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Landmark Map In the Search For El Dorado -- The Earliest Map To Report The Discoveries of Sir Walter Raleigh's Voyages to South America

The present map is the earliest obtainable map based upon the information drawn from information provided by English sources familiar with the manuscript maps and accounts brought back to America by Walter Raleigh, Lawrence Keymis and William Downe.   The map appeared in Theodore De Bry's work detailing the English Voyages in America led by Sir Francis Drake, Thomas Candish and Sir Walter Raleigh,  Americae pars VIII . . . Frankfurt am Main, 1599.

The map is based upon (and preceded by) a map engraved by Jodocus Hondius after his return to Amsterdam. The exact source of Hondius's information has always been somewhat of a mystery. Synthesized from the Raleigh-sponsored expeditions of 1594-1596, the answer to the question of how this seemingly secret information flowed from London to Amsterdam has never been fully explained.

As noted in greater detail below, we believe that the best evidence supports the transmission of certain "draughts" (maps) which were made by William Downe, the second in command on expedition of 1596, either directly or indirectly to Jodocus Hondius. As noted below, Downe was known to have created his own manuscript set of maps and descriptions of the voyage and was believed to have been selling these in late 1596, until the agents of Lord Cecil, at the behest of Thomas Hariot, had the materials seized from Downe.

This information is most strongly supported by the explanation in the title of the map itself, which notes

De Custen van dese caerte, sijn seer vlietich geteekent op haere hooghten ende waere streckingen, door een seker stierman die dit selve beseilt ende besocht heest, inde jaren voornomt. . .

The scholarly translations of this phrase have typically translated the words "een seker stierman" as meaning "a certain sailor." However, the more accurate translation of the phrase is "certain navigator (or first mate)." As such, the translation would be:

The coasts shown on this chart, are diligently drawn on the elevations/latitudes and the correct lengths, by a certain navigator (or first mate) who personally sailed and visited this area in the years previously named.

As noted below, the circumstantial evidence strongly points to William Downe, who served as second in command on the final voyage in search of El Dorado.

Cartographic Content of the Hondius/De Bry Map

Sir Walter Raleigh made several trips to Guiana. In 1595, he was joined by Lawrence Kemys (or Keymis). Upon reaching Guiana, Kemys led a force inland along the banks of the Essequibo River, reaching what he wrongly believed to be Lake Parime. Raleigh returned to England in the fall of 1595.

The next year, 1596, Raleigh being unable to go himself, sent Kemys in command of the Darling to continue the exploration of the Guiana coast and the Essequibo River. Raleigh ordered Kemys to survey the coast from the Amazon to the Orinoco in search of alternative routes to Manoa.

During his exploration of the coast between the Amazon and the Orinoco, Kemys visited 52 rivers and claimed discovery of 40 of them. In addition, he mapped the location of Amerindian tribes and prepared geographical, geological and botanical reports of the country. He also sent one of his captains, Leonard Berry, to explore the Corentyne River which he did until he was stopped by rapids on that river.

In his report, Keymis expressed the view that Manoa could be reached by way of either the Corentyne or the Essequibo rivers. His report named "Lake Parima" as the location of Manoa, and shortly after, cartographers in Europe actually showed the location of this lake and city on their maps of the Guyana region. One version of his report fixed the city of Manoa somewhere between the sources of the Essequibo and the Rupununi Rivers on a "Lake Roponowini".

Hondius's map of the Guianas, featured the names of the rivers listed by Master William Dowle, Lawrence Keymis, and Thomas Masham. Interestingly, nearly all these lake and river still exist today. Keymis further listed the names of the Indian nations, their villages or towns and the leaders or captains per river.

How Sir Walter Raleigh's Map Came To Be Engraved and Published By Jodocus Hondius

Jodocus Hondius the Elder's Nieuwe Caerte van het wonderbaer ende goudrijcke landt Guiana chronicles the voyages directed by Sir Walter Raleigh to Guiana in 1594-6 and was created between 1596 and 1597. It offers a detailed glimpse of a region that was a focal point of imperial ambition in the late sixteenth century; the area was little understood by Europeans yet was a canvas on which the Dutch, English, Germans, and Spanish projected fables of golden cities, fantastic peoples, and lucrative overland passages to the Pacific.

