New book from the University of Virginia Press chronicles and catalogs the Commonwealth’s fascinating cartographical heritage
For early European settlers, Virginia’s fall lines marked the end of the easily navigable tidal rivers and thus the beginning of the first frontier. To the west of presentday Fredericksburg (on the Rappahannock), Alexandria (on the Potomac), and Richmond (on the James) was unknown and inaccessible territory. The land drained upstream of the fall lines was the Piedmont.
Manakintown (the James watershed) and Germanna (the Rappahannock) were the first two significant communities to be established (in the very early 1770s) in the Piedmont. Prior to that, only traders, adventurers, and explorers had penetrated beyond the fall lines.
Around 1714, these two settlements first appear on a printed map – from an atlas produced by the prolific mapmaker J. B. Homann in Nuremberg, Germany. “The firm favored a current-events ‘hook’ in deciding on the subject of new maps,” according to the recently published book Mapping Virginia, which suggests that the two new Protestant settlements in the Piedmont were the occasion for this 1714 map (reproduced here).
Published by the University Press of Virginia, William C. Wooldridge’s Mapping Virginia: From the Age of Exploration to the Civil War is written for the general reader as well as the map connoisseur. The book’s chronological presentation of virtually all maps ever made of the Commonwealth “demonstrates the remarkable process by which Virginia gradually magically revealed its form to the collective mind.” Regarding this Homann map, the author calls attention to the elaborate cartouche: “At the top a smiling, regal planter with a strongbox and other trappings of wealth sits beside a stone obelisk inscribed with a British coat of arms. The composition descends through exotically attired traders to primitive but apparently docile Indians and a surly reptilian creature at the bottom….”
The lavishly illustrated 376-page, hardbound book, in coffee-table format and quality, retails for $94.95 and can be ordered through your local bookstore or online. For more information, visit www.upress.virginia.edu