Angouleme, the First European Name for New York
© 2008, Fredric Shauger
On January 17, 1524, Giovanni da Verrazano, (1485-1528) in command of La
Dauphine, became the first European to enter New York Harbor, during a
voyage sponsored by King Francis I of France. In his report to the King, at the
conclusion of his voyage, Verrazano described the harbor as “a very agreeable
situation located within two small prominent hills, in the midst of which
flowed to the sea a very big river, which was deep within the mouth: and from
sea to the hills of that (place) with the rising of the tides, which we found
eight feet, any laden ship might have passed.”1 Verrazano entered the harbor
and made note of the comings and goings of the indigenous people.
Francis I (1494-1547, King of France 1515-1547) was the son of Charles of
Orleans. Prior to Francis' ascension to the throne, he had been known as
Francis of Angouleme. In the King's honor, Verrazano named the harbor
“Angouleme” and reported to Francis: I “Called [the harbor] Angouleme
from the principality which thou attainedst in lesser fortune…”2
Aboard La Dauphine during her voyage and serving as ship's mapmaker was
Girolamo da Verrazano, brother of the captain. He charted all of La
Dauphine's discoveries including the Harbor that had been named
Angouleme when he drew a world map in 1529. The map was the first to
identify the Harbor by name.3
Ironically it was not the French who publicized the findings of the expedition.
The information from Giovanni da Verrazano and the map of Girolamo da
Verrazano found its way to Italy. There Giacomo Gastaldi drew a map
entitled Tierra Nveva which was published in 1548 in Venice.4 The map was
included in the Gastaldi's edition of La Geographia di Claudio Ptolemao
Alessandrino …. Printed from copper plates, it was the first edition of
Ptolemy to include regional maps of North America. The map shows the
northeast coast of North America from the present day Carolinas to
Labrador. An apple-shaped harbor, its “stem” appearing as an inlet, is
designated “Angouleſme.” Despite Verrazano's observation of a “very big
river,” Gastaldi's map shows no such feature.
Giovanni Battista Ramusio
In 1556, Giovanni Battista Ramusio published his Terzo Volvme delle
Navigationi et Viaggi. One of the woodcut maps entitled La Nvova Francia
was the first map of New England. According to Burden, the map was based
on Gastaldi's map Tierra Nveva discussed above.5 New York Harbor (lower
left) is roughly triangular in shape with the apex open to the sea.
Approaching from the northwest, a large river empties into the bay. That
river makes a sharp easterly turn and at its other end flows into the sea thus
making an island of “New France,” an area encompassing Eastern Quebec,
New Brunswick, Eastern New York State and all of present day New England.
A peninsula along the easterly side of the bay is named “Angouleſme.” In
1565 and 1606, the map was again published in virtually the identical form
as the original. The name “Angouleſme appears on both.6
In 1561, Girolamo Ruscelli, another Venetian, Published his La Geograpfia di
Claudio Tolomeo which contained a map of the East Coast of North America.
7 The map shows a delta shaped bay, open to the sea. The Hudson River joins
the St. Lawrence. Near the mouth of the Hudson River is a curved feature
that appears to be Sandy Hook in New Jersey. The name “Angouleƒine”
identifies the bay. The name appears on all three states of Ruscelli's map.8
According to Burden the map was copied from Giacomo Gastaldi's map
discussed above as Burden #16.
The first Frenchman to publish a map of North America containing the name
given to the harbor in honor of the French Sovereign was Andre Thevet
(1516?-1592). It is, perhaps, the fact that he was born in the name-sake City
in France, which accounts for the use of the name given by Verrazano. La
Cosmographie Universelle was published in Paris in 1575. It had wood-cut
maps based on Mercator's 1569 map.9
Thevet's map is of the entire Western Hemisphere with parts of Antarctica
and Eastern Asia. It is therefore not as detailed in the features of the land
masses portrayed as the other maps discussed herein. A large bay appears in
lieu of the harbor. There is no representation of the Hudson River. The name
Angoulesme is far inland and removed from the area where New York
Harbor is located.
Angouleme continued to appear on maps but by the time that Jodocus
Hondius miniaturized the Mercator Atlas in 1606, and published the Atlas
Minor, the association with New York Harbor was lost. Angouleme made an
appearance on his map of North America, however the feature to which the
name was applied was now far inland along the north shore of the St.
In 1609, Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch, “rediscovered” the harbor that
Verrazano had first seen 85 years before. It was Hudson's report to his
sponsor that led to the first European colony within the harbor. When the
Dutch named the settlement New Amsterdam, Verrazano's “Angouleme”
passed into history.
1 Giovanni da Verrazano's report to Francis I, July 8, 1524, The History of the Dauphine and Its Voyage. Translation by E.H.
2 Giovanni da Verrazano's report to Francis I, ibid.
3 The manuscript map is in the Propaganda fide archive in The Vatican, Rome.
4 Burden, Philip D., The Mapping of North America, Raleigh Publications, 1996, Number 16,
Karrow, Jr. Robert W., Mapmakers of the Sixteenth Century and their Maps, Speculum Orbis Press, 1993, 30/60.
5 Burden, Philip D. ibid 25.
6 Burden, Philip D. ibid 35.
7 There were editions in 1561, 1562, two editions in 1564, 1574 1598 and 1599. Three states of the map—1561, 1574, 1598—
contain a sea monster.
8 Burden, Philip D. ibid 30.
9 Considering the source, it is more likely that “Angouleme” came from Cartier who applied it, as a dedication to the same
sponsor, to a feature along the St. Lawrence River, rather than to the location now known as New York Harbor.
Gastaldi's 1548 map of the northeast coast
of North America.
Ramusio's 1556 map showing “New France.”
Detail of Ruscelli's 1561 Map of the East
Coast of North America.