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Gallery Exhibit, Catalog No. 61

This is the 4th of five Gallery Exhibits on color and/or modern reproductions of the “Velasco Map” of 1610/11. Links to related exhibits are located at the bottom of this page.
Color and/or modern reproductions of
the “Velasco Map” — IV

Cohen & Augustyn, 1997

“The Velasco Map.” Pen and ink with watercolor on paper, 31.5 x 43.625 inches. Ms. map in the General Archives of Simancas, Spain.
Reproduced on p. 21 of Manhattan in Maps, 1527–1995, by Paul E. Cohen and Robert T. Augustyn.

View an enlarged 1510 x 1123 pixel JPG image (407KB)

Like Stokes and Cumming, Skelton & Quinn before them, Cohen and Augustyn credit the General Archives of Simancas, Spain, for their image of the Velasco Map. In the authors’ Preface, we are told that

We have searched libraries and private collections throughout the world to locate the most significant and best copies of maps.... In fact, the only contemporary cartographic record of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the New York area is on a manuscript map, the Velasco Map, in the General Archives of Simancas, Spain (see p. 20). It was brought to Spain in the seventeenth century by the Spanish ambassador to England, who must have obtained it from a spy in the English court.

(Cohen & Augustyn 11)

(A scholarly quibble: the map in question was sent, not “brought,” to Spain by the Spanish ambassador, Don Alonso de Velasco.)

Approximately 81 years after Stokes, and 26 years after Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, Cohen and Augustyn have photographically reproduced the same archival ms. map, which they describe as “Pen and ink with watercolor on paper, [31.5 x 43.625] inches.” And yet, their printed image varies substantially from that given in the earlier two books.

For one thing, it’s a smaller reproduction (approximately 7½" x 5½" in Cohen & Augustyn, versus 13" x 9½" in Stokes, and 15.3" x 11" in Cumming, Skelton & Quinn), making the version in Cohen and Augustyn less legible, and accentuating different features of the original.

Then there’s the matter of the map’s colors, which in the Cohen & Augustyn reproduction are more muted and pastel than the colors in Stokes’ reproduction of 1916 and in Cumming, Skelton & Quinn’s reproduction of 1971. Nonetheless, the map’s colored background matches up more closely with that of Stokes than it does with that of Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, while there are significant differences with both earlier images in the extent and placement of highlighting and shadows associated with the foldlines of the map and possible crumpling of the paper. I assume that most of this can be explained by differences in photographic technique, lighting, and processing of the film in the three shoots ca. 1916, 1971, and 1997.

What is perhaps not resolvable in this way are subtle differences in the content of all three photographic images. For example, the reproduction in Cohen and Augustyn shows a stamp-like mark below the map’s scale (captioned “Leages 20 m a degre”). This mark does not appear in any other reproduction of the map that I’ve seen, including the first black-and-white printing in Brown’s Genesis of 1890. Similarly, on the Cumming, Skelton & Quinn photograph of the Velasco Map, there is a mark resembling a seal or stamp above the map’s scale, right below the island captioned “Ile Sablon.” This mark, too, is unique to the reproduction on which it appears.

David Allen has already pointed to the “suspicious” feature of the map’s paper, as imaged in Cohen and Augustyn:

The photograph in Cohen seems to show a map drawn on very brown and crumbly paper. This might just mean that the paper is old, but it might also mean that it was drawn on highly acidic nineteenth-century paper. This might also explain the possible fading of the colors. Questions about the authenticity of the map might be resolved if an expert could examine the paper, and possibly also the pigments in the ink and watercolor. Are there any anatase testers in the crowd?

(post to MapHist list, 29 April 2005)

And my digitization of the Cohen & Augustyn image reveals a prominent texture to the map’s paper which is not noticeable to the human eye (even with a magnifying glass) when viewing the printed photograph on page 21. Oddly enough, the paper’s texture does not show up in the other color photographs I’ve digitized, although this too may perhaps be explained by evolving photographic techniques.

