The Famouse West Indian voyadge made by the Englishe fleet…


First map from Walter Biggs' 'A Summarie and True Discourse of Sir Francis Drake's West Indian Voyage'.

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First map from Walter Biggs' 'A Summarie and True Discourse of Sir Francis Drake's West Indian Voyage'. Anti-Spanish feeling in England was running high in 1585. As a consequence, Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596), circumnavigator and sometime privateer, was given a new commission: to release some English ships detained in Spain; if possible to have a profitable encounter with Spanish treasure ships returning from the New World; and to make his presence felt in Spanish colonies on both sides of the Atlantic. The ‘pricked line’ on this spectacular map traces the fleet’s route. After it called at Vigo in Spain and Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands, the fleet sailed across the Atlantic to Santo Domingo and on to the island of Hispaniola. Here Drake attacked and plundered the town. He then went on to Cartagena (now in Columbia), which was easily taken. By then, however, Drake’s men were suffering from fever, and so he was forced to accept a smaller ransom from the colony than he would have wished, in order to move to a healthier climate. After an attack on the Spanish settlement of St Augustine, now in Florida, Drake sailed to the English colony at Roanoke, ‘Virginia’ where he was obliged to rescue most of the settlers from a ‘greate storm’ before returning home.

Among those who died in Cartagena was Captain Walter Bigges, the author of much of the official record of the expedition, later published as 'A summarie and true discourse of Sir Francis Drake’s West Indian voyage wherein were taken, the townes of Saint Jago, Sancto Domingo, Cartagena & Saint Augustine'. Christopher Carleill, the military commander of the campaign, had sent reports to his stepfather, the Queen’s ‘spymaster’, Secretary Francis Walsingham. It is thought that Walsingham may have had some connection with the publication of the 'Summarie', albeit with additions and the text heavily edited. With the accompanying maps, the whole made good anti-Spanish propaganda.

The geographer and promoter of Elizabethan expansionism Richard Hakluyt had suggested that expeditions such as this should have an artist on board. The fortunate choice was an Italian living in London, Baptista Boazio. He is the author of the set of five maps illustrating the voyage, this being the fifth; it shows the whole voyage and, unlike the others, is printed in English. The maps are embellished with illustrations of the local fauna by the artist John White, one of the rescued Roanoke colonists.

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» paper (fibre product)


» copper engraving (printing process)
» hand colouring

Production place

» London
» England


» Dallas Pratt Collection of Historical Maps



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