- Museum number
The town of Secoton; bird's-eye view of town with houses, lake at the top, fire, fields and ceremony
Watercolour over graphite, heightened with white (altered)
- Production date
Height: 324 millimetres
Width: 199 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. 8, pp. 110-11:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]:
The two towns recorded by White, Secotan and Pomeiooc, represent the two main types found in the area – palisaded (similar to a type found in Florida to the south) and open, as represented here. They contained a few dozen houses at most around a central open space with no rigid plan. The towns were sited near the coast or inland waterways for fishing and transportation. Soil near water was also richer and thus better for growing corn; but rainfall in the summer in this area is not reliable enough to guarantee several harvests every year (and the time of White’s visits has been documented as a time of drought), and the people also hunted and gathered wild herbs and plants, carefully recorded for their medicinal, food and commercial properties by Harriot. They did not occupy their towns all year round or always return to the same site. Corn cultivation was relatively new to the inhabitants (introduced around AD 900) but they had developed a way of growing it in mounds surrounded by beans which gave nitrogen to the soil and increased the yield – far greater than the European method of ploughing and planting alone in rows. Maize was used in a variety of ways and provided a good proportion of their food (see no. 00).
The houses were made of bark or reed mats, which could be lifted for ventilation. The roofs were rounded for greater stability and the various shapes of the buildings seen here are probably indicative of different functions, with closed structures for storage and ceremonial purposes and open-sided houses for living spaces, especially in the summer. They were mainly for sleeping and storage, with a central hearth used for cooking and smoking fish. There were sheds providing shelter from sun or rain for drying frames and for carrying out group work, although none is visible in White’s views.
White took most care here in depicting the activities of the people in the town: guarding the corn, which he indicates was sown in three stages (so it was ready for harvest from late July until September); ‘sitting at meate’; their place ‘of solemne prayer’; the ‘Tombe of their Herounds’; and the ‘Ceremony in their prayers’ around posts carved with faces, while others rest on the sides. Some detail was lost through water damage to the drawing, but Harriot’s accompanying written account has led de Bry to add further details including a hunting scene and plots of tobacco, sunflowers and pumpkins, and he has tidied up the scene considerably to make neat pathways and gardens rivalling those of an English country house.
Engraved by Theodor de Bry in `America’, 1590, Pt. 1, pl. XX.
Lit.: LB 1(6); Quinn, pp. 420–23; ECM 36; PH&DBQ 38(a); PH 36; Kupperman 1980, pp. 45–6; Rountree & Turner, pp. 14–22
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1949-50 BM, English topographical and landscape drawing, no.12
1952 Ju-Sep, BM, King's Lib, Raleigh/Hakluyt Quatercentenary, no.113
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.43
1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 43
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 43
1984 May 1-Dec 31, BL, Raleigh & Roanoke, no.64
1985 Mar-Jun, Raleigh, NC Mus of History, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 61
1985 Jun-Aug, New York, Public Library, Raleigh & Roanoke, no. 61
2003 May-Sep, London, National Maritime Museum, 'Elizabeth 1'
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.8
2007/8 Oct-Jan, Raleigh, North Caroline 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:...'
- Associated titles
Associated Title: America
- 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