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Description

One of Two Known Examples. Shows the Lost First Captain John Smith Mapping of Virginia.

Exceptionally rare engraved globe gores prepared by Jodocus Hondius II, sometime shortly after the discovery of the Le Maire Strait in 1618. These gores correspond to an approximately 15-centimeter terrestrial globe, no completed examples of which are known to exist. Furthermore, there is only one other known example of the gores, located in a Parisian institution.

These gores are noteworthy because of their important place in early-16th-century Dutch globemaking, and furthermore as one of the few contemporary pieces to relate Captain John Smith's first mapping of Virginia, with its characteristic giant inland "salt lake".

On the East Coast of the present-day United States, the map records a large inland body of water labelled "Lacus Sal/sus", or Salt Lake. The lake is joined to the Atlantic by two rivers "R. Grande" at roughly 40°N and an unnamed river at roughly 37°N. In Virginia, the name Rassawick is indicated just north of the southern river. Furthermore, Croaton is shown just offshore.

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 mapmakers by the late 16th century, and here the region includes Native American toponyms that reflect actual observations of the region in question, not just century-old conjecture. From where then does it derive?

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 mapping we see on this globe.  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 information about Virginia that Jodocus Hondius had received from Smith through Hudson was recorded on perhaps only three objects issued by the Hondius firm:

  • Jodocus Hondius. Novissima ac Exactissima Totius Orbis Terrarum Descriptio... (circa 1611)
  • Jodocus Hondius II. [15-centimeter terrestrial globe] (1620)
  • Jodocus Hondius II. [44-centimeter terrestrial globe] (1624-48)

Rarity and Provenance

Only one other example is known, at the Museum of Defence in Paris.

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.

Condition Description
Brown ink stamp "Depot Des Cart. Pl. Et Journ. De La Marine". Inscribed in pencil in the lower corner by the map's former owner, Bob Gordon: "Purchased 6/12/02 Shirley 306-308"
Reference
Shirley 306.