WHITE, John (1540 - 1593). Americae Pars, Nunc Virginia Dicta. Frankfurt: 1590.
Single sheet (12 3/4 x 17 1/2 inches visible; 28 1/2 x 24 1/4 inches framed)
"ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CARTOGRAPHICAL MILESTONES IN COLONIAL NORTH AMERICA HISTORY. It was the most accurate map drawn in the sixteenth century of any part of that continent" (Burden).
This excellent historically important map depicts the area from Chesapeake Bay to Cape Lookout. John White's manuscript of Virginia, engraved by De Bry for his Anglorum in Virginiam aduentus, is one of the most significant cartographic milestones in colonial North American history.
The map is beautifully decorated, from an elegant title cartouche and the Royal English coat of arms. The inclusion of sea life and Indians, in addition to standard geographical features, is common to both the White and de Bry maps, and comes out of the medieval tradition in which maps were a kind of visual record that recorded the inhabitants as well as the flora and fauna of a region.
The map bares the first printing of the name Chesapeake Bay ("Chesepiooc Sinus").
The map includes the names and locations of Indian settlements and was oriented so that west was at the top of the compass rose as opposed to north. This was done in order to show how the land would appear to people approaching Virginia from western Europe.
English attempts to colonize the east coast of North America began with Walter Raleigh's dispatch of Captains Philip Amadas and Arthy Barlow in 1584. The party selected Roanoake Island and returned to England.
The map is based on watercolors and maps by John White, a settler who was part of the failed Roanoke Colony. His granddaughter Virginia Dare was the first child born in the New World to English parents. Dare, her parents, and several other settlers were left behind at the Roanoke Colony while White traveled back to England soon after she was born. White had intended to return swiftly but was forced to remain in England for the next few years because of England's war with Spain.
When he returned to the colony in 1590, however, White discovered that everyone in the Roanoke Colony had disappeared. He found nothing to suggest that the colonists had been the victims of violence and the only evidence of their intended destination was the word "Croatoan," which was carved into a wooden post. The fate of the colonists has never been concretely determined and it is commonly believed that the colonists sought shelter with a nearby American Indian tribe.
The importance of White's map is certainly its historical significance; however, the connection of the mystery of the Roanoke Colony, makes this map even more alluring.