A bundle of milestones by the colorful English chart maker Robert Dudley: The “first printed chart of New England and the New Netherlands” (Burden), and the first of the region to “indicate the prevailing winds, ocean currents and magnetic variations of the compass,” (Burden). From the “first nautical atlas by an Englishman, and the first nautical atlas with charts on [the] Mercator projection.” (Tooley)
Dudley compiled this chart from numerous sources, though by far the most important “base” map was Willem Blaeu’s Nova Belgica, which served as the source for the coast between Boston Harbor and Delaware Bay. Some place names along the Massachusetts coast (New Plimouth, Boston, C. Anna) are clearly from later states of Smith’s New England, while yet others are based on English manuscript maps. For instance, according to Burden “the R:Carlo [i.e., Delaware River] is found… on a manuscript chart of Nicolas Comberford, 1646, illustrating that Dudley was adding information all the time.” However the real excellence of the chart resides in its use of the navigator-friendly Mercator projection and the inclusion of soundings in and around Massachusetts Bay as well as information about prevailing winds and variation of the compass. As mentioned above, this is the first time such material appears on a printed map of the region.
This sea chart appeared in the 1661 edition of Dudley’s Dell’Arcano del Mare, which followed the first of 1646. Dudley (1573-1649) was the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. By is own account, by age 20 he was a general and explorer with a commission from the Crown, leading an expedition to the West Indies during which he sailed some 250 miles up the Orinoco River. Soon thereafter he had a command in the wildly successful Cadiz expedition of 1596, for which he was knighted. Around 1605 however, Dudley ran into serious trouble while trying to prove his legitimacy. He abandoned his wife and children, left England with lover in tow, converted to Catholicism, and took up residence in Florence. There he entered the service of Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and went on to serve his successors Cosimo II and Ferdinando II. A skilled navigator, mathematician and engineer, he worked as a noted ship designer and shipbuilder and as mentioned earlier published Dell’Arcano del Mare. This was not merely an atlas, but a mammoth six-volume compendium of nautical knowledge. Dudley was a friend of Sir Francis Drake and a relative of Thomas Cavendish, both of whom corresponded with him and likely supplied some of the information for his maps.
Three volumes of Dudley manuscript charts, produced in preparation for the atlas, survive today in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, apparently including a prototype for this chart of New England and the New Netherlands. According to Burden
“Illustrated in Stokes, it is covered in pen strokes illustrating his rejection of it and bears the inscription ‘Questa mezza Carte a Cancellata p(er)che é meglio fatta di nuova’. This new map referred to has never been found. However, we can assume that it bore a closer relation to the final printed version.” (Mapping of North America, p. 355)
Indeed, Dudley seems to have been a conscientious compiler, as the manuscript charts in the Berlin volumes show “evidence of unceasing revision.” (Imago Mundi)
In all a rare and most significant chart of the New Netherlands, offered here in near-excellent condition.
Baynton-Williams, Charting of New England, #4 (MapForum.com, vol. 2). Burden, Mapping of North America, #278 (state 2). McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, #646.1 (state 2). Phillips, Atlases, I:457.100 (state 1). Phillips, Maps of America, p. 559. Extensive biographical information and an assessment of his significance may be found in O.A.W. Dilke and Margaret S. Dilke, “Sir Robert Dudley’s Contribution to Cartography,” in The Map Collector, no. 19 (June 1982), pp. 10-14. A bit more is provided by Father J.F. Schütte, “Japanese cartography at the court of Florence ; Robert Dudley ’s maps of Japan, 1606-1636,” in Imago Mundi, XXIII (1969), pp. 29-58.
Evidence of binding at the left edge, where the sheet is somewhat roughly cut. Small ink manuscript graffito in lower right margin, reading: “161.” Very loose horizontal fold through the middle of the sheet. Three old Japanese tissue mounting points on verso. Overall very good or better.