Reproduction only for non-commercial use.
© April 2005; revised 7 August 2006 > HOME

Gallery Exhibit, Catalog Nos. 52 & 53 & 54

**   N O T E  **

This Gallery exhibit
to be revised.
I have new research to incorporate, as soon as I can find the time.

Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610
(also known as the “Velasco Map”)
“A copy of the map of ‘that Province’ in America made for James I in 1610, sent to Philip III, by [Don Alonso de] Velasco in his letter of March 22, 1611.”
First published in 1890 as item CLVIII in volume 1 of Alexander Brown’s The Genesis of the United States.

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< Detail of area around “Chesepiock Bay”
From Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610.

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< Detail of “Chesepiock Bay,” rotated (for viewing placenames written sideways on original)
From Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610.

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< Detail of table listing “Names of townes one the Rivers m the Chessepiock Bay”
From Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610.

Four rivers are given (“the Kings River,” “the Princes River,” “the Queenes River,” “Elizabeth River”) along with 44 placenames.

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< Detail of area around Lake Ontario and the Hudson River
From Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610.

This is the original scan, before it was stitched with the other 8 scans to make a single image of the whole map.

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< Detail of inland area around the “River Canada” and “The Lake of Angdom”
From Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610.

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< Detail of coastal area paralleling the “River Canada” (including New England spots labeled “Marthays Viniard” and “C[ape] Cod”)
From Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610.

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< Detail of area around “The Bay of St Lawrence”
From Map of Atlantic Coast of North America, 1610.

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Also available in separate GALLERY exhibits: 5 color and/or modern reproductions of the “Velasco Map” of 1610/11
  • Isaac Stokes, vol. 2 of Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498–1909 (1916; rpt. 1967)
  • Emerson D. Fite & Archibald Freeman, A Book of Old Maps Delineating American History (1926; rpt. 1969, 1970)
  • William P. Cumming, R. A. Skelton, & D. B. Quinn, The Discovery of North America (1971; rpt. 1972)
  • Paul E. Cohen & Robert T. Augustyn, Manhattan in Maps, 1527-1995 (1997)
  • Mark Warhus, Another America: Native American Maps and the History of Our Land (1997)

Because of some discrepancies noticed in the reproductions between Brown’s first printing of the Velasco Map in 1890 and subsequent printings beginning with Stokes in 1916 — and because of the startling “accuracy” of the map’s delineation of, e.g., the eastern shores of Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River Valley and the rest of eastern Canada — it has been suggested that the Velasco Map was perhaps not drawn in 1610 after all, or that parts of the map were embellished, and details added, at a later date. As one MapHist subscriber has already noted, “we may never be able to answer conclusively” new questions about the map’s authenticity. I give the five modern reproductions here, along with Brown’s first printing, in order to further the debate.

NOTE: Three other modern texts include reproductions of the Velasco Map:

  • Seymour I. Schwarz & Ralph E. Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America (1980)
         > a “small colored copy”
  • R. Louis Gentilcore, C. Grant Head, & Joan Winearls, Ontario’s History in Maps (1984)
         > a “black and white photo” on p. 10
  • Richard W. Stephenson & Marianne M. McKee, Virginia in Maps: Four Centuries of Settlement, Growth, and Development (2000)
         > a “small color photo” on p. 33

David Allen (MapHist list) has looked at all 3 reproductions, and assures me that “None of these illustrations shed new light on the subject, but you might want to add them to your list.” (personal e-mail, 15 May 2005) Accordingly, I have listed them here, but chosen not to digitize the printed images.

ON 22 MARCH 1611, Don Alonso de Velasco (Ambassador from Spain to the court of London, 1610–13) sent a letter to Spain’s Philip III detailing the latest intelligence he had gathered about the English colonial enterprise in Virginia.

With his letter, Velasco enclosed a pirated copy of “a plan or map” of “that Province” made by a surveyor sent to America by James I in 1610. In his letter, Velasco tells Philip that the anonymous surveyor returned to England “about three months ago” (i.e., around December, 1610), at which point in time he delivered to his king the important map “of all that he could discover” of America’s east coast, from Virginia to Newfoundland.

