Richard Blome’s landmark map of the Middle and New England Colonies

Ric[hard] Blome, A Draught of the Sea Coast and Rivers of Virginia, Maryland, and New England.  Taken from the latest Surveys. London, [1672/1678].
Engraving, 8”h x 9 ¾”w at neat line plus margins, uncolored. Minor soiling, folds flattened, a few minor mends and a tiny area of restoration along one fold, all but invisible. Margins trimmed close, as usual. The label “iersey” added in ink in an early hand.

Richard Blome’s scarce, significant and rather charming map of the northern English colonies, and something of a landmark in the English cartography of its emerging empire in North America.

This is one of four maps illustrating Richard Blome’s A Description of the Island of Jamaica; with the other Isles and Territories in America, to which the English are related, first published in 1672[1] and reissued in 1678. The Description focuses primarily on Jamaica but also includes a long section on the northern and mid-Atlantic colonies accompanied by this map.

Burden does a nice job of putting the map in context and describing its salient features:

“It is the first English map to illustrate the middle and north-eastern colonies. It is important as it delineates the region just prior to the great expansion of cartographic knowledge which would commence with the Augustine Hermann VIRGINIA/AND/ MARYLAND map in 1673[74] and the John Seller map of New England in 1676.  Indeed, the second state of the map reflects the boundary given on the former. Cartographically it is difficult to identify any specific source. One of the more notable aspects of the map is its curious depiction of the St. Lawrence River waterway.  At first glance The Lake of the Herekoys is one of the Great Lakes. It actually represents Lake Champlain, and can be derived from the map of Joseph Moxon published in 1664.  Chesapeake Bay is depicted running northerly without the usual English depiction of a ‘hook’ at its head. This is similar to that displayed in Blome’s folio map of North America completed in 1668. An inset of Newfoundland reflects the Lord Baltimore’s interests in the Avalon Peninsula [of Newfoundland], as stated in the dedication to him on the map.” (Burden, North America II, p. 14)

Offered here is the second state of the map, from the 1678 second edition of Blome’s Description. The Maryland border at the 40th parallel has been burnished out and moved several miles further north, as have several of the numerals indicating latitude, the Susquehanna has been extended to the north, and the James River moved further south. All these changes were made rather crudely, and traces of the original features are readily visible.

As noted earlier, Burden suggests that the re-engraving of the 40th parallel “reflects” the depiction of Maryland’s boundary on the Augustine Hermann map of 1673, though he later grants that “closer examination shows that short of physically illustrating a larger territory for Maryland no greater accuracy was achieved.” Perhaps the shift was intended to curry favor with Lord Baltimore, the map’s dedicatee, whose arms are featured prominently on the map at upper left, as it increased his holdings in Maryland by tens of thousands of acres. Whatever the intent, the fluidity of this boundary prefigures the decades-long Calvert-Penn dispute, which was not fully resolved until the running of the Mason-Dixon line in the 1760s.

Both states of the map are rare on the market, with Antique Map Price Record listing but two examples offered in the past 30 years, the most recent in 1997. In 2012 this firm handled a complete example of the 1672 edition of Blome’s Description, which included an example of the first state.

Richard Blome (1625-1705) was one of a group of ambitious map publishers to emerge after the Restoration in 1660, and in 1669 was granted a royal privilege for printing geographical texts. Unfortunately, he lacked capital and so pioneered subscription publication in England, thus raising funds to subsidise his publications. Blome is best known for a world atlas, A Geographical Description of the Four Parts of the World (1670) and the Britannia, a county atlas issued in 1673. The Description of the Island of Jamaica is the rarest and arguably the most important of his (completed) geographical works, coming as it did in a formative period for the English Empire in North America.

Baynton-Williams, “Printed Maps of New England to 1780: Part III,” item #1672b, in no. 14. Burden #419. McCorkle #674.1. Papenfuse & Coale, Atlas of Historical Maps of Maryland, p. 25 and fig. 21.

[1] Announced in the Term Catalogues for Hilary Term 1672, licensed February 7th.


Old folds and tight side margins, with lower right margin trimmed to neatline (probably as issued). Short tear at point of binding mended on verso. In short, a very good example, all of whose flaws are entirely expected.