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Description

John Smith's Lost First Map of Virginia.

An exceptional set of four globe gores depicting North America, prepared by Jodocus Hondius II and Johannes Janssonius, and engraved by Abraham Goos, for their 17.5-inch (44-cm.) terrestrial globe published in Amsterdam in 1623.

This set of gores is remarkable for its inclusion of John Smith's earliest mapping of Virginia. Its cartography predates his more detailed and famous survey of 1608-09 (first published in 1612), and was not, until now, known to have made it into print.

This quartet of gores is the only known unmounted example of its kind, and thus this represents a collector's only reasonable opportunity to buy an example of Smith's earliest mapping of Virginia.

The globe from which these gores derive was dedicated to the Dutch West India Company ("GWC") and published in the first year of their funding. As such, it provides an important perspective on Dutch colonial aspirations during the early stage of the settling of North America when they were competing for control over lucrative territories with the English and the French.

Lacus Salsus Apalatcius and the Lost Maps of John Smith

The most intriguing piece of cartography on these gores is undoubtedly the large inland lake west of Virginia, which is labeled "Lacus Salsus Apalatcius" (Appalachian Salt Lake). The lake is joined to the Atlantic by two rivers "R. Grande" at roughly 40°N and "Pamunca fluv." at roughly 37°N. In Virginia, the following toponyms are shown: Pawtuxsin, Nacontangh, Warawacomoco, Iacobipolis (Jamestown), Rassawick, and Chesepuoc Sinus.

The source of this cartography has eluded map scholars for some time; those that commented on the mapping (and there have not been many) tended to tie it to previous renderings of the Sea of Verrazanno, the great inland sea that was popular on maps of the mid-16th century. However, the Sea of Verrazanno had largely been dismissed by serious mapmaker by the late 16th century, and here the gores include Native American toponyms that reflect actual observations of the region in question, not just century-old conjecture. From where then does it derive? The most important clue to the source of the information lies in the aforementioned toponyms. They are unique to Captain John Smith's early reports about Virginia. Namely his 1608 A True Relation, the first printed work covering his efforts to establish the colony.

Interestingly, this mapping does not derive exclusively (or perhaps at all) from the printed accounts in Smith's A True Relation. In that book, Smith described how he hoped to launch an expedition up the "Pamunca" River in search of the South Sea, but that those plans were delayed by other events. There is nowhere near the level of detail necessary to construct a map of this depth from the text alone. Interestingly, the "Pamunca fluv." on this map is probably not the Pamunkey River of modern Virginia. On the gores, Jamestown is shown north of the river, thus the gore's "Pamunca fluv." is probably actually the present-day James River. This is further corroborated by the fact that it is shown as the farthest-south large river in Virginia.

In fact, the key to the map comes from a fascinating meeting between Jodocus Hondius the Elder and Henry Hudson in The Hague in 1608.

Henry Hudson, Jodocus Hondius, and John Smith

In 1608, fresh from his expedition to the Arctic for the Muscovy Company, Hudson was called to the Netherlands to discuss with Petrus Plancius and Jodocus Hondius the possibility of discovering a Northeast or Northwest Passage to the East Indies. Furthermore, he was to discuss with the VOC a contract for an expedition to search for such a passage. Both Plancius and Hondius urged Hudson to focus his efforts on the Northeast Passage, which they felt had a much higher likelihood of success. However, while staying with Hondius in The Hague, Hudson received a letter and package of maps from none other than John Smith who was at the time exploring Virginia. This package would throw the assertions of Plancius and Hondius into question.

In mid-1608, Smith was just about to undertake his comprehensive survey of Virginia and was hot on the trail of rumors of a great lake, which local Indians told him lay not far inland. Smith had not seen it himself but felt confident enough in his triangulation of the Indian reports that he could relay his findings to others in Europe. The fact that there was a large inland lake somewhere in North America was tantalizing because, according to the theories of the day, such a large body of water would probably have offshoot rivers that exited to the Pacific Ocean in the west.  Smith knew of Hudson's desire to find an alternate passage to the East Indies and hoped by sending him this information he would entice him to search for it in North America, in or near the Virginia colony.

Smith's letter and maps suggested that the entrance to the great inland lake could be found through a river or rivers lying somewhere between 37° and 40° North latitude. Crucially for our story, Hudson showed this material to Hondius and allowed him to make copies of Smith's manuscript maps for his own archive. This exchange between John Smith, Henry Hudson, and Jodocus Hondius the Elder, is what gave rise to the map we see on these gores.  This episode is summarized in Edward Butts's 2009 biography of Hudson, Henry Hudson: New World Voyager.

