Four hundred years ago, on May 14, 1607, 108 men and boys stepped ashore at Jamestown, Virginia. Over the next fifteen years, the Virginia Company of London sent four or five thousand more colonists. Never assured of success, the colony bungled on and against great odds the colonists and their supporters succeeded in founding the first permanent English settlement in North America on the swampy bit of Virginia named in honor of the English king, James I. Transplanting Englishmen to North American soil, stymied by official negligence and personal hubris, wasn't easy and posterity has judged the effort both a disastrous fiasco, as well as a great success.

In this exhibition commemorating the 400th anniversary of the English settlement at Jamestown, the John Carter Brown Library has an opportunity to showcase an extraordinary gathering of "foundation" books in our collection. In order to encourage "adventurers" (investors) and "planters" (colonists) the Virginia Company of London published nine tracts between 1609 and 1615 that described in glowing terms the opportunities presented by the new colony on the James River in Virginia. These publications are one of our most important sources of information about the early years of the colony, and until 1997 the Library had all of them but one. In that year we were fortunate to receive from Mr. Paul Mellon the gift of Richard Rich's Newes from Virginia, London, 1610 (see left), which completed the collection.

Exhibition prepared by Susan Danforth, Curator of Maps and Prints, John Carter Brown Library.
On view in the Reading Room August to November 2007.