As far as I know, the original English version of this ms. map has not survived, and is known to us now only by way of Velasco’s unauthorized copy of it. The Spanish copy of the map (then part of the General Archives of Simancas, Department of State, volume 2588, folio 22) was first printed in 1890 by the U.S. scholar Alexander Brown (a member of the Virginia Historical Society, the American Historical Association, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of England).

As printed in Brown, the foldout “Velasco map” measures 30" x 21¾". The curious statement

All the blue is dune by the relations of the Indians.

indicates that parts of the map were originally in color, but since Brown’s printing is in black-and-white, I’ve not been able to identify which portions of the map were ever in blue. Brown believes that this legend “probably refers most especially to” the area of “coast from Cape Charles to about 41° north latitude, and up the Hudson River to a little beyond the entrance of the Mohawk.” But since the legend appears above the section of the map showing the Chesapeake Bay, Native American sources may well have been influential throughout.

In a detailed commentary (see transcription below), Brown states that he is “inclined to think that the map was compiled and drawn either by Robert Tyndall or by Captain Powell.”

Robert Tindall (or Tyndall) first journeyed to Virginia on 19 December 1606, which voyage Brown speculates may have lasted through January 1609. Tindall’s second voyage was from May through November 1609, with a third voyage from April 1610 through June 1611. His “Draught of Virginia by Robarte Tindall. Anno 1608,” reproduced in Brown as item XLVI, “is the earliest drawn by an Englishman now known to be in existence” (Brown, i:151) and no doubt influenced the map of 1610.

Captain Nathaniel Powell was one of the first Virginia planters, arriving in Virginia in April 1607. In the winter of 1608, Powell explored the York River with Captain Christopher Newport. From July 24 to September 7, 1608, Powell explored the Chesapeake Bay with Captain John Smith. Brown argues that Powell

was probably the author of the “Diarie of the second voyage in discovering the Bay,” which was sent to England by Newport in December, 1608; and the sixth chapter of Smith’s “History” was probably partially compiled from this “Diarie,” as it bears Powell’s signature, and it was probably “Captain Powell’s Map” of the bay and rivers which accompanied “The Relation of the Countries and Nations,” said to have been sent to England by Smith in December, 1608.

(Brown ii:971)

Additional source materials unearthed by Brown include an unattributed “Chart of Virginia” drawn in 1608 which also turned up in Spain (sent from London, on 10 Sept. 1608, by the Spanish ambassador Don Pedro de Zuñiga, to Philip III). This chart, reproduced in Brown as item LVII, illustrated Captain John Smith’s letter from Virginia (published in 1608 as A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of noate as hath hapned in Virginia since the first planting of that Collony, which is now resident in the South part thereof, till the last returne from thence), and was sent from Virginia with the text of A True Relation.

Brown also cites Captain Samuel Argall, who mapped the east coast of North America from Cape Cod to Virginia in 1610, as another probable source for the “Velasco map” sent to Philip III in 1611. Argall’s journal account of his voyage

... from James Towne in Virginia, to seeke the Ile of Bermuda, and missing the same, his putting over toward Sagadahoc and Cape Cod, and so backe again to James Towne ...

was among the nautical journals and log-books carefully “preserved by the managers of the Virginia enterprises for their guidance and information.” (Brown, i:428) It, too, is reproduced in Brown, as item CXLI.

BROWN CONSIDERS THE “Velasco Map” to have been an important political tool in

the contest between England and Spain for the possession of the soil now occupied by the United States of America.

Brown quotes from a letter dated 3 August 1612, written by George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, to James I concerning Spanish political intrigue associated with Velasco:

[Don Pedro de] Zuñiga [former Spanish ambassador to England] has removed to the house of the Lieger Ambassador, Alonzo de Velasquez [Velasco], in the Barbican, that he may more freely transact his secret business. Velasquez has been more free with his masses, having a bell rung and holding several in the day. He sends scandalous reports of English affairs to Spain and Italy. The King of Spain has an advantage in England, because he can avail himself of discontented Catholics. The proffered courtesies of the Queen of France should be received with suspicion, as she is guided by Villeroy and Sillery, both under Spanish influence.

(qtd. in Brown, ii:1037)

One of Spain’s English sympathizers was Sir William Monson (1569?–1643), a celebrated admiral, author of several naval tracts (written at the suggestion of Lord Robert Cecil), a Velasco informant, and a pensioner of Spain. By 1616,

It was popularly reported that Sir William Monson was under an agreement to carry over the English fleet to the Spaniards.

