- Museum number
Indians fishing; variety of aquatic life in water, birds flying overhead, in foreground canoe carrying four figures and fish, beyond two figures spear fishing and stretch of water fenced off, in distance another boat
Watercolour over graphite, touched with bodycolour and gold
- Production date
Height: 352 millimetres
Width: 235 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For an introduction to this group of drawings by John White 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. 6, pp. 108-9:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]:
The people of Secotan and Pomeiooc were surrounded by a wealth of natural provisions in the land and the sea but it is doubtful that the sea ever proved quite as easy to harvest and as plentiful as John White depicts here or the even more bounteous scene in de Bry’s engraving intended to encourage English colonists. But from February to May the North Carolina Algonquians were dependent upon it and upon hunting, as their corn was planted then and not ready for harvest until later in the summer. Each village probably contained one to two hundred souls to feed, so the inhabitants had to be industrious and the food was probably never really plentiful enough in the immediate area to support a further one hundred hungry Englishmen with whom they were asked to share.
Various methods of fishing are shown here and described by Harriot in the text, including night fishing with a fire to attract the fish to the boat, spears barbed with fish bones or king crab tails, nets (which Harriot does not describe) and weirs or traps, which Harriot describes as of a more complicated form than the simple square seen here. In fact, Ralph Lane’s account stated that the English were later dependent upon the weirs the Indians built for them for food and, when relations soured, Indians came at night and destroyed them and the English were not able to repair them.
The varieties of fish depicted here include a catfish (far left), a burrfish (in front of the trap), a skate in the trap, hammerhead shark, sturgeon and king crab, and in the engraving a gar, loggerhead turtle and land crab. Some of these extra fish in the engraving may have been in lost drawings by White; others may have been in drawings de Bry owned by other artists, such as Le Moyne, of other parts of America. White himself added hermit crabs to the foreground for artistic effect, forgetting that he had seen them in the West Indies but not here. He correctly depicts a brown pelican, swans, geese and ducks in the sky above and more canoes and wading fishermen in the distance. The dug-out canoe is of the type shown being made in another engraving by de Bry (fig. 61), which depicts a method in use in this area for thousands of years. A group of thirty of these canoes was recently discovered in the mud of Lake Phelps (in what is now Pettigrew State Park, north of Lake Mattamuskeet) where they had been stored over the winters between 2400 BC and AD 1400. They were made by splitting a cypress log, then burning and scraping out the interior with shells, a lengthy and laborious process. Some were over 35 feet long. There is no original drawing of this canoe-making scene by White and there may not have been one: Harriot’s description is so clear it would have been straightforward for de Bry to create this composition from the images he had to hand.
Engraved for de Bry in America Pt I :Virginia, 1590, pl.13 and see also pl. XII (making a canoe)
Lit.: LB 1(5); Quinn, pp. 432–5; ECM 43; PH&DBQ 46(a); PH 43; for Lane’s account see Quinn, pp. 282–3
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1949-50 BM, English topographical and landscape drawing, no.14
1952 Jul-Sep, BM, KL, Raleigh Hakluyt Quatercentenary Exh no.112
1958 Apr, BM, Eight centuries of landscape ... water-colours, case 38
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.58
1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no.58
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no.58
1977 Oct-Nov, Louville, KT, J.B.Speed Museum, British watercolours, no.1
1984 May 1- Dec 31, BL, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.71
1985 Mar-Jun, Raleigh, NC Mus of History, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 74
1985 Jun-Aug, New York, Public Library, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 74
1991 Jan-Mar, Ohio, Cleveland Mus of Art, 'Nature into art', no.3
1991 Mar-Jun, Raleigh, North Carolina Mus of Art, 'Nature into art', no.3
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.7
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