & McKee (VA) 1-4.