Augustine Herrman, Denizen of Maryland

Augustine Herrman (c. 1606-1686), who produced a rare early map of Virginia and Maryland, was described as one of the most lusty and colorful personalities of seventeenth century colonial America. His full career combined engineering, industry, privateering, fur trading, land speculation, slave trading, public administration, diplomacy, law, and farming in addition to surveying and mapping.

Herrman was born in Prague, Bohemia, the son of the merchant and city councilor Augustin Ephraim Herrman. In his early years he learned English, French and German and developed an interest in geography and map-making. When in 1618 his father was outlawed for his political activity, the family escaped to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where it is believed that young Augustine served for a time in the army of Gustavus Adolphus. Shortly thereafter he was employed by the Dutch West India Company and he subsequently claimed to have been the founder in 1629 of the Company's Virginia tobacco trade. During the next decade he was engaged in trade with Brazil or Surinam.

In 1643 Herrman journeyed to New Netherland, where he worked as an agent for a large Amsterdam firm until 1651. Meanwhile, he had developed a large business in beaver skins in New Amsterdam, had become an eminently successful grower of indigo on Manhattan Island, and had purchased large tracts of land there and in New Jersey. In association with a partner he had become also the largest importer of tobacco in America. When the government of New Netherland was reorganized in 1647, Herrmann was chosen by Governor Peter Stuyvesant as one of the "Nine Men," but two years later he aroused the Governor's enmity and found himself in financial ruin.


Personal Surveys Result in Early Map
In 1651 Herrmann married Jannetje Verlett of New Amsterdam and in the course of time they became parents of two sons and three daughters. Four years later, in 1653, Herrman was restored to Stuyvesant's good graces, who sent him on a number of diplomatic assignments. On a mission to Maryland to discuss the Maryland-Dutch boundary dispute, Herrman became aware of the lack of a map of the region, and became impressed with the need for one. He proposed it to Governor Stuyvesant in 1659, and was disappointed when the latter expressed no interest.

Herrman greatly enjoyed the winter months he spent in Virginia and Maryland and decided to settle permanently in the region. He made application to become a "denizen" of the state of Maryland, and meanwhile he had made a rough sketch of the territory which he presented to Lord Baltimore in 1660. Lord Baltimore was so pleased with it that he ordered papers of denization to be prepared for Herrman, conferring upon him denizen or resident rights, inasmuch as "he has for our satisfaction and the benefitt of trade hath drawne a Mappe of all the Rivers Creekes and Harbours thereunto belonging know yee that Wee willing to give due encouragement to men of his profession … hereby Declare him the said Augustine Herrman to be a free Denizen of this our Province of Maryland."

In the summer of 1661 Herrman received the first of several large grants of land on both sides of the Elk River, consisting of some 6000 acres. Subsequent land grants he received eventually brought the total of his lands to between 20,000 and 25,000 acres. The tract was first surveyed as 4000 acres in 1661 and granted by patent in 1662 but not as a manor. It was regranted as 6000 acres and first designated as a manor in 1676.

Herrman was aware that Lord Baltimore had a less than perfect knowledge of his possessions, and that a map defining his boundaries undoubtedly would yield the rewards he sought. Being by profession a surveyor and draughtsman, and having sufficient funds derived from trade to effect his purpose, Herrman also had a thorough knowledge of the region from numerous personal explorations. After having made preliminary surveys for his map during his diplomatic journey to Maryland in 1659, Herrman proceeded to conduct surveys of various parts of the territory, during which he experienced great difficulties in the savage populated and unexplored region.

Determined to accomplish his purpose, he worked on his map for more than a decade, from 1659 to 1670. He spent the next several years plotting and ornamenting the map before sending it to London to be engraved by the celebrated artist William Faithorne in 1673. He dedicated his map to King Charles II of England. The dedication does not appear on the map but was contained in a letter he sent to Lord Baltimore in England in 1670 with the manuscript drawing of his map.

The long title and inscription are set in an ornate plate at the lower left, and embellishments include a pedestal upon which the plate sits, with figures of Indians on each side of the plate, the British royal arms, Lord Baltimore's shield, a mariner's compass, a mason's compass, several sailing vessels and an Indian canoe, and a portrait bust of Herrman. Herrman was not pleased with Faithorne's work and after examining a copy of the engraved map, he criticized the engraving as "slobbered over by the engraver faithorn defiling the prints with many Errours." Faithorne had been celebrated for delicate copper engravings and crayon portraits but apparently by this time the quality of his work was on the wane.