By the late 1590s, Guiana was of interest not just as the possible site of El Dorado, but also as the location of a thriving illegal tobacco trade and a promising plantation society. The map thus depicts a strategically important region at a historically significant moment. However, it is also a particularly rich example of the information circuits of early modern cartography. Hondius had left London in 1593, which begs the question: how did he obtain the information for the map?

Some of Hondius' sources would have been accessible via printed books and manuscript materials which were in broad circulation. For example, he includes a large, rectangular lake in the interior of Guiana called Lake Parime, a geographic feature tied to the El Dorado myth and most likely derived from the charts of Ludovico Teixeira. Information about El Dorado featured in many early modern European geographic and historical works, particularly the voyage of Francisco de Orellana down the Amazon. Despite the use of older, printed texts, the map's main purpose was to share information about the three recent voyages overseen by Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh, men who sailed under him, and, crucially, those involved in making charts of the voyages all played a role in the compilation of information that eventually made it onto Hondius' map.

Jodocus Hondius moved to London in 1584, fleeing religious persecution in Flanders. In London, he worked for Richard Hakluyt and Edward Wright, among others. Hondius also engraved the globe gores for Emery Molyneux's pair of globes in 1592; which Edward Wright plotted the coastlines. His engraving and nautical painting skills introduced him to an elite group of geographic knowledge seekers and producers, including the navigators Drake, Cavendish, and Raleigh, as well as engravers like Theodor De Bry and Augustine Ryther. This network gave Hondius access to manuscript charts and descriptions which he then translated into engraved maps, as with his 1589 map of Nova Albion based on Drake's circumnavigation.

In 1593, Hondius returned to the Netherlands, setting up shop in the competitive cartographic market of Amsterdam. However, his ties to Raleigh most likely meant that he had already heard of the navigator's desire to seek El Dorado, also known as Manoa. Raleigh had had his interest piqued by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, the Spanish navigator imprisoned in London from 1583 to 1588. In addition, El Dorado hunter Antonio de Berrio, who had led two unsuccessful expeditions in search of the city of gold in 1584 and 1590, sent Domingo de Vera on another search in 1593. Vera sought the River Caroni, which supposedly led to Lake Parime, upon the banks of which lay Manoa. Vera's account was sent to Spain, but was intercepted at sea by one of Raleigh's captains, Jacob Whiddon. By the time Hondius was leaving London, he most likely would have known that Raleigh was planning to find Manoa and had perhaps even seen Vera's account.

Inspired by the account and Sarmiento's stories, Raleigh sent Whiddon on a reconnaissance mission to Guiana in 1594. Whiddon returned with little concrete evidence of gold, but enough stories of intrigue to inspire Raleigh's to lead another voyage in 1595. On the River Caroni, Raleigh's men were thwarted by the same cataract that had challenged Vera, but they also found possible mine sites and other, somewhat specious, indications that riches may lie just around the river bend.

In order to raise money for further exploration, Raleigh wrote his Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empire of Guiana. A manuscript of this work was finished by mid-October 1595, as Lord Burghley requested to see it. Cecil and Lord Admiral Charles Howard also reviewed the work, the revised version of which was published and reissued three times in 1596. In that same year, Raleigh sent Captain Lawrence Keymis, back to Guiana for a third expedition. Keymis scouted the coast north of the Amazon Delta, but encountered a Spanish fort at the confluence of the Orinoco and the Caroni. By the end of June, Keymis was back in England and his own account, A relation of the second Voyage to Guiana, was published in mid-October, 1596.

Neither Raleigh's nor Keymis' account included maps. There were manuscript maps of the voyages, however. At some point between August and November 1595, Raleigh informed Cecil that he was creating "a large plot," with the help of mathematician Thomas Hariot, which he wished to keep secret for the time being. This letter was later included in the Discoverie although the map, now held at the British Library, was not. The draught (map) was complete by mid-November and included an amoeba-like Lake of Manoa with many tributaries but no connections to known rivers.

