John Smith Map
Original Author: William Hole based on John Smith's description
Created: compiled 1608; published 1624
Medium: Engraving
Publisher: Library of Virginia

John Smith Map

This map of colonial Virginia, attributed to Captain John Smith, one of the first English settlers, contains extraordinary geographic detail as well as the locations of Indian settlements. The area on the map defined as "Powhatan" is where the Algonquian-speaking Indians allied with the paramount chief known as Powhatan lived. An image of Powhatan in his hut, at upper left, is based on Smith's description of what he encountered when he was delivered as a prisoner to the chief in December 1607. The Chesapeake Bay and four major rivers are also depicted: the Powhatan, Pamunk, Tappahannock, and Patowomec (now the James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac, respectively). The English settlement at Jamestown ("Iames'-towne") is shown in a curving section of the Powhatan River at far left.

Engraved by William Hole, the John Smith map was the most comprehensive charting of the region up to that time. It was first printed in 1612 and later published in Smith's book The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624), which is the version shown here. As indicated by the compass rose at lower left, the map is oriented with west (rather than north) being at the top. Many early maps were oriented in that direction, and it showed how the area looked when approached by ship from western Europe. The John Smith map was the definitive map of Virginia from 1612 until 1673.