(qtd. in Brown, ii:951)

For such clandestine negotiations, Monson was committed close prisoner to the Tower in January 1616, only to be “sett at libertye” about six months later.

It was Monson who supplied Velasco with the information on Virginia passed to Philip III in the letter of March 1611. Whether Monson also provided Velasco with a copy of the 1610 map of “that Province” and the New England and Canadian coast to its north is never made clear. But his sea service around this period, as described in some of his ms. publications (Monson’s Naval Tracts were not formally printed until 1703), gave him expertise in navigational matters that was valuable to both Spanish and English courts.

Monson cited the names of the ships in which he served (up to and including the year 1615) as follows:

In the Charles, whereof I had no command in 1588 [the year of the Spanish invasion]; in the Victory, in which voyage I was vice-admiral to my lord of Cumberland, 1589; in the Garland, 1591; the Lion, 1593; the Rainbow, 1595; the Repulse, 1596 [Monson was knighted by the Earl of Essex at Cadiz in 1596]; the Rainbow, 1597 [the Island voyage]; the Defiance, 1599; the Garland, 1600; the Nonpareille, 1601; the Swiftsure, 1602; the Mary Rose, 1602; the Mere Honour, 1602 [his noted voyage with Sir Richard Levison to the coast of Spain and Portugal in 1602]; the Mere Honour, 1603; the Vengeance, 1604; the Rainbow, 1605; the Assurance, 1606; the Rainbow, 1607; the Vengeance, 1609; the Assurance, 1610; the Rainbow, 1611; the Adventure, 1612; the Assurance, 1613; the Lion, 1614; and the Nonsuch, 1615.

(qtd. in Brown, ii:951)

His long experience at sea placed him at the center of a naval network with intimate knowledge of Virginia matters. When Captain Christopher Newport, who brought the first colony to Jamestown, returned to England with the two small vessels, the Blessing and the Hercules, in 1610, Velasco wrote to Philip III that Newport

... has secretly reported the misery suffered by those who remain there [Virginia] and said that if Lord de la “Warca” [Warre] who recently went there as Governor, had delayed three days longer, the island would have been abandoned by the 300 persons who had remained alive out of 700, who had been sent out. In order to encourage the merchants, at whose expense this expedition is undertaken, so that they may persevere in it, he has publicly given out great hopes, and thus they have formed several Companies by which men will be sent out in assistance, and they have determined, that at the end of January of the coming year, three ships shall sail, with men, women and ministers of their religion, and with a full supply of arms and ammunition for all. Thus I have been told by “Guillermo Monco” [Sir William Monson] whom I consider a trustworthy and very intelligent man, who knows all about this business, as some of the sailors who came over in those small vessels, were servants of his and all the others intimate friends and dependents of his; and the same I have heard from other sources, all of which agree in this. I think this plan might be brought to nought with great facility, if Y. M. [Your Majesty] were pleased to command that a few ships should be sent to that part of the world, which would drive out the few people that have remained there, and are so threatened by the Indians that they dare not leave the fort they have erected....

(from a deciphered letter of Don Alonso de Velasco to
the King of Spain, dated London, 30 September 1610;
qtd. in Brown, i:418–9)

This was but a few months before the map of 1610 was presented to James I.

Subsequent to this, Monson would continue to profit from his knowledge of Virginia and related ocean passages. In 1620, Monson patented lands in Virginia. And in 1635, he served as vice-admiral of the English fleet sent out to “restore the ancient sovereignty of the narrow seas to the King of England.”

IN HIS 1611 letter enclosing the map of America drawn in 1610, Velasco relies on Monson’s intelligence and the map itself to inform the Spanish king

Thus no credit can be given to what the Irishman Francisco Manuel says in the report which Y. M. [Your Majesty] commanded to be sent to me.

Velasco here refers to a report on Virginia to the Spanish council of state, filed formally in Madrid on 1 July 1610 by an Irishman, Francis Maguel. Maguel, who had spent eight months as a spy in Virginia, gave a very detailed report to the Spanish court

1. About the Voyage he made and the direction the English took at first in order to discover Virginia

2. Of the Commodities which the English find in that Country, and of its Climate

3. Of the Emperor and the Natives of the Country

4. Of the Designs and Intentions of the English against His Catholic Majesty

which Philip passed on to Velasco with a letter (now missing) dated 21 July 1610.