As for the information obtained by Captain Keymis in his 1596 voyage, Cecil commissioned Hariot to create a map of the area using Raleigh's papers, although Raleigh had taken his manuscript chart with him to Cadiz. Hariot had mostly finished his map by July 1596, but wished to add Keymis' discoveries, which promised a more detailed geography of the coast between the Amazon and the Orinoco.

Meanwhile, Hondius' connections to London were shifting due to his move to Amsterdam. His former collaborator Edward Wright fell out with Hondius over a world map issued by Hondius, which is now known as the Christian Knight map, of 1596-7. Wright was upset that Hondius had seemingly stolen his loxodromic projection, an improvement on Mercator's method. Whereas Hondius had lost Wright as a professional contact, he seems to have maintained other relationships or attained English sources of the Guiana expeditions from new quarters. Evidence of these continued London ties come from baptismal records. Hondius' son Jodocus was baptized in Amsterdam in November 1593, indicating that Hondius was in Amsterdam by this time. However, his daughter Abigail was baptized in the Dutch Church of London July 6, 1595, which suggests that Hondius, or at least his wife, was traveling back and forth from the Netherlands to England.

As the Christian Knight map does not include information about the Guiana expeditions, it seems that Hondius was still gathering sources in 1596. For example, in the same letter in which Hariot told Cecil his chart was finished, he also mentioned that Keymis' master (second in command), William Downe, was selling his own plots (maps) of the voyage-a business Hariot wanted stopped. It is possible that Hondius attained one of these maps before Downe could be reined in by Cecil's agents. In addition, although we lack direct evidence, it is possible that both Keymis and Raleigh continued to correspond with Hondius, as they had when he lived in London.

Besides direct contact with sailors, Hondius also had publishing associates that could deliver information to him in Amsterdam. In this respect, a crucial node in his network seems to have been map and book printer Cornelis Claesz. Claesz published the Dutch translations of both Raleigh's and Keymis' accounts in 1598 and most likely gave Hondius access to his manuscript and printed materials prior to their being printed.

The other important source for information about Guiana appears to have been Emery Molyneux. Molyneux emigrated to Amsterdam in 1597 to set up shop. As the Amsterdam market was already fiercely contested by the van Langrens, Blaeu, and Hondius himself, it seems reasonable to assume that Molyneux hoped to work with, or at the very least not against, his old colleague. This is further supported by the fate of Molyneux's globe gores, which Hondius bought or attained and used for his 1597 globe. The globe includes the Guiana voyages and a large lake in Brazil, but does not name the lake Parime as the later Guiana map would. Wallis surmises that the revisions in South America indicate that Hondius had seen Raleigh's manuscript map, as that map shows Manoa as a city and lake.

Did Molyneux bring a copy of the map with him, or describe it to Hondius? We may never be sure, but Molyneux had close ties to Hariot, Raleigh's mathematician and mapmaker, as shown by his passing on of rutter's of Brazil and the West Indies to Hariot in 1590. Finally, Molyneux had been a sailor-he may even have accompanied Drake on his circumnavigation-and he could have used these maritime ties to gather new information that Hondius would assimilate into his Guiana map. Molyneux died in 1598, but by this time it seems Hondius had already drafted the map, published in or around 1599.

In conclusion, it seems that Hondius was able to continue to capitalize on the network he had built while active in London. His ties to mariners, mapmakers, and mathematicians all contributed to the Guiana map, which underlines the complex amalgamation process that is behind the creation of any one map.

Hondius Map Title & Translation

The full map title of the Hondius edition of the map is:

Nieuwe Caerte van het wonderbaer ende goudrijcke landt Guiana, gelegen onder de Linie Aequinocticael, tusschen Brasilien ende Peru nieuwelick besocht door Sir Walter Raleigh Ridder van Engelandt, in het jaer 1594, 95 ende 1596.
De Custen van dese caerte, sijn seer vlietich geteekent op haere hooghten ende waere streckingen, door een seker stierman die dit selve beseilt ende besocht heest, inde jaren voornomt.
De binnen Provincien, syn door groote moyte getrocken, uit beyde de boexkens, die door ende by laste van Ralegh voor seit int licht gegeven sijn.