The map, entitled Virginia and Maryland as it is Planted and Inhabited This Present Year 1670 Surveyed and Exactly Drawne by the Only Labour & Endeavour of Augustine Herrman Bohemiensis, was published and sold in the same year by the well-known London map printer John Seller, who advertised the map in the London Gazette in 1674. The map was printed in four large sheets, of which only five copies are known to have survived, two of them in the United States, one in Great Britain and two in France. Most of the maps of large size made in the early period have been lost or destroyed because of the difficulty in handling and storing them.

Interest in the map was further increased by the information he provided in his advertisement:
There is now Extant a new Map of Virginia and Maryland in four Sheets, describing the Countries, and the scituation of the Plantations in the said Countryes, with the Rivers, Creeks, Bayes, Roads and Harbors on the Sea-Coasts. Published by His Majesties especial License, and are sold by John Seller, Hydrographer to the King, at his Shops at the Hermitage in Wapping, and in Exchange Alley in Cornhil, London.

Tigers, Bears and Devouring Creatures
Herrman apparently did not survey the area comprised in the western part of the map. Like most of the maps of the period, he filled the blank portions with inserted descriptive texts that made up for the lack of reliable information about the inland country, such as:

The land between James River and Roanoke River is for the most parts Low Suncken Swampy Land not well passable but with great difficulty And therein harbours Tygers Bears and other Devouringe Creatures.

Mount Edio. This Name derives from a person that was in his Infancy taken Prisoner in the last Massacra over Virginia. And carried amongst other in this Mount, by the Indians, which was their watch Hill, the Country there about being Champion and not much Hilly.

With the Fountaine out of this Hill, issued forth a glistering Stuff Sand like unto the Fylings of Brass, and so continued downwards this Neck, that the very ground seemed to be couered over with the same Brassy stuff.

Lord Baltimore was so greatly pleased with the map, which he considered to be "the best mapp that was ever Drawn of any Country whatsoever," that he rewarded Herrman by a grant of more than 13,000 acres of rich land in the northeast corner of what is now Cecil County in Maryland. Thereon Herrman erected his grand manorial residence that he named "Bohemia Manor" after his native land, and of which he became designated the first lord. In 1661 or 1662 he transferred his family and service staff from New Amsterdam to Bohemia Manor. His family consisted of his wife, the former Jannetje Verlett, whom he had married in 1651 and two sons and three daughters. In 1663 Herrman petitioned for naturalization and in 1669 he and his family became citizens of Maryland. Jannetje appears to have died shortly after the move from new Amsterdam for the papers of the "Acte of Naturalization" submitted in 1663 listed only Herrman and his five children. After Jannetje's death Herrman married again, Catherine Ward of Cecil County, and they continued to live in considerable magnificence in his great house on the north bank of Bohemia River until his death in 1686.

After Herrman's elder son, Ephraim Georgius, died, Herrman entailed the Manor and his other lands forever upon the eldest male line of his second son's descendants, requiring that the lord of the Manor always bear his Christian name. The younger son, Casparus Augustine, obtained possession of the Manor in 1690. When Casparus died in 1697, the property passed to his infant son, Ephraim Augustine, who achieved maturity in 1718. It remained a hereditary manor until the American Revolution. Herrman's map was of considerable importance and had immense geographical influence. Acknowledged to be one of the major cartographic achievements of the seventeenth century, it was copied and adapted by map makers for more than a century after its publication. It is a fact that all the information known concerning Virginia and Maryland up to and a little after 1751 was copied verbatim from the Herrman map, including the manuscript map of Maryland by James Lancaster, maps by John Senex in 1719, Johann Baptiste Homann in 1720, Pieter Mortier of Amsterdam in about 1730, and a map of Virginia and Maryland in Herman Moll's Atlas Minor of 1736.

About the Author

  • Silvio A. Bedini
    Silvio A. Bedini
    Silvio A. Bedini was a Smithsonian Institution historian who specialized in the history of scientific instruments and mathematical practitioners. A former deputy of the National Museum of American History, he has authored over 20 books and was Historian Emeritus with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He was also a contributing author at the magazine for many years.

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