In their Preface, Cohen and Augustyn emphasize the superiority of their book design and its reproduction of cartographs. Stokes, they note, “had one of the world’s best collections of prints and maps relating to America”; however,

Despite its excellence, the Iconography is cumbersome to use, has long been out of print, and its reproductions are unsatisfactory by current standards. We felt that a new book should present the maps individually and in color and include items uncovered since Stokes or not reproduced by him.

(Cohen & Augustyn 9)

For their “illustrated book devoted exclusively to the mapping of Manhattan” (9), Cohen and Augustyn have adapted the storyboard format favored by proposal writers (who in turn borrowed it from the motion picture industry) and those who produce complicated multimedia projects. In their book, most cartographs, like the Velasco Map, have a two-page spread devoted to them, although a few, like the astounding three-square-yard British Headquarters Map of Manhattan Island dating from 1782 — a “fine portrait of Manhattan’s topographic variety” (87), which “respect[ed] and celebrat[ed] the watersheds and ecosystems of the twelve-mile island” roughly “two hundred years before such concepts became commonplace” (14) — require two spreads. Stokes’ more fragmented organization, where maps and plates are divided off from the narrative and clustered together at the end of chapters or used as frontispieces for individual sections, does indeed make his six-volume Iconography of Manhattan Island more difficult to use. Nor can it tell the story of New York City’s planning and development with quite the same punch as Cohen and Augustyn achieve with their storyboard survey of New York’s cartographic heritage.

In many ways New York City conceals its past. Even though it is in fact America’s oldest major city, Boston and Philadelphia, which still preserve many of their colonial buildings, feel older. In New York there is almost no physical evidence of the city’s long colonial history from the period 1625–1783. Several conflagrations and the city’s need to build ever taller buildings in order to expand have all but obliterated structures built before 1800. Even less evident on the slender island of Manhattan, now almost entirely covered with pavement and cement, is a sense of the natural world, or indications of what the island was like prior to development.
Yet an avenue to New York’s past does exist, though it is one that is relatively unknown: the history of the city through maps. No other medium provides, at a glance, so many vital clues to reconstructing the past. Some of the oldest maps preserve on paper the virgin landscape of Manhattan with its lakes, streams, and hills. Others follow the evolution of the island over the centuries — from the promising harbor on a sixteenth-century Italian map, to Dutch trading outpost, then to village, city, and finally, metropolis. It is only through maps that we can see this story unfold so graphically.

(Cohen & Augustyn 9)

The Velasco Map plays an important role in the story that Cohen and Augustyn reconstruct for New York City. Their commentary emphasizes this aspect of the map, contextualizing it as an historical record of the communities and landscapes of Manhattan Island prior to modern development.

The authors describe the Velasco Map as “especially precious” because it is

the only surviving, contemporaneous map recording Manhattan and its vicinity as seen by Henry Hudson in 1609.

(Cohen & Augustyn 20)

Their commentary mostly recycles information and interpretations found in Brown and Stokes, minus the scholarly detail these two 19th-century historians favored. In their Preface, Cohen and Augustyn stress the important role of the Dutch West India Company in fostering map production:

The nature of the Dutch settlement on Manhattan — a commercial enterprise managed from overseas by the Dutch West India Company — also fostered map production. The Company demanded maps from leaders of the colony, like Peter Minuit, in order to monitor commercial development. Maps such as the Minuit Chart, the Manatus Map, and the Castello Plan (see pp. 24, 28, and 38) permit us to see what Manhattan’s earliest European settlers discovered.
When the British seized Manhattan in 1664, they surveyed and mapped their prize. The English colonial period, however, produced fewer maps than the Dutch, most likely because New York grew slowly under English rule and was not administered as closely as it had been from Amsterdam. After the French and Indian War (1763), England won clear title to her North American possessions and English cartographic activity increased. Many maps of New York were produced during the American Revolution, making the city at war’s end the most thoroughly mapped urban area in America. This was because Manhattan and its immediate environs were a battleground during the war, and many campaign maps, such as the Faden Campaign Map and the Holland Map (see pp. 78 and 82), were produced. Also, throughout the war, New York was the command center for British forces, and constant fear of attack by American forces prompted the production of numerous maps to aid in the defence of the city.

