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Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Acquires Rare 1627 Edition of Captain John Smith's 'Generall Historie' for Permanent Exhibit at Jamestown Settlement

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., March 4, 2020 — The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation has acquired a rare 1627 edition of Captain John Smith’s “The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles” for future display at Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia.

Detail of pages of “The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles,” 1627. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.

“The Generall Historie,” first published in 1624 and reprinted five times by 1632 as a result of its popularity, contains Smith’s accounts of the founding of Jamestown in 1607, his capture and rescue through the intervention of Pocahontas, observations of the time he spent in Virginia in 1606-1609, and explorations of the New England coast in 1610-1617.

“The ‘Generall Historie’ is regarded as one of the foundational sources for European settlement on the eastern seaboard of North America and Bermuda,” said Luke Pecoraro, director of Curatorial Services for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, an educational agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia that administers Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. “This work represents the compilation of Smith’s four earlier reports on the Virginia and New England colonies, all of which are very rare.”

Pages of “The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles,” 1627. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.

This bound volume of “The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles: with names of the Adventurers, Planters, and Governours from their first beginning Ano: 1584 to this present 1626” – its formal title – measures 11-by-7 ½ inches and has its original 17th-century calf binding.

The book features four fold-out plates: a map of Virginia with five vignettes from Smith’s adventure, a map of Virginia illustrating the Jamestown settlement and principal Indian towns, a map of the Summer Isles (Bermuda), and a map of coastal New England. It also contains the bookplate of Benedict Leonard Calvert, second son of the 4th Lord Baltimore, who served as Governor of Maryland in 1727-1731.

The bookplate of Benedict Leonard Calvert, second son of he 4th Lord Baltimore, who served as Governor of Maryland, 1727-1731. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.

“The Calvert attribution makes this volume unique,” Pecoraro noted. Following the settling of Maryland in 1634, Smith’s work is cited in several primary-source accounts by other Calvert family members, and it is likely that this work would have been extensively used by later generations of the family serving in administrative roles within the colony, he said.

The acquisition was funded by private gifts to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc., the not-for-profit entity that coordinates private fundraising in support of programs of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. “This was an important acquisition made possible by all levels of donors – from donors of major gifts to endowment to grassroots Annual Fund donors,” said John H. Hager, president of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc.

This newly acquired volume of John Smith’s “Generall Historie” joins more than 1,500 objects and 200,000 archaeological artifacts in the Jamestown Settlement portion of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection, including 16th- and 17th-century portraits, documents, furnishings, toys, ceremonial and decorative material culture, tools and weapons. It will be on future display in the Jamestown Settlement permanent exhibition galleries, recently enhanced with new historical research, innovative technology and an expanded collection.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Jamestown Settlement tells the story of America’s first permanent English colony and the Virginia Indian, English and west central African cultures that converged in 17th-century Virginia through immersive gallery exhibits and outdoor living-history experiences. For more information, call (757) 253-4838 or visit historyisfun.org.


The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation is an educational agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Its mission is to foster through its living-history museums – Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown – an awareness and understanding of the early history, settlement and development of the United States through the convergence of American Indian, European and African cultures and the enduring legacies bequeathed to the nation.