Vol. 57 No. 4 (2009)
Research Article

The Anglophone Toponyms Associated with John Smith's Description and Map of New England

Published 2009-12-01



This article clarifies a well-known but hitherto unexamined phenomenon: the Anglophone toponyms imposed on Captain John Smith's map, New England ([1617]). It explains names that are otherwise obscure to modern historians and geographers, it considers the pattern of the new toponyms, and it allocates responsibility for the names not only to the future Charles I but also to Smith himself. It also lists the indigenous place and polity names recorded by Smith in his Description of New England (1616). It concludes with a cautionary tale concerning historiographic presumptions about the map's efficacy in shaping the adoption of toponyms by subsequent English colonists.


  1. Aa, Pieter van der. 1707. Nieuw Engeland in Twee Scheeptogten door Kapitein Johan Smith inde laren 1614 en 1615 Bestevend [map], originally published in John Smith, Twee Scheeps-Togten Van Kapiteyn Johan Smith, Beyde gedaan na Nieuw-Engeland. Leiden: Pieter van der Aa. An image is available at http://www.usm.mame.edu/maps/exhibit10/10–12.jpg.
  2. Adams, James Truslow. 1921. The Founding of New England. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
  3. Allen, David Grayson. 1982. “Vacuum Domicilium: The Social and Cultural Landscape of Seventeenth-Century New England.” New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century. Ed. Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent. 3 vols. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1: 1–52.
  4. Andrews, Matthew Page. 1943. The Soul of a Nation: The Founding of Virginia and the Projection of New England. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  5. Armstrong, Catherine. 2007. Writing North America in the Seventeenth Century: English Representations in Print and Manuscript. Aldershot, Hants.: Ashgate.
  6. Baldwin, Robert C.D. 2007. “Colonial Cartography under the Tudor and Early Stuart Monarchies, ca. 1480- ca.1640.” Cartography in the European Renaissance. Ed. David Woodward. 1754–1780. Vol. 3 of The History of Cartography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  7. Belknap, Jeremy. 1794–1798. American Biography: Or, An Historical Account of those Persons who have been Distinguished in America, as Adventurers, Statesmen, Philosophers. 3 vols. Boston.
  8. Benes, Peter. 1981. New England Prospect: A Loan Exhibition of Maps at The Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire. Boston: Boston University for the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife.
  9. Black, Jeannette D. 1978. “Mapping the English Colonies in North America: The Beginnings.” The Compleat Plattmaker: Essays on Chart, Map, and Globe Making in England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Ed. Norman J. W. Thrower. Berkeley: University of California Press, 101–125.
  10. Bradford, William. 1952. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647. Ed. Samuel Eliot Morison. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  11. Brereton, John. 1602. A Briefe and true Relation of the Discouerie of the North part of Virginia; being a most pleasant, fruitfull and commodious soile; Made this present yeere 1602, by Captaine Bartholomew Gosnold. London: George Bishop. Reprinted in Quinn and Quinn (1983: 142–203).
  12. Brod, Raymond M. 1995. “The Art of Persuasion: John Smith’s New England and Virginia Maps.” Historical Geography 24.1/2: 91–106.
  13. Brown, Alexander. 1890. The Genesis of the United States: A Narrative of the Movement in England, 1605–1616. 2 vols. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.
  14. Canup, John. 1989. “Cotton Mather and Criolian-Degeneracy.” Early American Literature 24.1: 20–34.
  15. Chatterton, E. Keble. 1927. Captain John Smith. New York: Harper & Brothers.
  16. Clark, Charles E. 1970. The Eastern Frontier: The Settlement of Northern New England, 1610–1763. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England.
  17. Conforti, Joseph A. 2001. Imagining New England: Explorations of Regional Identity from the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  18. Corbett, Margery, and Ronald Lightbown. 1979. The Comely Frontispiece: The Emblematic Title-Page in England, 1550–1660. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  19. Cowen, Samuel. 1904. The Ancient Capital of Scotland: The Story of Perth from the Invasion of Agricola to the Passing of the Reform Bill. 2 vols. New York: James Pott & Co.
  20. Cronon, William. 1983. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New York: Hill & Wang.
  21. Cumming, William P. 1980. “The Colonial Charting of the Massachusetts Coast.” Seafaring in Colonial Massachusetts: A Conference Held by The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, November 21 and 22, 1975. Ed. Philip Chadwick Foster Smith. Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 67–118.
  22. Cumming, William P., R.A. Skelton, and David B. Quinn. 1972. The Discovery of North America. New York: American Heritage Press.
  23. Danforth, Susan. 1988. The Land of Norumbega: Maine in the Age of Exploration and Settlement. Portland, Me.: Maine Humanities Council.
  24. De Costa, Benjamin F. [1886]. “Norumbega and its English Explorers.” Narrative and Critical History of America. Ed. Justin Winsor. 8 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 3: 169–184.
  25. Deetz, James, and Patricia Scott Deetz. 2000. The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony. New York: W. H. Freeman.
  26. Drake, Samuel Adams. 1875. Nooks and Corners of the New England Coast. New York: Harper & Brothers.
  27. Edney, Matthew H. 2010. “Simon de Passe’s Cartographic Portrait of Captain John Smith and a New England (1617).” Word & Image 26: forthcoming.
  28. Emerson, Everett H. 1993. Captain John Smith. rev. ed. New York: Twayne Publishers.
  29. Fiske, John. 1899. The Beginnings of New England, or, The Puritan Theocracy in its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  30. Fite, Emerson D., and Archibald Freeman. 1926. A Book of Old Maps Delineating American History from the Earliest Days Down to the Close of the Revolutionary War. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  31. Gerson, Noel Bertram. 1978. The Glorious Scoundrel: A Biography of Captain John Smith. New York: Dodd, Mead.
  32. Gray, W. Forbes. 1948. “The Bass Rock in History.” Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society 5: 51–68.
  33. Harley, J.B. 1994. “New England Cartography and the Native Americans.” American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega. Ed. Emerson W. Baker, Edwin A. Churchill, Richard D‘Abate, Kristine L. Jones, Victor A. Konrad, and Harald E.L. Prins. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 287–313. Reprinted in Harley, The New Nature of Maps. Ed. Paul Laxton. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001),169–195.
  34. Hoobler, Dorothy, and Thomas Hoobler. 2006. Captain John Smith: Jamestown and the Birth of the American Dream. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.
  35. Irvine, Christopher. 1682. Historiae Scotiae Nomenclatura Latino-Vernacula. Edinburgh.
  36. Klemp, Egon. 1976. America in Maps Dating from 1500 to 1856. Trans. Margaret and Jeffrey C. Stone. New York and London: Holmes & Meier.
  37. Krieger, Alex, David Cobb, and Amy Turner, eds. 1999. Mapping Boston. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press for the Muriel G. and Norman B. Leventhal Family Foundation.
  38. Krim, Arthur J. 1982. “Acculturation of the New England Landscape: Native and English Toponymy of Eastern Massachusetts.” New England Prospect: Maps, Place Names, and the Historical Landscape. Ed. Peter Benes and Jane M. Benes. Boston: Boston University, 69–88.
  39. Lemay, J.A. Leo. 1991. The American Dream of Captain John Smith. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
  40. Lenney, Christopher J. 2003. Sightseeking: Clues to the Landscape History of New England. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England.
  41. Lenox, James, and Charles Deane. 1854. “Curiosities of ‘American’ Literature.” Norton’s Literary Gazette 1(6, 9, 11, 13, and 15): 134–135, 218–219, 272–273, 328, 384–386.
  42. Levermore, Charles Herbert, ed. 1912. Forerunners and Competitors of the Pilgrims and Puritans ... with Especial Reference to the Labors of Captain John Smith in Behalf of the Settlement of New England. 2 vols. New York: New England Society of Brooklyn.
  43. M’Crie, Thomas. 1847. “Civil and Ecclesiastic History of the Bass.” In Thomas M’Crie, Hugh Miller, James Anderson, Professor Fleming, and Professor Balfour, The Bass Rock. Edinburgh: John Greig & Son, 1–46.
  44. McCorkle, Barbara B. 1999. “The Mapping of New England before 1800.” Mapping Boston. Ed. Alex Krieger, David Cobb, and Amy Turner. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press for the Muriel G. and Norman B. Leventhal Family Foundation,22–35.
  45. McCorkle, Barbara B., George A. Miles, and Christa Sammons. 1985. America Emergent: An Exhibition of Maps and Atlases in Honor of Alexander O. Vietor. New Haven, Conn.: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library,Yale University.
  46. McManis, Douglas R. 1972. European Impressions of the New England Coast, 1497–1620. University of Chicago, Department of Geography Research Paper, 139. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  47. Morison, Samuel Eliot. 1930. Builders of the Bay Colony. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  48. Morison, Samuel Eliot. 1932. “The Course of the Arbella from Cape Sable to Salem.” Transactions [of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts], 1927–1930. Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 285–306.
