While some scholars believe it's possible that Hariot joined that 1584 expedition, he certainly was along when Sir Richard Grenville and 600 or so colonists arrived at Roanoke on June 26, 1585. Hariot and the expedition artist John White explored and mapped the area around Roanoke, carrying out Raleigh's request that they present him with both textual and visual depictions of the settlement and its surroundings. During the winter of 1585–1586, Hariot or White (or both) accompanied a group of English colonists north to the Chesapeake Bay, where they encountered the Virginia Indians of Tsenacomoco.
Although Raleigh was principally interested in the types of commodities, particularly
potentially valuable ones, available in the Virginia colony, he also charged Hariot
and White with representing the exotic local flora and fauna, as well as the
appearance, character, and practices of the Indians they met. Hariot's writings, in
partnership with White's delicate but vivid watercolor paintings, depict numerous
aspects of the Indians' lives and culture, including their bodies and clothing; their
diets; the layouts of their homes and towns; their religious practices; their methods of agriculture, fishing, hunting, and boat-building; and the way in
which they waged war upon
their enemies. Taken in combination, Hariot's words and White's images presented
Hariot, White, and their fellow colonists abandoned the Roanoke settlement for
England in 1586, bringing with them Hariot's notebooks and White's watercolors. In
1588, the first edition of what became known as A briefe and true
report of the new found land of Virginia, presumably composed by Hariot from
his notes throughout the year 1587, was published as a small volume, devoid of
illustrations, and attracting relatively little notice. The following year, however,
Hariot's text gained a broader readership when it appeared in the first edition of
The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the
English Nation, a collection of accounts compiled by Richard Hakluyt (the
younger). It was published again in Hakluyt's second edition (1598–1600). Then, in
1590, the Flemish printer Theodor de Bry included both Hariot's text and White's
images—transformed by de Bry into copperplate engravings—in the first edition of his
own collection, Grand and petit voyages. Published in English,
French, German, and Latin, de Bry's Grand and petit voyages
went through seventeen editions between 1590 and 1620, and many elaborate copies
The reprinting of Hariot's text in both the Hakluyt and the de Bry compendia had a seismic effect upon its readers, especially those Englishmen interested in the nation's colonial ventures. By the time Hariot's book had reached a wide audience, the failure of the so-called Lost Colony of Roanoke, led by John White, had become common knowledge within cosmopolitan circles. While Hariot's optimistic predictions of a highly fertile land populated by welcoming natives had not been borne out, the promise of a "new found land of Virginia" remained alluring and encouraged influential Englishmen to continue their efforts to found a permanent settlement in North America. According to the historian James Horn, Hariot "had crafted a coherent argument in favor of colonization and described the means by which colonies would benefit their sponsors, settlers, and the nation," and it was this argument that would, within a few decades, lead to the landing at Jamestown.
August 1585 - Sir Richard Grenville and Thomas Cavendish, the two leaders of an expedition of English colonists settled on Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina, return to England. They leave Ralph Lane to serve as governor.
1586 - Thomas Hariot, John White, and their fellow colonists abandon the Roanoke settlement for England, bringing with them Hariot's notebooks and White's watercolors.
1587–1590 - After meeting the Flemish engraver Theodor de Bry in London, Richard Hakluyt (the younger) assists him in assembling an illustrated, multilingual edition of Thomas Hariot's account of the Roanoke colony, A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia, published in 1590.
1588 - Thomas Hariot publishes in England a small octavo edition of A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia that serves as propaganda for Raleigh's 1587 colony.
1590 - Theodor de Bry's edition of Thomas Hariot's A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia, which features etchings based on John White's watercolors and maps, is published in Frankfort, Germany, as the first book in de Bry's America series.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Zacek, N. A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia (1588). (2012, January 18). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/A_briefe_and_true_report_of_the_new_found_land_of_Virginia_by_Thomas_Hariot_1588.
- MLA Citation:
Zacek, Natalie. "A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia (1588)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: September 15, 2011 | Last modified: January 18, 2012
Contributed by Natalie Zacek, a lecturer in history and American studies at the University of Manchester.