Checklist of Printed Maps Of Bermuda
1585 - 1778.

By Ashley Baynton-Williams
Bermuda is generally considered to have been named after the first European known to have visited the island-group, Juan de Bermudez, in 1505, when he was ship-wrecked while transporting hogs to Cuba.  The first appearance of the island in a printed map - as 'la bermuda' - occurs in an untitled woodcut map of the West Indies found in Peter the Martyr's Opera Legatio Babylonica Oceani Decas Poemata Epigrammata, published by Jacob Cromberger in 1511.

Peter the Martyr: detail, with Bermuda upside down at top.
Peter the Martyr was tutor to the children of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and has been described as the first historian of the Americas.  He had extensive personal contacts with Spain's explorers, such as Christopher Columbus, as well as access to official archives.  His map, which is the first separate printed map devoted to the New World, was presumably copied from the relevant part of the 'Padron Real', the large map of the world on which the Spanish recorded all their discoveries.  It is generally assumed that the authorities were unhappy that such an accurate map found its way into the public domain, and suppressed it almost immediately, as it is only rarely found with the book.

An anomaly in this very important map is that it shows a section of coast 'illa de beimeni parte', which is approximately in the right place to be the Florida peninsula.  However, the European 'discovery' of the peninsula, by Juan Ponce de Leon, was in 1513, two years later, and this has been taken as an indication that the Spanish had access to additional geographical information supplied by Indian sources, from their own voyages through the region.

As this map is so rare (the author only knows of one example ever for sale), the earliest map to show Bermuda readily available for the collector is the Gastaldi of the New World, published 1548.


Gastaldi: detail
In 1609, Sir George Somers, while sailing to Virginia was also shipwrecked on the island, and its from him that the island got its alternative the 'Somer' or 'Summer' Islands.  The arms of the island found on several of the maps in the checklist, not surprisingly, incorporate a shipwreck.

In 1612, the islands were granted to the Virginia Colony, and a settlement established there the following year.  Subsequently, government passed to the Bermuda Company.  However, government by the colony proved unsatisfactory, and in 1684, the islands reverted to Crown control.


The first English map of Bermuda was compiled by one of the settlers, Richard Norwood, in 1618, and this was used as the basis for the map of the islands published in John Smith's The Generall Historie Of Virginia, New-England, And The Summer Isles (London, 1624).

In 1622, Norwood evidently made a second map of the island, and a entry in the Registers of the Stationers' Company, for January 19th 1621 / 22 records:

Nathanael Newbury  Entred for his copie vnder the hands of Master Doctor Goad, and Master Knight warden, A Plott or Mappe of Bermudas or the Summer Islands made by Richard Norwood.
Unfortunately, there is no known example of this map.  Newbery, a mapseller and publisher working in Popes Head Alley in London, is not known as a publisher of maps, although he also entered a map of Bergen-op-Zoom in the Registers of the Stationer's Company in 1622, of which I know of only one example.  It is all too possible that the map of Bermuda was published, but all examples have been lost.

Clearly John Speed's map of Bermuda, dated 1626, derives either from the manuscript or printed version, as the map shows "names of the now Adventurer, viz. this yeare 1622..."

The earliest chart of the island was compiled by Arent Roggeveen, and published by Pieter Goos in 1675.  The Speed and Roggeveen supply the two parallel delineations of the islands that were repeated by subsequent mapmakers, subsequently revised and updated throughout the early eighteenth century.  Clement Lempriere's chart, published in 1738, was the next major advance, and its influence is visible in subsequent maps and charts of the islands to the end of the century.

One feature of Speed's map (and so, presumably Norwood's original) is that Bermuda is depicted twice, once as the central feature of the map, and a second time showing the island in relation to the coasts of New England, the Carolinas and Hispaniola.  Derivatives of Speed's map retain this double image.  However, when some later mapmakers came to redraw the island, they discarded the sections of the mainland coast and Hispaniola, but carelessly failed to remove the associated small map of Bermuda, so the maps by Moll (1729), van der Aa (1729), Homann's Heirs (1737), and Zatta (1778) all retain this double image which, on Moll's map for example, is labelled 'Bermudos or Sommers Island' - an error not remarked by either Margaret Palmer, R.V. Tooley or, for that matter this author, until pointed out to me by my brother Miles.

I have included in this list seventeenth century maps that show Bermuda as an inset. The map by Duval, its German copy, and that of Muller depict the islands in completely unrecognisable form - a further example of cartographic 'negligence' !


Margaret Palmer The Mapping Of Bermuda A Bibliography of Printed Maps & Charts 1548-1970 Third Revised Edition Edited by R.V. Tooley, London: Holland Press Cartographica, 1983.