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Robert Dudley:  Carta particolare della nuova Belgia e parte della nuova Anglia . . .

Maps of the Northeast (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey)

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Title: Carta particolare della nuova Belgia e parte della nuova Anglia . . .

Map Maker: Robert Dudley

Place / Date: Florence / 1646 (1661)

Coloring: Uncolored

Size: 18.5 x 15 inches

Condition: VG+

Price: $49,500.00

Inventory ID: 49616


A Landmark in Sea Charting: The First Sea Chart of New England and New Netherlands

Fine example of the second state of Robert Dudley's chart of what is now the northeastern United States, from Dudley’s famous Arcano del Mare. The charts extends from Cape Hinelopen and Cape May (Mai) at the mouth of Delaware Bay to what is now the southern coastline of Maine.

The chart showcases Dudley’s characteristic lettering, which loops and curves artistically. Other decorative components include a cartouche around the title that has a mustachioed man peeking out and a ship sailing serenely south of Long Island (Matouwacs). There is a large compass rose in the upper right corner and sounding depths near Cape Cod, both useful for navigation. Readers will recognize many place names, including New Amserdamo (New Amsterdam, or New York), Brok Land (Brooklyn), Milford, Cape Cod, and Boston.

Dudley’s chart is an achievement in hydrography. According to Burden, it is the first printed sea chart of New England and New Netherlands and is also the earliest obtainable sea chart to show the prevailing winds, ocean currents and magnetic variations of the compass. The sea atlas it appeared in was the first ever prepared by an Englishman, was the first to use the Mercator projection, and the first to encompass the entire known world (Blake).

Sources for the chart are numerous, but they include Willem Blaeu’s Nova Belgica (ca. 1635), which served as the source for the coast between Boston Harbor and Delaware Bay. Dudley also used later states of John Smith’s famous map of New England, as seen in the place names in the Boston area. According to Burden, Dudley also used manuscript charts, for example a 1646 chart by Nicolas Comberford and John Daniell's of 1639.  

Dudley and the Arcano del Mare

Robert Dudley (1574-1649) is one of the most intriguing historical figures of the late Elizabethan period. His father, also named Robert and the first Earl of Leicester, was a favorite of Elizabeth I’s. The Earl was a supporter of exploratory expeditions and backed Francis Drake on his circumnavigation (1577-1580) and Martin Frobisher on his 1576 voyage to find the Northwest Passage. Robert the Younger was the illegitimate son of the Earl and Lady Douglas Sheffield, born in 1574.

Dudley attended Christ Church, Oxford, starting in 1587. A year later, at only 14, Dudley stood by his father at Tilbury, witnessing Queen Elizabeth’s famous speech in preparation for resisting the Spanish Armada. His father died in September that year, giving Robert a sizeable inheritance. In 1594, Dudley led an expedition to Guiana, where some of his men explored up the Orinoco River in search of gold.  In 1596, Dudley joined an expedition against Cadiz.

All these experiences left Dudley in favor, and he thought the time was right to establish his legitimacy. In court proceedings from 1603 to 1605, Dudley fought for his right to his father’s titles, but the Star Chamber ruled against him and he had to left England for self-exile in Italy. He settled in Florence, where he designed and built ships and advised Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

While in Florence, Dudley also compiled all his sailing notes and thoughts on navigation (and those of others including, purportedly, Francis Drake, with whom he sailed in 1596, and Thomas Cavendish, to whom he was related by marriage) into a work called Arcano del Mare, or The Secret of the Sea. He finished the manuscript of the work in 1636 and published the work himself, at age 73, a decade later in 1646-7. It is there that this chart first appeared; it was reissued in 1661 in this second state.

The chart was compiled and drawn by Dudley, but it was engraved by Anton Francesco Lucini (1610-ca.1661). Lucini, a Florentine, did the engravings for Dudley’s entire Arcano del Mare, which remain his most famous works. The fine scrollwork and distinctive style of Dudley’s charts are due to Lucini, who spent 12 years and 5,000 pounds of copper in making the 200 plates and 146 charts.

It should be reiterated how important Arcano del Mare is to the history of cartography. It is the first sea atlas published by an Englishman. It is the first sea atlas to cover the entire world, not just the shores of Europe. It is the first to utilize the Mercator projection. This chart was the first to cover New Netherlands and New England in such detail. In short, this chart, and the atlas it originally accompanied, are monuments within the history of hydrography and cartography.

References: Burden, 278. The Voyage of Sir Robert Dudley, afterwards styled Earl of Warwick and Leicester and Duke of Northumberland, to the West Indies, 1594-1595, narrated by Capt. Wyatt, by himself, and by Abram Kendall, Master, edited by George F. Warner (Hakluyt Society, 1899). O.A.W. Dilke and Margaret S. Dilke, “Sir Robert Dudley’s Contribution to Cartography,” The Map Collector 19 (1982): 10-14. John Blake, The Sea Chart 2nd edition (Bloomsbury Press, 2016), 39, 46.

Related Categories:
Maps of the Mid Atlantic (Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington D.C., West Virginia)
Maps of New England (Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire)
Maps of the Northeast (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey)