Fine example of Robert Dudley’s chart of Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, the earliest sea chart of the region and the first printed map to focus on Hudson Bay. It is the westernmost sea chart in Dudley’s efforts to track the known waters pointing toward the Northwest Passage, with the northwestern extremities of the map embracing the prospect of open waters to the west, in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.
It is considered a cartographic landmark and would be the foundation for any Canada collection. The chart is derived from Hessel Gerritz’s 1612 map of the region and from the information on Henry Hudson’s 1611 explorations.
Throughout the late 16th and 17th centuries, explorers sought northern routes through Arctic seas—the Northeast Passage, north of Russia and the great Asian Steppes, and the Northwest Passage, across the north of the Americas. Sea ice made these routes impracticable for sailing ships, but that was not known until these routes were explored.
Perhaps the most famous of these explorers was Henry Hudson, who at different times sought both the Northwest and Northeast passages. In 1609, working for the Dutch East India Company, Hudson explored the great river that reaches the ocean at what is now New York City—a river he explored in the hope that it might prove to be the elusive passage west—in doing so, he played a crucial role in the foundation of New Netherland and New Amsterdam.
But most of his journeys were farther north. In 1611, sailing westward, to the north of the Labrador Peninsula, he passed through the difficult waters at the entry of what is now named the Hudson Strait—waters perilous enough that English explorer Martin Frobisher had called it the “Furious Overfall”—and into the vast bay that now bears his name.
Trapped by ice in the southern extension of Hudson Bay—now known as James Bay, for a later English explorer—Hudson and his crew were forced to overwinter. Although he survived the hard winter, when he wished to sail west again as the ice thawed, his crew mutinied and Hudson, along with his son and a few others of the crew, was sent away from the ship in a small boat—and nothing more is known of Hudson’s fate.
Dudley’s chart is of great historical importance. Burden notes:
“This is the first printed sea chart of Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, an area not covered in the general charts, and one of the most important maps of the region ever produced. Using Mercator’s projection for the first time, it is also the earliest to indicate prevailing winds and currents. Beautifully engraved by Antonio Francesco Lucini, it records magnetic deviations of the compass.
The outline of the chart appears to be partly derived from Hessel Gerritsz, 1612, although the nomenclature appears to be largely the work of Dudley. Many of the placenames are descriptive of a particular coastal feature. It has been postulated by earlier authorities that Dudley had access to some original Henry Hudson material, and that his is derived from it. Dudley was personally acquainted with many of England’s explorers, Thomas Cavendish was even his brother-in-law. . . . His manuscript atlas provides some fascinating material for further research. The charts of the whole region bear many alterations.”
This is the second state of the map, distinguished by Lº6º in the title.
This map is co-owned with BLR maps.