“A Chart of the World on Mercator’s Projection.”

Edward Wright. “A Chart of the World on Mercator’s Projection.” c.1599. In The Principall Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, compiled by Richard Hakluyt. London, 1598-1600. The Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History

Wright published “A Chart of the World on Mercator’s Projection” in 1600 based on his projection of a globe engraved by the English globe maker Emery Molyneux in 1592. It was the first map to use Wright’s improvements on Mercator’s projection. This map, sometimes called the “Wright-Molyneux Map,” also was published in The Principall Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (London, 1598-1600), compiled by Richard Hakluyt.Considered a sixteenth-century cartographic landmark, the Wright-Molyneux Map is alluded to in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, when Maria says teasingly of Malvolio: “He does smile his face into more lynes, than is in the new Mappe, with the augmentation of the Indies.”

Unlike many contemporary maps and charts that represented the often fantastic speculations of their makers, Wright’s “Chart of the World” offers a minimum of detail and leaves areas blank wherever geographic information was lacking. These undefined areas are especially evident along Wright’s coastlines. Wright’s map is also one of the earliest maps to use the name “Virginia.”

A map of Virginia. With a description of the covntrey, the commodities, people, government and religion.

John Smith. “Virginia.” Oxford, 1612. The Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History

From May 1607 to the fall of 1609, Captain John Smith was a leader of the Jamestown colony, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Smith explored the area zealously and described Virginia in vivid detail in letters and reports. His map was published as a separate publication in 1612 and appeared in numerous histories of the seventeenth century, including his own Generall Historie of Virginia. Ten different states of the map are known of which this is the ninth state. Historian Coolie Verner has called this map “the most important map to appear in print during the period of early settlement and the one map of Virginia that has had the greatest influence upon mapmaking for a longer period of time.”

The map is oriented with north to the right, a common practice of the day. It labels many of the landmarks of tidewater Virginia including Jamestown, Chesapeack Bay, Cape Charles, Cape Henry and five rivers that feed into the Bay: Powhatan (James), Chickahomania, Patawomech (Potomac), Patuxent, and Sasquehanough (Susquehanna).

A Perfect Description of Virginia.

John Farrer. A Perfect Description of Virginia. London, 1649. The Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History

In his published description of the Virginia colony, Farrer writes:
from the head of James River above the falls . . . will be found like rivers issuing into a south sea or a west sea, on the other side of those hills, as there is on this side, where they run from west down to the east sea after a course of one hundred and fifty miles.

A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye falls and in it's latt: from 35. deg: & 1/2 neer Florida, to 41. deg: bounds of new England /

John Farrer. “A mapp of Virginia discovered to ye Hills.” 1651. The Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History

London-born John Farrer was a member of the Royal Council of the Virginia Company. An active investor in and promoter of the colony of Virginia, he supported the establishment of the silkworm industry in the colony. Farrer named his daughter after the colony “so that speaking unto her, looking upon her, or hearing others call her by name, he might think upon both at once.” Virginia Farrer continued her father’s efforts to introduce the silk culture into Virginia. She also was the compiler of the later versions of her father’s map.

Farrer’s map depicts an astonishingly narrow North American continent in which the Pacific Ocean appears just beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The legend on the map notes that a ten-day march westward from the head of the James River will bring the traveler to rivers that run into the “Indian Seas.” Another remarkable feature of the Farrer map is the Northwest Passage, which is formed by a river to the north that connects the Hudson River to the “Sea of China and the Indies.” Farrer’s map labels many place names in Virginia and Maryland for the first time.

The map shown here is a fourth state (c.1652) in which Falls in the title is changed to read Hills. In this version of the map a narrow isthmus blocks the Northwest Passage. Virginia Farrer compiled this version of the map.

Nicolas Sanson. “Amérique Septentrionale.” 1669.

Nicolas Sanson. “Amérique Septentrionale.” 1669.

Nicolas Sanson was the outstanding French cartographer of the mid- to late-seventeenth century and is considered the founder of the French school of cartography. “Amérique Septentrionale” was first published in 1650. The French used this map in their explorations of the interior of North America.

“Amérique Septentrionale” is the first map to show all five Great Lakes. The most notable feature of this map is its representation of California as an island. Although sixteenth-century maps had typically shown lower California as a peninsula, around 1620 a newly-found chart and reports from Spanish missionaries and explorers led many cartographers to represent California as an island. The region continued to appear as an island on maps of America through the early eighteenth century (see Moll’s “Map of North America to ye Newest and most Exact observations” [link to Moll map]). Finally, in 1747, King Ferdinand of Spain issued a royal decree that California was not an island.

The 1669 version of “Amérique Septentrionale” shown here differs from the original 1650 map in its detail of the Gulf of California and its labeling of oceans.