- A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman's Chesapeake by Christian J. Koot
Over the course of the 1660s, Augustine Herrman, a merchant and cartographer who navigated the borderlands of English and Dutch mid-Atlantic colonies, created a distinct, precise manuscript map of the Chesapeake region. In his wide-ranging and accessible A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman's Chesapeake, Christian J. Koot traces the histories of Herrman and his map as both moved in and between empires and around the Atlantic world, illuminating how these peregrinations transformed the man and the object. Koot uses Herrman's map, Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited (1673), to draw out two Atlantic worlds: the colonial, which had relatively porous boundaries and ample opportunities for interimperial trade, movement, and intellectual exchange; and the imperial, which emphasized metropolitan primacy, sovereignty, and clearly delineated authority.
Three chapters framed around the details of Herrman's life as a colonial merchant and mapmaker, but offering extended discussions of mercantile life, material culture, and local politics, argue for the existence of a flexible, mobile colonial community. Herrman—who was born in Bohemia, lived in the Dutch Republic, worked as a merchant in New Amsterdam, developed trade networks across the Dutch and English mid-Atlantic colonies, and ultimately settled as a planter in Maryland—was, Koot argues, a truly colonial individual whose skills and networks were valued by English and Dutch colonial authorities. Herrman moved consistently and easily across the waterways of the Chesapeake and as far afield as the Caribbean. While Herrman stood out for his commercial success and his cartographic prowess, he typified, as Koot suggests, "colonists in the Mid-Atlantic [who] belonged to one larger cross-national community" (p. 51). Even open hostilities and the English seizure of New Netherland "did not reorient the mapmaker's imagining of the larger Mid-Atlantic as an interconnected unit" (p. 133).
These dense and overlapping mercantile networks and relationships with Native peoples enabled Herrman to create "a unique map that captures a distinctive colonial geography" while displaying Dutch cartographic traditions [End Page 141] and ways of seeing (p. 55). In its manuscript form, the map conveyed colonial attitudes, knowledges, and uses, including ones at odds with imperial policy. Koot convincingly teases out these details about a manuscript map of which there are no surviving copies—a testament to his subtle, skillful visual analysis against the grain of the extant printed maps and to his deep engagement with technical histories of cartography. It is one of the book's great strengths that Koot provides such analysis without burdening nonspecialist readers or deadening his light, flowing prose.
Koot's reconstruction of the absent manuscript informs his reading of the surviving prints. In peeling back engraver William Faithorne's transformations of Herrman's manuscript, Koot reveals how Faithorne and Lord Baltimore sought to transform a colonial manuscript into a metropolitan print that "spoke to the imperial uses to which the landscape could be put" and that cemented Baltimore's own interests in North America (p. 140). The new map also required a transformation of Herrman, from a planter, merchant, and mapmaker moving easily across physical and political geographies into "Augustine Herrman Bohemian." "Augustine Herrman Bohemian," Koot argues, was "a metropolitan figure" who evoked renowned Bohemian engraver Wenceslaus Hollar while simultaneously lending the image authority through a text that celebrated "an actual individual and his skill in capturing the colonies" (pp. 166, 170). But conflicting interpretations did not end the moment the printers put ink to engraved copper. The careful visual and textual rhetoric of the printed map enraged at least one anonymous Maryland colonist, who wrote that the presence of Lord Baltimore's coat of arms on the map was evidence of broader Catholic plots to usurp royal authority.
People and objects in motion have long been one of the defining characteristics of Atlantic history. One of the chief virtues of A Biography of a Map...