This information from Smith played a pivotal role in Hudson's life. In 1609, having taken the contract from the VOC, Hudson sailed to the Arctic in search of the Northeast Passage. Reaching Nova Zemblaya and facing increasingly difficult conditions, Hudson suffered a near-mutiny. To mollify his crew, Hudson presented them with two options: explore the coast of present-day Maine following Weymouth's route, or explore Smith's reports in the vicinity of the latitudes he had suggested. It was decided that they would pursue Smith's reports, and so Hudson sailed to the Mid-Atlantic Coast of North America. Hudson first sailed towards the Chesapeake and Smith, but for some reason, he turned north before reaching the colony. He then explored the Delaware Bay (then poorly known to Europeans), and finally arrived at the mouth of what is now the Hudson River.  The entrance to that river coincided closely with Smith's reports, and so Hudson sailed up it. However, upon reaching the area that is now Albany, New York, and finding that the river stretched due-north rather than due-west as promised, Hudson became discouraged and returned to Europe. Despite his lack of success vis-a-vis his own expectations, this was a major discovery - one which was made possible by Smith's map.

The 1611 (1618) Hondius World Map

Smith's early-1608 mapping can be further explored in another great map by the Hondius firm. The extremely impressive 20-sheet wall map titled Novissima ac Exactissima Totius Orbis Terrarum Descriptio Magna cura & industrial ex optimist quibusq[uae] tabulis Geographicis et Hydrographicis nuperrimisq[uae] doctorum virorum observationib. duobus planisphaerijs delineata Auct. J. Hondio. also includes a version of the Smith inland sea (illustrated as the second image above).

This map, known in only two examples of supposed later states (with a third having been destroyed in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906), is one of the great triumphs of the Hondius firm, with Shirley (273) calling it "an outstanding masterpiece of cartographical engraving which may be considered to surpass even those wall maps of Blaeu (1605), Plancius (1607), and Hondius' own predecessor map of 1608 on Mercator's projection." Shirley outlines the ambiguity surrounding the authorship of the map, saying "Jodocus Hondius senior died in 1612 and it cannot be positively established whether the original map was by him or by his elder son of the same name." Shirley says of the North American cartography: "In North America, Hondius has used the occasion to expound current theories postulating a vast inland sea west of present-day Virginia."

That map shows the inland sea (here so-labeled "Mare Septentionale Americae") joined to the Atlantic by two unnamed rivers. Virginia includes the following toponyms: Pamunka, "The Fort" (Jamestown), Powhaton, Rassawick, Maskunt, Monahassanus, Rupes, Oquetan, Mashawater, Acquohonak.

Hondius's world map also includes a note confirming that the information about Virginia comes from English observations in 1608:

Pawhaton Rex praecipuus totius Virginiae, Rex item Pamunka aliq[uae] multi, testantur hoc loco magnum esse mare, in coq[uae] naves Anglicis navibus persimiles esse detectas Video Anlorū observations anni 1608. Floridani idem affirmāt.

A further note connects the English observations of 1608 with those of Jose de Acosta and suggests access to China:  "...Testatur idem Chinesium naves fracas, esse visas in Mari Septentrionali Americano."

Interestingly, the cartography appearing on the 1623 globe is more restrained, not showing the sea stretching deep into North America but rather penned in by the St. Lawrence River and the Appalachian Mountains. This might reflect a theory that, by 1623, had gained important proponents. That theory held that there was a large mountain range on the interior of the continent, and only once that was crossed could one access the rivers leading to the Pacific. It is summarized by Henry Briggs, writing in his A Treatise of the Northwest Passage to the South Sea, through the Continent of Virginia and by Fretum Hudson, in Waterhouse's A declaration of the state of the colony and affaires in Virginia... (1622):

Neither is the commodiousnesse of VIRGINIAS situation onely in respect of this west Atlanticke Ocean, but also in respect of the Indian Ocean, which wee commonly call the South Sea, which lyeth on the West and North west side of VIRGINIA, on the other side of the Mountains beyond our Fals, and openeth a free and faire passage, not onely to China, Iapan, and the Moluccaes; but also to New Spaine, Peru, Chila, and those rich Countries of Terra Australis, not as yet fully discouered. For the Sea wherein Master Hudson did winter, which was first discouered by him, and is therefore now called Fretum Hudson, doth stretch so farre towards the west, that it lieth as farre westward as the Cape of Florida: So that from the Fals aboue Henrico City, if we shape our iourney towards the Northwest following the Riuers towards the head, we shall vndoubtedly come to the Mountaines, which as they send diuers great Riuers Southward into our Bay of Chesepiock, so likewise doe they send others from their further side Northwestward into that Bay where Hudson did winter.