(Cohen & Augustyn 10–11)

And they reiterate the invisible role of the Dutch East India Company in the production of the Velasco Map, with its “precious cartographic data from Hudson’s voyage” (21). But the authors’ narrow focus on New York causes them to lose sight of the similarly invisible role of the English Virginia Company, not only in the production, but also the styling, of the Velasco Map, with its unusual gridwork, table of placenames, Native American geography, and color-coded display of information.

One thing the authors’ scrutiny of the New York area of the Velasco Map does turn up is the delineation of yet another island that has since gone missing.

Moving north, the mapping becomes less accurate, although the small islands of the Upper Bay (Liberty, Ellis, and Governors) are roughly indicated, along with a fourth, which may have existed at the time.

(Cohen & Augustyn 20)

There are, of course, missing islands around the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario in Alexander Brown’s 1890 reproduction of the Velasco Map, although these island masses show on all three color reproductions of the map (Stokes, 1916; Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, 1971; Cohen & Augustyn, 1997).

But there is similarly an extra island found in the James River, as depicted on the 1608 Chart of Virginia (what I have dubbed the “Zuñiga Chart”), which was among the charts and letters taken to Holland by Captain Henry Hudson in the latter part of 1608.

It will be seen that this chart gives an island in James River, in the bend above the mouth of the Appomattox, which is evidently the “Turkey Island” of the first explorers. There is no island there now.

(Alexander Brown, The Genesis of the United States i:189)

So the cartographic record indicates that islands were among the most dynamic features of the 17th-century American landscape.

Ongoing discussion over the MapHist list continues to raise questions about the mysterious islands of the Velasco Map and its related charts.

Authors’ Commentary on the Velasco Map of 1610/11

(from Paul Cohen & Robert Augustyn,
Manhattan in Maps, 1527–1995, pp. 20–1)

“Hudson Rediscovers Manhattan”

“A Spanish spy in the court of the English monarch James I produced or obtained The Velasco Map, which is the only surviving, contemporaneous map recording Manhattan and its vicinity as seen by Henry Hudson in 1609. The basis of the map was a confidential document prepared for the king in order to provide a comprehensive picture of English possessions in America based on the most current information. Don Alonso de Velasco, the Spanish ambassador to England, acquired or copied the map and sent it off to his own king with a coded letter explaining its contents. The Spanish were naturally concerned about English colonial activities in North Carolina and Virginia, just to the north of their own North American possessions.

“The Velasco Map is especially precious because none of Hudson’s original charts or even copies of them have survived. On his return from the New World, Hudson was captured by the English and his charts confiscated, never to be seen again. However, there is little doubt that this map’s delineation of the New York area and the Hudson River was based on his lost charts. The journal of Hudson’s first mate, Juet, has survived in printed form, and the descriptions there and the details on the map correspond in virtually all particulars.

“On the map, versions of Manhattan’s present name (Manahatin and Manhatta) appear for the first time. While there would be numerous permutations of the word on early maps, these first instances were the closest to its eventual form. Most believe the word to be a contraction of the Indian words for ‘island’ and ‘hills’ or ‘island of the hills,’ which accurately describes Manhattan’s originally rugged, glacially formed topography. The other possibility is that Manhattan was derived from the name of the local Indian tribe.

“Although the New York area does not appear well-detailed on the map, a closer look reveals a great deal about Hudson’s experience there. The generally accurate mapping of the Lower Bay of New York Harbor reflects the seven days spent there by Hudson and his men. He entered the Lower Bay on September 2, 1609, in long-boats, having anchored his main vessel, the Halve Maen, (Half Moon) just off Sandy Hook at the entrance of the harbor. It is clear from the map that Hudson also explored to some extent the two small rivers that enter the Lower Bay, the Raritan and the Arthur Kill, which can be seen on the map.