New Chart of the Wonderful and Gold Rich land of Guiana, located under the Equinoctial line, between Brazil and Peru, recently visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight of England in the years 1594, 95 and 96.
The coasts shown on this chart, are diligently drawn on the elevations/latitudes and the correct lengths, by a certain navigator (or first mate) who personally sailed and visited this area in the years previously named.
The inner/inland Provinces have been drawn with great difficulty from both the books/pamphlets, that have been brought to light by and in commissioned of Raleigh

The text at the bottom right translates as follows:

In Guiana the winter is between May and September and this is a bad time to be here with ships because of the hurricanes, lightning and thunder and the high waves.
The inhabitants move inland to higher grounds or climb trees, where the make there homes.
The Arawaks are nomadic and are friendly with the Spanish.
The Taos nation are very strong and enemies of the Spaniards.
They paint there bodies whereby you can distinguish them from the Arawaks.
The principal trade from here is fine gold, precious stones, pearls, and Balsam (Palm?) oils, long peppers and sugar and incense and costly spices for medicine, gum, honey, silk, cotton and (specialty wood?).
The principal wares that you can trade for [with the natives] are axes, chisels, and butter/cheese and ??? (glue?).


The original Hondius map was separately published and is now of the utmost rarity. We note only the examples at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, British Library, National Library of Brazil and University of Amsterdam.

Two states of the De Bry are known.  A proof state exists, which includes all the cartographic details, but is lacking the Latin title (text box is blank) and the note in the text box at the lower-left corner, and pre-dating the addition of all the text annotations and descriptions of the indigenous flora and fauna of the region.

This De Bry edition is the earliest obtainable version of the map and is also very rarely seen on the market.  The last example to appear in a dealer catalog reported by AMPR was in 1993 (Rod Barron, 1,800 GBP).  

Condition Description
Trimmed just inside the neatline at the left and right.
Baynton-Williams, Ashley. “Lake Parime.” MapForum Issue 2 (2004).

Dekker, Elly. Globes at Greenwich: A Catalogue of the Globes and Armillary Spheres in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Oxford: Oxford University Press and the National Maritime Museum, 1999.

Dotson, Eliane. “Lake Parime and the Golden City.” Old World Auctions Newsletter. n.d.

Heinen, H. Dieter and Stanford Zent. ‘On the Interpretation of Raleigh’s Discoverie of Guiana: A View from the Field.’ Current Anthropology 37, no. 2 (1996): 339-341.

Keymis, Lawrence. A Relation of the Second Voyage to Guiana. London: Thomas Dawson, 1596. Reproduced in facsimile by De Capo Press, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Ltd., Amsterdam, 1968.

Lorimer, Joyce. “Untruth and Consequences: Ralegh’s Discoverie of Guiana and the ‘Salting’ of the Gold
Mine.” London: The Hakluyt Society, 2007.

Penrose, Boies. Travel and Discovery in the Renaiisance 1420-1620. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952.
Subsequent printings in 1955, 1962. Copy
Theodor De Bry Biography

Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) was a prominent Flemish engraver and publisher best known for his engravings of the New World. Born in Liege, de Bry hailed from the portion of Flanders then controlled by Spain. The de Brys were a family of jewelers and engravers, and young Theodor was trained in those artisanal trades.

As a Lutheran, however, his life and livelihood were threatened when the Spanish Inquisition cracked down on non-Catholics. De Bry was banished and his goods seized in 1570. He fled to Strasbourg, where he studied under the Huguenot engraver Etienne Delaune. He also traveled to Antwerp, London, and Frankfurt, where he settled with his family.

In 1590, de Bry began to publish his Les Grands Voyages, which would eventually stretch to thirty volumes released by de Bry and his two sons. The volumes contained not only important engraved images of the New World, the first many had seen of the geographic novelties, but also several important maps. He also published a collection focused on India Orientalis. Les Grands Voyages was published in German, Latin, French, and English, extending de Bry’s fame and his view of the New World.