- Museum number
La Virgenia Pars; map of the E coast of N America from Chesapeake bay to the Florida Keys, with arms of Sir Walter Raleigh, English vessels, dolphins, fish, whales and sea-monsters
Pen and brown ink over graphite, with watercolour, heightened with white (altered) and gold
- Production date
Height: 370 millimetres
Width: 472 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For an introduction to this group of drawings and a list of abbreviations used in the Lit. at the end, see curatorial comment for 1906,0509.1.1, the title page inscription to the album.
The following text is taken from K. Sloan, 'A New World: England's First View of America' (London, BM Publications, 2006), no. 2, pp. 96-7:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]:
Unfortunately this map was folded in half in the original album and the water damage has left confusing shadowy offsets. Nevertheless, in addition to being an important cartographic record, this map acts as a decorative frontispiece to the 1585 voyage Raleigh sent to Virginia, led by his ‘General’ Richard Grenville in his ship the Tyger and recorded in the drawings by John White that follow. The arms of Sir Walter Raleigh are firmly planted in ‘La Virgenia Pars’ which occupies what is now the entire area of North and South Carolina. White was able to provide the detailed map of Florida and the French names for its settlements on the east and west coasts (the latter trimmed) through information presumably gained from Jacques Le Moyne who had been in Fort Caroline in 1565 (marked ‘Carline’ just below a red dot half-way down the coast). He depicts Grenville’s Tyger arriving from its swift crossing of the Atlantic (departed Plymouth 19 April, sighting Dominica 7 May) in the lower right just above a spouting whale, and adds dolphins, dorados and flying fish next to the greatly enlarged Bahamas they passed through (the island inscribed ‘Cigateo’ is now Great Abaco). The ship is then shown sailing northwards along the Florida coast and south-east of Cape St Helen. They ‘were in great danger of a Wracke on a breache called the Cape of Feare’ (Quinn, p. 118, indicates that this might be the same cape today or Cape Lookout, seen here with a shadowy offset of a ship below), before anchoring off the Outer Banks at Wococon. Here on 29 June, the ship weighed anchor to enter the harbour but struck the banks repeatedly and was badly damaged along with many of the supplies and provisions. The Tyger is shown with its sails furled off Wococon, which is distinguished by being the one white island between two long red ones. The ship is shown again at anchor further up the banks off Port Fernando, the passage through the Outer Banks that the pinnaces and smaller boats used to reach Roanoke and the inner coastal waters. Finally, the Tyger is shown sailing back across the Atlantic to England, just below a large whale in the upper right. The tip of Noram[bega], as New England was then called, is just visible in the north-east corner.
For mapping of the type produced by John White, Elizabethans worked in measured drawn plans – the best known examples are Christopher Saxton’s maps or ‘cardes’ of English counties of the 1570s, with standard symbols for features of the landscape. This is particularly clear in White’s more detailed map of Virginia (no. 6) and in de Bry’s engravings (fig. 6). White’s maps also show his debt to medieval world mapping as produced by cosmographers, where depictions of the inhabitants, flora and fauna were a proper part of the map which was regarded as a visual encyclopaedia (see Descelier’s map of this type, fig. 6). In his Book Named The Governour, Elyot noted apropos of such maps ‘the pleasure . . . in one hour to behold those realms . . . that . . . in an old man’s life cannot be journeyed and pursued; what an incredible delight is taken in beholding the diversities of people, beasts, fowls, fishes, trees, fruits and herbs’ (cited in Barber). White's inclusion of real rather than imagined monsters places him firmly in this tradition.
White appears to have had access to a number of earlier maps such as Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum, particularly Le Moyne’s of the Florida coastline, and he has incorporated information from them here along with the results of his and Harriot’s own surveying. But the distortions and erroneous latitudes (Roanoke is at about 36º and from here northwards the map is particularly distorted) are probably not the result of faulty map making. It is more likely that Virginia has been enlarged to flatter White’s patrons, or that they have been intentionally misrepresented on this display map for reasons of security – particularly if the Chesapeake was their next intended destination. Spanish spies were everywhere at court and maps were the greatest treasures on board any captured English ship. This may be why this particular map was not included in the series of drawings given to de Bry for publication in 1588. Its discoveries were eventually recorded by Emery Molyneux at the behest of William Sanderson around 1590 and put on Molyneux’s famous globe engraved by Hondius in 1592 which belonged to the Earl of Northumberland and is now at Petworth. Sanderson may have presented the one surviving updated 1603 version, with its partner, a celestial globe, to Middle Temple where this magnificent pair now resides in the library.
Lit.: LB 1(1); Quinn, pp. 460–1; ECM 59; PH&DBQ 110, pp. 55–6; PH 59; for White’s maps see Cumming, pp. 53–4, and Quinn, pp. 841–50; see also Baldwin, pp. 17–25 and Barber, p. 31
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1934 BM, Exhibition of English Art, no.398
1964 BM, P&D, 'The Virginia of Sir Walter Raleigh and John White'
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.87
1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 87
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 87
1976/7 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gall, 2000 Years NAmerican Indian Art
1984 May 1-Dec 31, London, BL, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.61
1985 Mar-Jun, Raleigh, NC Mus of Hist, Raleigh/Roanoke, no.54 (facsimile)
1985 Jun-Aug, New York Public Library, Raleigh & Roanoke , no.54 (ditto)
1991 Jan-Mar, Ohio, Cleveland Mus of Art, 'Nature into art', no.2
1991 Mar-Jun, North Carolina Mus of Art, 'Nature into art', no.2
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:..', no. 2
2007/8 Oct-Jan, Raleigh, North Carolina Mus of History, 'A New World:...'
2008 Mar-Jun, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, 'A New World:...'
2008 Jul-Oct, Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, 'A New World:...'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The provenance given above refers to the moment when the album of drawings connected with John White was purchased by the Department of Manuscripts in what is now the British Library. The album was transferred to the Department of Prints and Drawings in 1906, where it was assigned new register numbers.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number