Maps have long played interesting and important roles in the history of the Isles of Shoals. John Smith published a map with his book A Description of New England in 1616 that helped introduce the Isles to Europe and named the region “New England” for the first time. Fishers, traders, and military navigators have relied on nautical charts to get in and out of Portsmouth Harbor or stop at the Isles of Shoals safely up to the present day. Authors and tour guides have also used maps for their artistic and illustrative purposes, helping secure a sense of place in texts about the Isles of Shoals. Finally, descriptive maps provide instructions for harbor and walking tours of the Isles, helping visitors to make the most of their trips.
Below are sample of the many maps housed in the Vaughn Cottage Museum collection. Perspective, detail, and scope vary on maps of the Isles of Shoals and Star Island according to the cartographer’s purpose. Bird’s-eye views with north at the top of the map are typical for illustrating landmasses, but many variations are seen in the examples here. Some maps are oriented with the South at the top, the direction one would face approaching Gosport Harbor to land on Star-Island. Profile or pop-out views of landmarks provide references to help tourists identify landmarks and also serve as decorative illustrations. Contour lines and careful numeric labeling show elevation and sea level to aid with navigation.
Maps can help us understand where we are or where we are going, but they can also inspire imagination. Perhaps the nature of being on an island prompts people to draw and read maps to feel connected to the rest of the world. Enjoy the selection of visual representations below and think about what the cartographer wants you to see.