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Western Hemisphere map. Photo: George Serras.
The embroidery on this map is known as blackwork — in which designs are worked in black thread against a light-coloured background.
The black silk used on embroidered maps was meant to mimic the inky engraving lines seen on printed charts. The stitches used, such as satin, couching and chain, allowed the embroiderer to sew curving coastlines.
Decorative map edge
The map's maker has highlighted the edges of the map with yellow, white and fawn satin stitch and numbered the degrees of latitude. Some embroiderers showed off their skill by decorating the edges of their maps with flowers, figures and scenery.
This framed sampler has an elaborate floral border, suggesting the girl who worked it had an expensive private education. Courtesy: Witney Antiques.
In Cook's words
The maker of this map had clearly read the accounts of Cook's voyages. In many places, she has included quotes directly from Cook himself. This reference to the 'many isles and fields of ice' in Antarctica comes from the second voyage.
This engraving of The Ice Islands, which appeared in the official account of Cook's second voyage published in 1777, may have inspired the embroiderer. By BT Pouncy after William Hodges. Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an7682859.
Silk and cotton
The shiny silk front of this embroidery is backed with more hardwearing cotton. The tight weave of silk allowed the embroiderer to make small stitches. The cotton, which the maker's hands would have touched most, is coarser and more robust.
The young embroiderer might have used sewing equipment like this to make the sampler. Courtesy: Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Lancashire, United Kingdom.
This embroidered map is unusual not only because the maker has sewn Cook's tracks around the world, but because she has shown only his voyages.
Usually the passages of other British explorers such as Anson and Wallis would have been included as well. Embroidered maps that focus on Cook's voyages may have been made by women with connections to men who sailed with him.
Cook's journey would have been traced from a map produced by the British Admiralty in 1784, which was sold to benefit Cook's bereaved family. By Henry Roberts. Courtesy: National Library of Australia, nla.map-nk2456-2.
Elizabeth Cook's map
Embroidered maps that focus on Cook's voyages may have been made by women with connections to the men who sailed with him. Elizabeth Cook, James Cook's wife, embroidered a double hemisphere map sampler on linen showing his passages around the world.
The Western Hemisphere of Elizabeth Cook's embroidered map. Courtesy: Australian National Maritime Museum.
This portrait of Elizabeth Cook (1742–1835) was painted in 1830. By W Henderson. Courtesy: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
The maker of this map has chosen, somewhat idiosyncratically, to highlight some geographical features such as rivers, mountains and lakes by picking them out in coloured couching and chain stitch. She has occasionally noted some facts about them, such as that the headwaters of the Mississippi are unknown. This information may have come from a schoolbook or atlas.
This map of Louisiana from 1804 shows some of the major rivers in North America, including the Mississippi. By Samuel Lewis. Courtesy: Institute of Historical Cartography.