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Extremely rare engraved map of Stage Harbor, the southeast corner (or "elbow") of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

This is a highly important and early map of what is now known as Stage Harbor, near Chatham, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It is one of a series of the very first printed sea charts of North America, devised by the great explorer Samuel de Champlain.

Champlain on Cape Cod

In the fall of 1606, Champlain left Beau Port (now Gloucester, Massachusetts), sailing in his pinnace around Cape Cod. In October, lacking foreknowledge of the sea bottom and currents of the Cape, the party became entangled in the local shoals and were forced to take refuge in Stage Harbor, adjacent to what is now Chatham. There they spent two weeks effecting repairs to the rudder. Evidently, Champlain found the area quite beautiful and wrote as much in his account; this is the only place in New England that moved him to that extent.

Toward the end of their time on Cape Cod, Champlain's party was attacked by Indians at night and two Frenchmen were killed. The expedition was not able to exact revenge on the attacking forces, and so they left to survey Nantucket Sound. Shortly they returned looking for a fight, yet still more Frenchmen lost their lives. After this, the French had had enough and returned to Port Royal, not wishing to push their luck anymore.

Burden expresses surprise at the naming of the area "port fortuné" (Fortunate Port, in French), though one can imagine that rudderless among the shoals off of Cape Cod, such a harbor would have seemed very fortunate indeed.

Key Translation

The keys show the fathoms of water [soundings]

A. Saltwater pond

B. Aboriginal cabins and the lands they work

C. Prairie with two small streams

C. Prairie with an island that covers at every tide.

D. Small mountains near island filled with woods, vines, and prune trees

E. Sweetwater pond, with deer.

F. Prairies on the island.

G Island with lots of wood in a dead-end [branch of the river]

H. Saltwater pond with oysters and other shellfish

I. Sand dunes on a spit of land.

L. Dead end.

M. Harbor where we anchored in front of the port.

N. Entrance to the port.

O. Port where we left our boat.

P. Cross we planted.

Q. Small stream

R. Mountain which you can see from far

S. The seaside.

T. Small river.

V. Path we made in their region around their houses, demarcated with little points.

X. Shallow part of coast.

Y. Small mountain

Z. Small stream

'. Where our people were killed by savages near the cross.

Samuel de Champlain

Samuel de Champlain (1470-1535) was one of the greatest explorers and cartographers of his era, and the founding father of what would one day become Canada. Inspired by the voyages of his countryman, Jacques Cartier, he made his first voyage to Canada in 1603. Upon his return to France, his reports encouraged Henry IV to finance a colonizing expedition, and the colonizing company was given a royal monopoly on all settlement and fur trading rights between the 40th and 45th parallels. In 1604, Champlain joined the venture as second in command to Pierre Dugua, the Sieur de Mons, and it was on this voyage that they founded the habitation of Isle de Sainte Croix. The settlers later moved to the more hospitable site of Port Royal (Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia), while Champlain explored the Massachusetts coast in search of alternate sites. These plans were abandoned due to the hostility of the indigenous Monomoyic tribe.

Within a couple of years, Champlain assumed supreme leadership over the French colonization venture. In 1608, he founded Quebec City on an impressive promontory overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Having overcome much initial adversity, this settlement proved to be successful, becoming the capital of a vast French domain that eventually extended down to the Gulf of Mexico and over to the Rockies.

Champlain, passionately dedicated to the mission of securing the permanence of New France, had to return to France frequently to raise funds and encourage new settlers to join the enterprise. A cornerstone of his campaign was the publication of his greatest work, Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain (Paris, 1613), a detailed narrative of the founding of New France, which included the present plan. Champlain later became the governor of New France, and by the time he died on Christmas Day 1635, he knew that he had succeeded in his mission.

Condition Description
Trimmed close to the platemark on the left edge. Faint even toning. Overall VG+
Burden, The Mapping of North America I, 175; Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, The Discovery of North America, p.270; Morison, Samuel de Champlain, Father of New France, pp.79-87.