Sir Francis Drake was born around 1540 in Tavistock, England. He began his training for sea navigation at a very young age on the ship of a wealthy relative named William Hawkins. In 1567 he accompanied his cousin John Hawkins on a slave trading expedition. In 1572 Francis Drake began his first independent mission to raid the Spanish Main. He is best known for his circumnavigation of the world which took place from 1577 to 1580.
Many maps of Francis Drake’s voyages can be found in the Library of Congress; featured below is a map from the collections of the Geography and Map Division. The map shows the routes taken by both Sir Frances Drake and Thomas Cavendish during their circumnavigations of the world. The map was published in 1595 by Jodocus Hondius. There are only eight known copies of the map.
Francis Drake’s circumnavigation began in December 1577 and lasted until September 1580. During the voyage Drake searched for a western entrance to the Northwest Passage. He raided Spanish settlements in the Americas and claimed the region of present-day California. Drake named the area New Albion, an archaic name for New Britain. Drake returned to England and shared the stolen Spanish treasures with Queen Elizabeth I. In 1581 Queen Elizabeth knighted him aboard his ship the Golden Hind.
An image of the Golden Hind is shown at the bottom center of the map. Insets of Portus Iavae Majoris (the south coast of Java) and the Port of New Albion are shown in the upper right and left corners. Helen Wallis, the author of The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Mapped in Silver and Gold made the following statement about the insets in her book:
“These are the only details of local topography to survive in the printed contemporary records of Drake’s voyage.”
Below is an enlargement of the inset of the port of New Albion.
Drake named an Island near Cape Horn “Elizabeth Island” after Queen Elizabeth I. The island was never discovered and is thought to be a phantom island. The map of the Strait of Magellan shown below was made during the 18th century by the French cartographer and engraver Pierre Francois Tardieu. The area south of Terre de Feu (Tierra del Fuego) is shown as Archipel des Iles Elizabethides on the map.
In addition to the maps held in the Geography and Map Division, the Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds maps of the voyages of Sir Francis Drake. In 1980 the antiquarian book dealer Hans Peter Kraus donated the Sir Francis Drake collection to the Library of Congress. The collection consists of maps, books, manuscripts, and other materials related to Sir Francis Drake.
Below is a map from the Kraus Collection that is known as the Silver Map. The map was made by Michael Mercator, the grandson of Gerard Mercator. Drake’s circumnavigation is shown in a dotted line.
The Kraus collection includes maps of Francis Drake’s raids on the Spanish settlements of Santiago, Santo Domingo, Cartagena, and St. Augustine. Featured below is a map from the Kraus collection of Drake’s raid on Santo Domingo.
In July 1588 King Phillip II of Spain launched the Spanish Armada to invade England, restore Catholicism in the country, and overthrow the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Lord Charles Howard led the English fleet against the Spanish Armada with Sir Francis Drake as second in command. The Armada was defeated in August 1588.
Sir Francis Drake was regarded as a hero, navigator, and privateer by the British, in Spain he was labeled as a pirate. I have focused on a few of the maps related to the explorations of Sir Francis Drake, please refer to the following sources to acquire more information.
- The book Sir Francis Drake: A Pictorial Biography by Hans Peter Kraus is available online here.
- Learn more about the Kraus Collection of Sir Frances Drake here.
- Read about the mapping of Drake’s voyages in The voyage of Sir Francis Drake mapped in silver and gold by Helen Wallis.
- Download images of additional maps here.