Writing in his Generall Historie (1624), Smith himself had revised his earlier optimistic report to reflect his new belief in the existence of a large inland body of water on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains:

Beyond the mountains from whence is the head of the River Patawomeke, the Savages report, inhabit their most mortal enemies, the Massawomecks, upon a great salt water, which by all likelihood is either some part of Canada, some great lake, or some inlet of some sea that falleth into the South Sea. These Massawomekes are a great nation and very populous... from the French [they] have their hatchets and Commodities by trade.

This theory is also illustrated on Smith's 1612 map of Virginia, which was published again in earnest starting in 1624.

Interestingly, this neo-Sea of Verrazzano appears one other time in the decade following the publication of the globes; in Pieter Verbiest's 1630 Ampla Et Accuratissima Universi Orbis Terrarum Tabula Geographica Aucta Et Emendata Auct: I. Verbiest (Shirley 338), the inland salt lake of Hondius has been expanded into a prodigious channel going straight through to the Pacific.

Conclusion

The Hondius-Jansson globe gores are illustrative of a fascinating time when the first broad hints of the interior geography of North America were filtering back to European explorers. The maps of Le Moyne, Lescarbot, Smith, and Champlain all hinted at the existence of the Great Lakes but had yet to place them definitely. In 1612 alone, three maps were issued that included a Great Lake in the interior, though all differed in exactly what form this body of water would take: Champlain's Carte Geographique de la Nouvelle Franse...; Smith's Virginia. Discovered and Discribed by Captain John Smith...; and Lescarbot's Figure et description de la terre reconue et habitee par less Francois en la Floride... It was not until the later works of Champlain and other French explorers that the true outline became known to European cartographers. In the interim, speculative and hopeful maps such as the Hondius globe appeared. It should be no surprise that these maps are contemporary with Henry Briggs's The North part of America, which introduced the myth of California as an Island to the wide public in 1625.

Questions about the globes remain: Jodocus Hondius II was the publisher, in 1618, of the first (and one of the best) derivative maps from Smith's 1612 Virginia. Given that he was in possession of such a good map of Virginia, why, in 1623, did he revert to the family's archives for this cartography? Is it possible that, as with the 20-sheet world map, this globe was a project of Jodocus Hondius the Elder and was already underway in 1612 when the latter died? Furthermore, what became of Hondius's copies of the Smith maps, and might they still survive in a Dutch archive?

This is an important discovery in the study of both Captain John Smith and the early cartography of Virginia and it is deserving of further research.

Rarity and Provenance

These gores were previously in the collection of Bob Gordon, New York City-based collector of globes, celestial and terrestrial atlases, maps of the early exploration of America, and planetaria.

In his extensive census of Dutch globes, Peter van der Krogt located 7 extant examples of the mounted terrestrial globe. To this, we can add a pair which we own.

We have been able to trace any other examples of the unmounted gores.

Condition Description
Two sheets of 17th century laid paper, unjoined. A few minor mended edge tears.
Jan Jansson Biography

Jan Janssonius (also known as Johann or Jan Jansson or Janszoon) (1588-1664) was a renowned geographer and publisher of the seventeenth century, when the Dutch dominated map publishing in Europe. Born in Arnhem, Jan was first exposed to the trade via his father, who was also a bookseller and publisher. In 1612, Jan married the daughter of Jodocus Hondius, who was also a prominent mapmaker and seller. Jonssonius’ first maps date from 1616.

In the 1630s, Janssonius worked with his brother-in-law, Henricus Hondius. Their most successful venture was to reissue the Mercator-Hondius atlas. Jodocus Hondius had acquired the plates to the Mercator atlas, first published in 1595, and added 36 additional maps. After Hondius died in 1612, Henricus took over publication; Janssonius joined the venture in 1633. Eventually, the atlas was renamed the Atlas Novus and then the Atlas Major, by which time it had expanded to eleven volumes. Janssonius is also well known for his volume of English county maps, published in 1646.

Janssonius died in Amsterdam in 1664. His son-in-law, Johannes van Waesbergen, took over his business. Eventually, many of Janssonius’ plates were sold to Gerard Valck and Pieter Schenk, who added their names and continued to reissue the maps.