It was the final section of the report, mostly concerning the English quest for a South-Sea passage, that Velasco disputed with new evidence provided in the map of 1610.

Because both Velasco and the Spanish court scrutinized the report and the map for competitive intelligence, I have included a separate digital transcription of Maguel’s report of 1610 in the Library.

It is worth noting another point of crossover between the two 1610 documents. In section 3., Maguel’s report makes mention that the “Emperor of Virginia” (Powhatan) had a considerable American intelligence network of his own:

The Emperor sends every year some men by land to West India and to Newfoundland and other countries, to bring him news of what is going on there.

This would appear to substantiate the map’s claim of integrating “the relations of the Indians” within its visual record.

Alexander Brown’s Commentary on the Map of 1610/11

In response to list members’ questions concerning the sources — English, Dutch, French, and Native American — of the 1610 map of North America, I include here Brown’s own 19th-century commentary on the map’s provenance.

Item CLVIII, “Map of America. 1610”

(from Alexander Brown, The Genesis of the
United States
, i:457–61)

“This map, said to have been made in Virginia by a surveyor sent over by the King of England (in 1610) for that purpose, who returned to England about December, 1610, procured in some secret way by the Spanish Ambassador in London and sent to the King of Spain, is very interesting and valuable. It is curious that it should be first published [by Brown] in the strange Country which it attempted to delineate.

“I think the map evidently embodies (besides the surveys of Champlain and other foreigners) the English surveys of White, Gosnold, Weymouth, Pring, Hudson, Argall, and Tyndall, and possibly others. Strachey, referring to Argall’s voyage of June to August, 1610 [item CXLI in Brown], says he ‘made good, from 44 degrees, what Captayne Bartho. Gosnoll and Captayne Waymouth wanted in their discoveries, observing all along the coast, and drawing the plotts thereof, as he steered homewardes, unto our bay.’

“Purchas (vol. iii. p. 590), in a side-note to the narrative of Hudson’s voyage along our Coast in August, 1609, says, ‘This agreeth with Robert Tyndall.’ Tyndall made a plan of James River for the Prince of Wales in 1607, which is now probably lost. He made a chart of James and York rivers in 1608, which I have given [item XLVI in Brown]. He was not in Argall’s voyage, June to August, 1610 [item CXLI in Brown], because from June 17 to 30 he was employed in the Chesapeake; but he was probably afterwards with Argall while trading in the Bay, the Potomac, etc.

“I am inclined to think that the map was compiled and drawn either by Robert Tyndall or by Captain Powell. However, I cannot be certain. The names of places on this map are sometimes different from those on Tyndall’s Chart [item XLVI in Brown], and when the names are the same they are generally spelled differently. While I do not know positively that either Tyndall or Powell was the draughtsman, it is certain that the Virginia Company of London, from the beginning, employed competent surveyors and posted themselves as rapidly as possible regarding the cartography of the country; but it was highly important that they should preserve the fruits of their labor in this kind for their own use, and they did so as far as they were able. In 1616, when Virginia and the Bermudas were under nearly the same management, surveyors and commissioners it seems were sent out to both plantations, who probably made accurate surveys. No copies of the Virginia surveys have as yet been found; but Richard Norwood’s excellent survey of the Bermudas was engraved in 1626, and thus preserved, and this gives us the character of the men employed by the Virginia Company and the character of their work. Norwood was a man of note in his profession, and his work was excellent.

“The North Carolina coast, on this map, was evidently taken, chiefly, from Captain John White’s survey and drawings. I have compared it with our present coast surveys and with other maps, and the following table is probably approximately correct.

Portrait of James I
(King of England from 1603–1625)
Engraved by Thomas Woolnoth
after the original portrait
by Vansomer.

View an enlarged 650 x 902
pixel JPG image
Portrait of Philip III
(King of Spain from 1598–1621)
Engraved by Ogborne after the
original portrait by Boizet.