“Moving north, the mapping becomes less accurate, although the small islands of the Upper Bay (Liberty, Ellis, and Governors) are roughly indicated, along with a fourth, which may have existed at the time. Hudson clearly did not discern that Manhattan was an island, which may seem a surprising oversight by someone noted to have been a careful explorer. However, Manhattan is actually a kind of peninsular island, barely separated from the mainland at its northern end by a very narrow strait. Therefore, Hudson would have had to sail completely around it to ascertain its insularity. Obviously, he bypassed it in some haste. One reason for his hurry must have been the fatal confrontation with Indians in the Lower Bay, which left one of Hudson’s men dead with an arrow through his throat. Hudson did apparently notice both the mouth of the Harlem River at the northern end of Manhattan, which he in fact entered on his return trip, and that of the East River to the south. A close examination of the map reveals two indentations in the approximate locations of the mouths of the two waterways.

“Hudson’s cursory exploration of Manhattan becomes even more understandable in light of the primary purpose of his voyage. Although an Englishman, Hudson was employed (against the wishes of his king) by a Dutch commercial organization, the Dutch East India Company, which monopolized the lucrative spice and silk trade in the East Indies. The profitability of the trade would be increased if a shorter route to the East Indies could be found. The Dutch had been required to sail west around Europe, then around Africa, and fmally across the Indian Ocean to reach the East Indies. Therefore, when Hudson embarked on his voyage from Holland in 1609, his orders were to sail to the northeast over and around Russia and down the Asian mainland in the hope that a shorter route lay in this direction. Shortly into the voyage, his way was blocked by ice, and in defiance of his orders, he turned west and headed for America. His decision was motivated by the same thinking that had impelled most early voyagers to America, including Verrazano: there must be an easy passage somewhere through America leading to the East.

“Looking again at the Velasco Map, one can see why Hudson was drawn to the New York area to find this route to the East. It was in the center of the least-detailed, thus least-explored, stretch of the eastern seaboard below Canada, precisely the area that has been called the ‘lost coast.’ Although this area had been explored by Verrazano to some extent, it had literally faded from the map and European consciousness by the end of the sixteenth century.

“Another factor in Hudson’s decision to sail to the New York area was that his friend Captain John Smith had told Hudson that there was a river leading to the Western, or Pacific, Ocean at around 40 degrees latitude, nearly the exact location of New York Harbor. Therefore, when Hudson entered the harbor and soon after saw the majestic river emptying there, he must have felt that he had indeed found the gateway to the Pacific Ocean. Hudson followed the river to the northern limit of its navigability, just above the present town of Cohoes, at the confluence of the Mohawk River, which can be detected on the map.

“Hudson’s discoveries attracted neither the Dutch nor the English in significant numbers to the New York area in the years immediately following his voyage. From the point of view of the Dutch East India Company, the best that could be said for Hudson’s explorations was that he eliminated two areas where a short cut to the East might be found. The English, on the other hand, as the existence of this map testifies, garnered precious cartographic data from Hudson’s voyage, which illuminated a large, unclaimed territory with a great river and harbor at its center. However, domestic and foreign troubles prevented them from acting upon this advantage. Yet one piece of information brought back by Hudson eventually proved motivating to the Dutch; he reported that there was an abundance of beaver and other fur-bearing animals where he had explored. The pelt of the North American beaver, far superior to the European variety, had long been harvested by the French in Canada. The Dutch, who had been forcibly kept out of Canada by the French, saw the opportunity to acquire a territory of their own in the New York area.

“The Velasco Map was discovered at the General Archives of Simancas, Spain, by Alexander Brown in the 1880s. Brown was a pioneering American historian, primarily of Virginia, who uncovered many previously unknown, primarily historical documents in archives throughout the world.”

» next (Color and/or modern reproductions — V)
» Color and/or modern reproductions I   (in Isaac Stokes, 1916)
» Color and/or modern reproductions II   (in Fite & Freeman, 1926)
» Color and/or modern reproductions III   (in Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, 1971)
» Color and/or modern reproductions V   (in Mark Warhus, 1997)
Related Links

• a GALLERY exhibit on the 1610/11 map of North America, aka the “Velasco Map,” and its first printing by Alexander Brown in 1890 (reproduced as item CLVIII in Brown)

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



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