How did early maps of Virginia portray the colony?
Published in 1618, Nova Virginia Tabula, a derivative of John Smith's map in 1612, depicted Virginia as an economically-appealing paradise. Use it to explore the reasons why many Europeans made the decision to immigrate to the area.
Following the publication in 1612 of John Smith's map of Virginia, its popularity spread quickly, prompting many additional publications and copies. The Nova Virginia Tabula was the first derivative, printed in Amsterdam in 1618 by Jodocus Hondius, and later by Arnoldus Montanus and John Ogilby in 1671. Although the Nova Virginia Tabula is a close replica of the original John Smith map, there are some important and striking differences. Where John Smith projected Virginia as being lush and green by his depictions of trees, the Nova Virginia Tabula gives the impression that Virginia is stark and mountainous. Hondius kept the West orientation, but altered the images on the map. Instead of the figures of Powhatan and the Susquehanna chief, the Nova Virginia Tabula illustrates two Indians of Brazilian descent looking at a llama, a goat, and a unicorn. These images were used to support the claim that Virginia was located in the Indies, and therefore economically appealing for cash crops like sugarcane and citrus fruits.
• Engraving—to carve or cut an image into a block or surface used for printing.
• Cartouche—decorative inscription or image on a map.
• Derivative—something that is copied from a previous source.
• Commission—to authorize a task to be completed.
• DOCUMENT ANALYSIS:
♦ Give each student a copy of Nova Virginia Tabula and have the students identify geographic symbols, map orientation, compass rose, and longitude and latitude marks. Have students find the approximate location of their city or town on the map. What name do you see near your current town's location? According to the map what group of people lived in your town's location? Do descendants of this particular group live in your area today? If so why or why not?
♦ Have students describe map imagery. What do the pictures represent? Who was the audience for this map and why was it made? Knowing this information, why were these images chosen?
♦ From looking at the map, what are the natural resources available in Virginia? What does this perhaps say about the natural resources that are available in England? Is this an accurate description of Virginia resources that were available in the 17th century? What natural resources are available today, and are they the same or different from what is depicted on the map? From looking at the resources that are available on the map, why do you think Jamestown was chosen as the location for the settlement? (Students should refer to the 1606 Charter as a reference.)
♦ Have students speculate on the definition of the following words: Mare Virginicum, Finitima, Notarum Explicatio, Nova Virginiae Tabula. Is the map really new as the title suggests?
♦ Have students locate the following places on the map: Cape Henry, Point Comfort, Jamestown, Chesapeake Bay, James River, York River, and Werowocomoco. What is the significance of these locations?
♦ Have your students imagine they are British subjects living on the mainland. They are looking for a new life and better opportunities. Based on the information on this map, would you choose to make the voyage and settle in Virginia? Keep in mind you do not know what dangers you may encounter and whether you will meet friendly or unfriendly people. Will you be able to adapt to the climate? Will you be able to survive? Will you find the riches you are looking seeking? Is this map a trustworthy source? Should you believe all it says? Will you find mountains, trees, rivers, llamas, goats, and citrus fruits?
• COMPARE AND CONTRAST:
♦ Give students a copy of the John Smith map to compare with Nova Virginia Tabula. How are these two maps the same and how are they different? What does it mean to be a derivative? Why was the imagery changed? Of the two maps, which does a better job of selling the product? As a British subject, which map would convince you to settle in Virginia and why?
♦ You are a member of the Virginia Company and you want to encourage investment in the colony. Your job is to create a map derivative of Nova Virginia Tabula. In your map you must include Virginia natural resources, longitude and latitude marks, a scale, a map key, a title for the map, and a reference to the native people, as well as illustrations and images. Your map will be part of a marketing campaign in order to encourage the sale of stocks, and therefore maps should be visually appealing.
• CREATIVE WRITING:
♦ Have students write a short description of Virginia that would go on the reverse of the Nova Virginia Tabula. Students should define their audience, include at least five reasons to invest or settle in Virginia, as well as choose descriptive words that would encourage Virginia settlement. Have students present their advertisements orally.
Research and Discussion Questions:
♦ Have students research the Indian population in Virginia from 1607 to the present day. How has the Indian population changed? What caused this change?
♦ Have students research current Indian tribe locations. How are these locations the same and how are they different from what is observed on the Nova Virginia Tabula?
♦ When looking at land formations and the location of water ways, and mountainous regions, how accurate is the Nova Virginia Tabula based on the John Smith map, based on modern day maps? Is the map more concerned with accuracy or appealing to the senses?
Stephenson, Richard W., and Marianne M. McKee. eds. Virginia in Maps: Four Centuries of Settlement, Growth, and Development. Library of Virginia, 2000.