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A Map of New England

A Map of New England Woodcut
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[ This description is from the project: Object of the Month ]

The history of the mapping of New England in New England begins with a controversy. In 1677, two editions of William Hubbard's Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians appeared in print—the first issued in Boston and another, within a few months, released in London. Each book included a map, both entitled A Map of New-England, but varying in some particulars. Most prominently, in the American printing the White Hills of New Hampshire are labeled as such; in the English version, they carry the name "Wine Hills."

The Boston release was, apparently, the first map published in the English colonies of North America and probably the first map published in the Western Hemisphere. Historians attribute the piece to John Foster, the printer responsible for the American edition of Hubbard's Narrative and also, most likely, the only engraver working in Boston at that time. The two versions of the map have perplexed bibliographers for more than a century. Map collectors and historians of printing continue to puzzle over the exact chronology of the printing and the question of authorship—specifically, whether John Foster engraved both versions.

The Massachusetts Historical Society owns copies of the American and English printings of A Map of New-England. Its copy of the "White Hills" map is unique in that it contains a symbol for an unnamed town (at the lower left corner of the map between "Seaconk" and "Plimouth") that appears on no other surviving copy of this version.

The MHS collections include more than 5,000 historical maps and charts, 200 early atlases that contain separately printed maps, and many early printed books illustrated with maps.