St. Helena, Ogilby, 1670

John Ogilby's book Africa, being an accurate description of the regions of Ęgypt, Barbary, Libya ... with all the adjacent islands ... Collected and translated from the most authentick authors and augmented with later observations, etc. (London, 1670) has a short description of St. Helena (mostly derived from Cavendish) and a somewhat peculiar "birds-eye" view of the island as a plate titled St. Helena (size 315 by 245 mm; reproduced above) which portrays the island as square in outline. Locations on the northwest side of the island are keyed to numbers and named in Dutch (bottom left) and English (top right): The Bear Vall’ is Bank's Valley, The Crak Vall’ is Rupert's Valley, The Church Vall’ is Chapel (James) Valley, The Drie Vall’ is Breakneck Valley, The Soure Vall’ is Friar's Valley, The Apple Vall’ is Lemon Valley, The Box Mountaine perhaps is The Saddle, and The new Rock most likely is Egg Island. The map is attributed as being B’ I.N.

The text accompanying the map reads:
The Island of St. Hellen
The island of St. Hellen, so called by the Portuguese, because first discover'd by them on St. Hellens day, being the one and twentieth of April, lieth in sixteen degrees and fifteen minutes south lattitude, in the main ocean, about five hundred and fifty miles from Cape of Good Hope, three hundred and fifty from Angola, and five hundred from Brasile. The circumference extends to about seven miles, being high out of the water, and surrounded on the sea-coast with steep rocks, shewing within many cliffs, mountains, and valleys; of which, one nam'd Church-Valley, where, behind a small church, they climb up to the mountains; and to the south, Apple-Dale, so call'd from the abundance of oranges, lemons, and pomegranates, enough to furnish five or six ships. On the west side of the church ships have good anchor-hold; but they must lie close under the shore; for from the tops of the adjacent great mountains, the winds blow downwards with a very great force.
The air seems very temperate and healthful; insomuch that sick men, brought ashore there, in a short time recover: Yet the heat in the valleys is almost intollerable, whereas the mountains have as great an excess of cold. It rains there commonly every day in showres five or six times; so that want of water causes not the barrenness of the soil: For besides the rain, it hath other good and wholesome water; particularly, in the Church-Valley, whither sea-men come for fresh water, as also to two neighboring places. And further, notwithstanding the general accusation of sterility, the ground of its own accord brings forth pease and beans wild, that for want of gatheres falling make a new increase; also whole woods of orange, lemon, and pomegranate trees, all the year through laden both with blossoms and fruits; very good figs, abundance of ebony and rose-trees: Besides in the valleys, parsley, mustard-seed, purslain, sorrel, and wild Roman cumin-seed.
The woods and mountains are full of goats, very large rams, and wild swine, but difficult to be catch'd. When the Portuguese did first discover this place, they found neither four-footed beasts, nor fruit-trees, but only fresh-water: The fruit trees they brought thither afterwards, which so increas'd since, that at present all the valleys stand full of them, to the great wonder of the beholders, seeing the island is seldom frequented, and not at all inhabited. Lastly, partridges, pidgeons, moor-hens, and peacocks, breed here numerously, whereof a good marksman with his gun (and not otherwise) may soon provide a dinner for his friends. On the cliff-islands, at the south side of this, are thousands of grey and black meawes, or sea-pies, and also white and colour'd birds, some with long, and some with short necks, who lay their egs on the rocks; and so unaccostomed to fear, that they suffer themselves to be taken up in the hand, and gaze at their surprizers, till knock'd on the head with sticks.
From the salt water beating against the cliffs, a froth or scum remains in some places, which the heat of the sun so purifies, that it becomes white and good salt. Some of the mountains yield bole armoniack, and a fat earth like terra lemnia.
The sea will answer the pains of a patient fisherman, who must use an angle, not a net, because of the foul ground, and beating of the sea. The chief are mackrels, roaches, carps, but differing in colour from those among us; eels as big as a mans arm, and well-tasted; crabs, lobsters, oysters, of as good a rellish as our English; and very good mussles: Yet all these conveniences have not brought thither any setled colony; the King of Portugal, as they say, not permitting any of his subjects to dwell there, lest they should appropriate it to themselves.

And there is also an extremely brief description of Ascension:
Ilhas das Ascension, or Ascension-Island
Towards the south appeareth Ascension-Isle, in Portuguese, Ilhas das Ascension. It lieth eight degrees and a half southward of the line, one hundred and ninety spanish miles north-west from St. Hellens; but larger, and full of mountains. It hath no fresh water at all, nor one green branch or leaf; but all wither'd, dry, and scorch'd: Onely infinite numbers of fowl as big as geese frequent it, because they find plenty of fish to feed upon.

This square view of St. Helena first appeared in Olfert Dapper's Naukeurige Beschrijvinge der Afrikaensche eylanden ... (Amsterdam, 1668) of which Ogilby's Africa essentially was a direct translation. It is most likely that this square view originated from Johan Nieuhof (John Nieuhoff), a Dutchman who visited St. Helena in 1658, and that Door I.N. on the plate records this. Nieuhof refers to the Church-Valley and the Apple-Valley in the description of his visit (original Dutch edition titled Het gezantschap der Neźrlandtsche Oost-Indische Compagnie ..., Amsterdam, 1665; 1669 English edition translated by Ogilby), and a view of The Church Valley in the 1669 edition is in an extremely similar style to the Ogilby map.

This view also appeared in Pierre van der Aa's La Galerie Agrčable du Monde ... (66 volumes, Leyden, 1729; plate 11 in volume 62). The plate is a new engraving with the title banner Isle St. Helene (Isle in small letters above St. Helene) and A Leide chez Pierre van der Aa added in the bottom left corner. The key to place names in the upper right hand corner is in French, in addition to the Dutch key in the lower left corner. This same plate was subsequently republished in Atlas Nouveau Contenant ... by Covens and Mortier (9 volumes, Amsterdam, 1683-1761; plate 32 in volume 9), titled Isle St. Helene Chez Pierre van der Aa with the new addition Chez J. Covens et C. Mortier below the French text key in the upper right of the plate.

British Library shelfmark: 457.f.13. and 146.i.1. [Africa ... 1670]
Library of Congress call number: DT7 .O34 [Africa ... 1670]


Last updated: 19 December, 2011


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