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Q U I C K   L I N K S

To learn more about the engraver of the 17th-century head-piece pictured to the left, see the IN BRIEF biography for Wenceslaus Hollar.

Virginia Ferrar is one of She-philosopher.​com’s featured “Players.” Learn more here.

For full bibliographical descriptions of any works cited here, see:

• for pre-20th-century works, She-philosopher.​com’s selected list of Primary Sources

• for 20th-century and 21st-century works, She-philosopher.​com’s selected list of Secondary Sources

For more about forthcoming projects planned for this website, see the PREVIEWS section.


Most of the images to be included in this forthcoming Gallery Exhibit are not yet listed in’s Gallery Catalog.

First Published:  November 2012
Revised (substantive):  4 September 2014

Under Construction

S O R R Y,  but this Gallery Exhibit — with digital facsimiles of a 17th-century map of Virginia, issued in the name of a woman, Virginia Ferrar (1627?–1688), who was also a bookbinder and sericulturist — is still under construction.

17th-century head-piece showing six boys with farm tools, by Wenceslaus Hollar

We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope that you will return to check on its progress another time.

If you have specific questions relating to’s ongoing research projects, contact the website editor.

B Y   W A Y   O F   I N T R O D U C T I O N

Because the first state of the 1651 engraving of the Ferrar (aka Farrer, Farrar, Ferrer) map of early colonial Virginia is signed “John Farrer” while the (almost identical) state 2 (1651) and state 3 (1653) of the map are signed “Virginia Farrer,” there is some question as to who drew the original map — father (d. 1657) or daughter (1626–1688).

1651 map signed:
     John Farrer Esq. Collegit.
     [Compiled by John Farrer, Esq.]

1651 and 1653 maps signed:
     Domina Virginia Farrer Collegit.
     [Compiled by Mistress Virginia Farrer]

Between 1650 and 1655 there were 6 printed editions of MSS. on Virginia attributed to Virginia Ferrar, all published under the names of Edward Williams and Samuel Hartlib. Virginia’s father, John Ferrar, broadly circulated his daughter’s MSS., resulting in this run of ventriloquized texts and confused attributions, which continue to puzzle historians with a modern interest in separating his work from hers.

While I am one of those interested in individuating daughter from father for purposes of reinscribing the history of women in science and technology, I still think it’s important to bear in mind that the 17th century was very much the age of the collective intellectual, and no group of individuals better exemplified this than the Hartlib Circle — a loose, wide-flung social network of intelligencers, operating rather like an early-modern, humanist precursor of Wikipedia.

Dissemination of information was their passion, and celebrity authors (such as Charles I, Thomas Hobbes, Margaret Cavendish) were relatively rare in their circles. Hence, William London’s A Catalogue of the Most Vendible Books in England ... (London, 1657) advertised Edward Williams’s compilation on Virginia, without listing any author at all for it:

Hist. of virginia, more especially the fourth part thereof, richly and truly vallewed, viz. The fertile Coralana, and no lesse excellent Isle of Roanoach: of latitude from 31. to 37. degrees; discovery of silk Worms, implanting of Mulberry trees, dressing of vines, for the rich trade of Wines, the sawmill of great use, &c. 4o.

(London, Catalogue, 1657, sig. X1v)

An asterisk besides the catalog entry was equally vague about the book’s publication date (the asterisk referring to a five-year period, from 1650–1655).

Bernard Quartich (General Catalogue, v. 5, pp. 2991–2992) says that John Farrer (aka Ferrar), who is referred to by Williams in the preface to Virginia ... Richly and Truly Valued ..., supplied Williams with the material for this work. And Quartich describes Ferrar’s personal copy of Williams’s first edition, complete with Ferrar’s own marginalia and a drawing of a map dated 1650. Presumably, this draft of the map, not engraved until 1651, was not drawn by Virginia, but by John, whose signature is on the first engraving in 1651.

This roughly drawn manuscript map in water colors is inserted in John Farrer’s own copy of Edward Williams’ Virgo Triumphans: or, Virginia richly and truly valued (London, 1650); it is the original drawing for the printed map by Farrer which appeared in the third edition of Williams’s book published in 1651.
   Williams in his “To the Reader” acknowledged that “The whole substance of it ... was communicated to me by ... Mr. John Farrer of Geding in Huntingdonshire”; in the margin of his copy of Virgo Triumphans Farrer wrote “But a map had binn very proper to this Book. For all men love to see the country as well as to heare of it.” A comparison with the engraved map shows the evolution from Farrer’s first sketch to the elaborately augmented and detailed engraving produced the following year.

(Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, The Discovery of North America, 269)

Of note, Williams makes no mention of Virginia Ferrar in his 1650 text, which could have something to do with the fact that her “rare and new discovery of a speedy way and easie means ... for the feeding of silk-worms in the woods, on the mulberry-tree-leaves in Virginia” was not “found out” and “made full proofe thereof” until “May, anno 1652.” When Hartlib first paid homage to the young lady discoverer in 1652, he too included the first state of the 1651 engraving of the Ferrar map. But later Hartlib editions with the oversized fold-out map feature the corrected 1653 engraving (state 3), signed by Virginia.

All 3 versions of the printed Ferrar map “Are sold by I. Stephenson at ye Sunn below Ludgate,” which partly explains how an engraving dated 1651 could be bound in with a book published in 1650.

The father-and-daughter Ferrar map was sold separately, as a print, by John Stephenson, who also published all 3 editions (1650–1651) of Williams’s book on Virginia. At the time, maps and pictures were often published by the major printsellers either in separate sheets or as illustrations to travel books and cosmographies. Moreover, Stephenson and/or Ferrar could well have had some copies of Williams’ 1650 book re-bound to include the 1651 engraving of the map, as could other owners of the title (one of whom happens to have been Robert Hooke). Certainly, it was easier to keep track of visual artifacts (such as engraved frontispieces and author portraits), often purchased separately, when they were bound in with the books they’d been designed for.

The prominent historian of cartography, Coolie Verner, described the printed Ferrar map as

a curious combination of fact and fiction including an area of the coast from Cape Fear to Cape Cod. There can be little said in praise of its accuracy, yet it gives numerous interesting insights into nomenclature and a curious picture of the concept of the New World held by the Englishmen of the period. It follows somewhat vaguely a compilation from De Bry and Smith. The map is oriented west and profusely illustrated with curious animals, trees, a portrait of Sir Francis Drake, and shows the Sea of China and the Indies as just west of the Blue Ridge with channel to it from the Atlantic by way of the Hudson River. The country bordering the Sea of China west of the Blue Ridge is labeled New Albion, an early name for California. A note on the map states that this country was taken into the possession of Queen Elizabeth by Sir Francis Drake in 1577 and that it is “10 dayes march with 50 foote and 30 horse men from the head of James River.”
   The main rivers of Virginia are named as follows: James his River — which approximates Tindall’s King James his River — York River, Tappohannock River, and Maryland River for the mouth of the Potomac. The name Rappahanock is applied to a river on the eastern shore as on Smith’s map rather than correctly as on the Lord Baltimore map of 1635. The following cities are named in the Virginia region: Elizabeth City near Point Comfort, Jamestown, Charles City, and Henrico City.
   This map has been found in three states .... The third state has many place names added and the imprint reads “Domina Virginia Ferrar Collegit etc.”

(Verner, “The First Maps of Virginia,” 13–14)

Subsequent historians have noted additional interesting features that make the father-and-daughter Ferrar map of mid-17th-century colonial Virginia unique:

John Farrer, official of the Virginia Company in England, shows in this map a combination of recent knowledge about the coastal settlements and misconceptions of the continent west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Pacific Ocean, and Drake’s New Albion, Farrer states, is only ten days’ march from “the head of Jeames River”; many Englishmen, including the colonists, still hoped to make Virginia an overland transportation point for commerce between the Orient and Europe. To the north (right on the map) Hudson River and the St Lawrence (“Canada flu:”) join to form a waterway to the “Sea of China”; on this fourth state of the map, probably revised in 1652, is an isthmus, lacking in the earlier states, which has been drawn across a “great Lake”.
   Along the coastal plain fantasy gives way to informed details found on no earlier map: the Swedish settlement on the Delaware is south of the Dutch “Fort Orang” on the Hudson; county divisions and many place names in Maryland and Virginia appear for the first time; and the placing on the map of “Carolana”, Heath’s undeveloped grant of 1629 from Charles I, indicates awareness of an attempt to settle this territory around 1650. There are many charming pictures of native animals, birds, and trees.

(Cumming, Skelton & Quinn, The Discovery of North America, 269)

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“The third state” — Verner is here referring to the 3rd/4th state of the map, issued in 1653 with Virginia Ferrar’s imprint (see She-philosopher.​com Gallery Cat. No. 13b). ::