  49. Morton, Nathaniel. 1669. New-Englands Memoriall: or, A Brief Relation of the Most Memorable and Remarkable Passages of the Providence of God, Manifested to the Planters of New-England in America; with Special Reference to the First Colony Thereof, Called New-Plimouth. Cambridge, Mass.: by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson for John Usher of Boston.
  50. Neal, Daniel. 1720. The History of New-England Containing an Impartial Account of the Civil and Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Country to the Year of our Lord, 1700. 2 vols. London: J. Clarke, R. Ford,and R. Cruttenden.
  51. Oldmixon, John. 1741. The British Empire in America, Containing the History of the Discovery, Settlement, Progress and State of the British Colonies on the Continent and lslands of America. 2nd ed. 2 vols. London: J. Brotherton,et al.
  52. Pritchard, Margaret Beck. 2002. “A Selection of Maps from the Colonial Williamsburg Collection.” In Margaret Beck Pritchard and Henry G. Taliaferro, Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America. New York: Henry N. Abrams, Inc., for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 54–311.
  53. Quinn, David B. 1994. “The Early Cartography of Maine in the Setting of Early European Exploration of New England and the Maritimes.” American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and Cartography in the Land of Norumbega. Ed. Emerson W. Baker, et al. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 37–59.
  54. Quinn, David B., and Alison M. Quinn, eds. 1983. The English New England Voyages, 1602–1608. Haklyut Society, second series, 161. London: Haklyut Society.
  55. Reid, John J. 1885. “Early Notices of the Bass Rock and its Owners.” Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 20: 54–71.
  56. Rutman, Darrett B. 1960. “The Pilgrims and Their Harbor.” William & Mary Quarterly 3s 17.2: 164–182.
  57. Schwartz, Seymour I., and Ralph E. Ehrenberg. 1980. The Mapping of America. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
  58. Simms, William Gilmore. 1846. The Life of Captain John Smith: The Founder of Virginia. Boston: Sanborn, Carter, Bazin & Co.
  59. Smith, Bradford. 1953. Captain John Smith: His Life & Legend. Philadelphia: J.i B. Lippincott.
  60. Smith, John. 1612. A Map of Virginia. With a Description of the Countrey, The Commodities, People, Government and Religion. Oxford: Joseph Barnes. Reprinted in Smith (1986: 1:119–190).
  61. Smith, John. 1616. A Description of New England: Or The Observations, and discoueries, of Captain lohn Smith (Admirall of that Country) in the North of America, in the year of our Lord 1614. London: Humphrey Lownes for Robert Clerke. Reprinted in Smith (1986: 1:291–370).
  62. Smith, John. 1624. The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: with the Names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their First Beginning An: 1584. to this Present 1624. London: Michael Sparkes. Reprinted in Smith (1986: 2:3–488).
  63. Smith, John. 1630. The True Travels, Adventures, and Observations of Captain lohn Smith, In Europe, Asia, Affrica, and America, from Anno Domini 1593 to 1629. London: Thomas Slater. Reprinted in Smith (1986: 3:123–251).
  64. Smith, John. 1631. Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England, or Any Where. Or, the Path-Way to Experience to Erect a Plantation. London: Robert Milbourne. Reprinted in Smith (1986: 3:253–307).
  65. Smith, John. 1986. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580–1631) in Three Volumes. Ed. Philip L. Barbour. 3 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for The Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg.
  66. Smith, John. 2006. A Description of New England (1616): An Online Electronic Text Edition. Ed. Paul Royster. Electronic Texts in American Studies: Lincoln: Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/4/.
  67. Stewart, George R. 1945. Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House.
  68. Streeter, Thomas Winthrop. 1966–1970. The Celebrated Collection of Americana Formed by the Late Thomas Winthrop Streeter, Morristown, New Jersey; Sold by Order of the Trustees. 8 vols. New York: Parke-Bernet Galleries.
  69. Suárez, Thomas. 1992. Shedding the Veil: Mapping the European Discovery of America and the World. Singapore: World Scientific.
  70. Thornton, John Wingate. 1854. The Landing at Cape Anne; or, The Charter of the First Permanent Colony on the Territory of the Massachusetts Company, Now Discovered and First Published from the Original Manuscript. Boston: Gould and Lincoln.
  71. Vaughan, Alden T. 1975. American Genesis: Captain John Smith and the Founding of Virginia. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.
  72. Watts, Victor, ed. 2004. The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, Based on the Collections of the English Place-Name Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  73. Winsor, Justin. 1880. “The Earliest Maps of Massachusetts Bay and Boston Harbor.” The Memorial History of Boston, Including Suffolk County, Massachusetts, 1660–1880. Ed. Justin Winsor. 4 vols. Boston: James R. Osgood,1:37–62.