View an enlarged 700 x 1007
pixel JPG image
C. Feare. Cape Lookout.
Ende Sohes. [End Shores?] Near Whalebone Inlet?
Wococon. Portsmouth I.?
Croatoan. Ocracoke Inlet?
C. S. John. Cape Hatteras.
C. Kenrick. Near Chicamicomico?
Hatarask. Near New Inlet?
Po. Fernando. Oregon Inlet?
Po. Lane. Near Nag’s Head?
Roanoack. Roanoke I.
Trinitie Harbor. Caffey Inlet? now closed.

“It seems evident that W. Hole used a copy of the Virginia part of this map for his engraving [of Smith’s map, item CCXLII in Brown]. See the remarks on that map.

“The coast from Cape Charles to about 41° north latitude, and up the Hudson River to a little beyond the entrance of the Mohawk, contains only one or two names, and I think was drawn from the recent surveys of Hudson (1609) and Argall (1610). The legend, ‘All the blue is dunne by the relations of the Indians,’ probably refers most especially to this part of the map.

“I believe, the New England coast of this map shows traces of the surveys of Captains Gosnold, Archer, Pring, Weymouth, and probably of the North Virginia colonists, as well as of Champlaine, and possibly other foreigners. This part of the map is especially interesting as it retains many of the names given to localities, etc., by the original discoverers.

Cladia [Claudia]. Block Island.
Elizabethes Iles. Elizabeth’s Islands?
Marthay’s Viniard. Martha’s Vineyard.
C. Cod. Cape Malabar.
C. Shole. Cape Cod Shoal.
Whitsun’s hed. Cape Cod.
Whitson’s bay. Cape Cod Bay.
Penguin. Barnstable?
Savidg Iles. [(Rocks?) along south shore of Massachusets Bay. Massachusets Bay is drawn but not named.] --
A Shole. [Near Boston Harbor.] --
Ile of Sands. [Near Boston Harbor. Boston Harbor is drawn but not named.] --
Peninsula. Cape Ann.
Ile Lobster. --
C. Porpas. Cape Porpoise.
R. Sagadahock Kennebec River.
I. St. George. Monhegan I.
Tahanock. [The cross at the bend of the Tahanock was possibly erected there by Captain George Weymouth, June 13, 1605.] --
S. Georges Banck. Saint George’s Bank.
Iles Basses --
Penduis. --
I. haute. Isle au Haut.
R. Pemerogett [Pentagoet?] Penobscot River.
Iles de Mountes Deserts. Mt. Desert Islands.
Iles Las Ranges. --
I. Peree. --
R. de Eschemanis (Etechemins). St. Croix River.
I. St. Croix. --
Ile oni[aux] Oiseaux. --

“The last nine or ten names are evidently derived from French sources.

“It will not be necessary for me to annotate the portions of the map referring to Canada, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, etc.

“I will mention the following additional references to early surveyors and maps. The Virginia Records at Washington mention, under November, 1620, that Captain Madison, who had been twelve years together in Virginia, was especially employed by Dale in discovering the country, rivers, etc.

“The author of ‘New Albion’ (1648) in describing Delaware Bay refers to Captain Smith’s book of Virginia, and to ‘Captaine Powel’s Map.’ Without discussing the matter here, I will say that it seems certain that Captains Robert Tyndall, Isaac Madison, and Nathaniel Powell were making surveys, drawing maps, etc., for the company from the beginning.”

Related Links

• a GALLERY exhibit on the “Draught of Virginia by Robarte Tindall. Anno 1608” (reproduced as item XLVI in Brown)

• a GALLERY exhibit on the 1608 “Chart of Virginia” which illustrated Captain John Smith’s A True Relation (reproduced as item LVII in Brown)

• a digital transcription of “the report which the Irishman made touching Virginia” (Francis Maguel’s report of 1610, reproduced as item CXXXI in Brown), in the LIBRARY

• another portrait of James I in the GALLERY exhibit on Lely’s psychological portraiture

• external link to Terry Deveau’s high-resolution digital image of the “Velasco Map” (9.8MB)

• more in the ongoing debate over whether or not the “Velasco Map” is a 19th-century forgery: external link to published pieces by David Allen and Kirsten Seaver in the e-journal, Coordinates: The Online Journal of the Map and Geography Round Table of the American Library Association



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