An Ex-Pirate’s Newfoundland

Cartography Series: Because who doesn’t love looking at old maps? This blog series looks at the cartographic development of Canada.

Newfound Land (1625), described by Captain John Mason. Published in William Vaughan’s Cambrensium Caroleia.

Captain John Mason was a busy man—or as the map says, an “Industrious Gent.” Before he founded New Hampshire in 1629, had a career in the British Navy and found himself in jail twice. Once by the Scots for being part of King James I’s attempt to reclaim the Hebrides. (an island off the west coast of Scotland), the other for piracy. Despite this, he succeeded John Guy as the appointed Governor of Cuper’s Cove (now Cupid’s Cove) in 1615. An explorer at heart, he traveled around the area during his tenure and helped to draw up the first map of Newfoundland. Mason would later grow tired of managing the fighting between the settlers and the fishermen over their respective rights and cut his ties with Newfoundland in 1621.

You will notice that the map is upside-down, which is why Nova Scotia appears to be above Newfoundland. The “Gulf of the River of Canada” is the beginning of the St. Lawrence. The map includes same familiar established place names, mainly towards the top left corner such as Placentia and St. John’s (look just above C.S. Francis). There are also some new names, such as Bristol’s Hope and Butter Pots, near Renews. Also, forget gold, explorers seeking wealth should check out the Ile of Diamonds towards the bottom, middle part of the map.*

* Actually, no. Diamond mining in Canada did not really exist until the 1990s and it is based up in the Northwest Territories.


“Mason, John. Governor of Cuper’s Cove, 1615-1621.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site Project, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2000. Accessed from:


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