H T M L   T R A N S C R I P T   O F

A 17th-Century Portrait
of New Jersey
as the idyllic locality for a
working-class pursuit
of happiness


excerpted from
the 1st edition of America
(London, 1670–1)

by   J O H N   O G I L B Y   (1600–1676)
publisher and geographer, who
produced a series of atlases — Africa (1670),
Atlas Japannensis (1670), America (1670–1),
Atlas Chinensis (1671), and Asia (1673) — funded
through lotteries, subscription plans,
and advertisements


Ogilby’s America has been called “an impudent plagiarism” — text and plates — from De Nieuwe en onbekende Weereld: of Beschryving van America en’t Zuid-Land, by Arnoldus Montanus (1625?–1683), a work which was granted copyright privileges in July 1670, and published at Amsterdam in 1671. Since Ogilby had a business relationship with the Dutch publisher and engraver of Nieuwe en onbekende Weereld, Jacob van Meurs, the charge of plagiarism is unfounded. Van Meurs willingly supplied Ogilby with the leaves of plates, printed at his shop, for Ogilby’s 1670–1 English edn. of America, and even lent Ogilby the small copper plates used to print the volume’s 66 text illustrations.
   Moreover, Ogilby made many changes and additions to Montanus’ text, especially to the sections on British America, adding 3 new maps (for Maryland, Jamaica and Barbados), re-engraving the frontispiece, and re-engraving the opening map giving an overview of the Americas, to which Ogilby made substantial modifications.
   The following “character” of New Jersey is not found in Montanus’ Dutch original, and is an interpolation of Ogilby’s, added to the close of Book 2 (“A Description of Northern America”), Chapter 2 (“New England”), Section 2 (“New Netherland, now call’d New York”).
   Formerly known as the Dutch outpost of Pavonia, “What became in 1664 the proprietary colony of East Jersey was part of the short-lived Dutch colony of New Netherland that extended, roughly, from the Connecticut River to the Delaware Bay. In English eyes the Dutch were interlopers, since England claimed this territory by virtue of the voyage of John Cabot in 1497. In 1606 the King of England had granted rights of settlement in lands reaching from Maine to Carolina to the Virginia Company of London and the Virginia Company of Plymouth. The Dutch West India Company, with a post on the Hudson, squatted on this terrain in 1621; and in 1638, at an opportune moment, the Swedish West India Company established a settlement on the Delaware River." (J. E. Pomfret, The Province of East New Jersey, 1609–1702: the Rebellious Proprietary, 1962, 3)
   Contending that the Dutch were interlopers on English territory, the English took New Netherland by force from the Dutch in August–September 1664. Pavonia was soon after renamed Albania, and then New Jersey, in honor of its new Lord Proprietor, Sir George Carteret (1610?–1680), who was born on the island of Jersey (the largest of the Channel Islands).
   Ogilby depicts East New Jersey as an “unsettled” paradise, ripe for the taking by English-speaking emigrant adventurers and entrepreneurs of the middling and lower classes. According to Ogilby, the area’s indigenous inhabitants — the Ackinkes-hacky, Tappaen, Reckgawawank, Onaney, Marechowick, Nyack, Wappinx, Wiquaeskecks, Sintsinck, and Kickawanc (tribal signatories to a Dutch Pavonia-Indian treaty of August 1645) — are so “few” and welcoming that he doesn’t even bother to individualize them.


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[ Raritan River. ]

 Westward of After-skull River before mention’d, about eighteen or twenty Miles, runs in Raritan River Northward into the Countrey some scores of Miles; both sides of which River are adorn’d with spacious Meadows, enough to feed thousands of Cattel: The Wood-Land is very good for Corn, and stor’d with wild Beasts, as Deer, Elks, and an innumerable multitude of Fowl, as in other parts of the Countrey. This River is thought very capable for the erecting of several Towns and Villages on each side of it, no place in the North of America having better convenience for the maintaining of all sorts of Cattel for Winter and Summer Food.

 Upon this River is no Town setled, onely one at the Mouth of it; but next to it, Westward, is a Place call’d Newasons; where are two or three Towns and Villages setled upon the Sea-side, but none betwixt that and Delaware-Bay, which is about sixty Miles, all which is a rich Champain Countrey, free from Stones, and indifferent level, having store of excellent good Timber, and very well water’d, having Brooks or Rivers ordinarily, one or more in every Miles travel. This Countrey is peopled onely with wild Beasts, as Deer, Elks, Bears, and other Creatures, so that in a whole days Journey you shall meet with no Inhabitants except a few Indians. It is also full of stately Oaks, whose broad-branch’d tops serve for no other use, but to keep off the Suns heat from the wild Beasts of the Wilderness, where is Grass as high as a Man’s Middle, which serves for no other end, except to maintain the Elks and Deer, who never devour a hundredth part of it, than to be burnt every Spring to make way for new. How many poor People in the World would think themselves happy, had they an Acre or two of Land, whilst here is hundreds, nay thousands of Acres that would invite Inhabitants.

[ Delaware Bay. ]

 Delaware Bay, the Mouth of the River, lieth about the mid way betwixt New York and the Capes of Virginia.

 The best Commodities for any to carry with them to this Countrey is Clothing, the Countrey being full of all sorts of Cattel, which they may furnish themselves withal at an easie Rate, for any sort of English Goods, as likewise Instruments for Husbandry and Building, with Nails, Hinges, Glass, and the like. They get a Livelihood principally by Corn and Cattel, which will there fetch them any Commodities: Likewise they Sowe store of Flax, which they make every one Cloth of for their own wearing; as also Woollen Cloth, and Linsey-woolsey; and had they more Tradesmen amongst them, they would in a little time live without the help of any other Countrey for their Clothing; for Tradesmen there are none but live happily there, as Carpenters, Blacksmiths, Masons, Taylors, Weavers, Shoemakers, Tanners, Brickmakers, and so any other Trade: Them that have no Trade betake themselves to Husbandry, get Land of their own, and live exceeding well.

 We shall conclude our Discourse of this Countrey with a notable Character given thereof by a late Writer [i.e., Daniel Denton (1626–1703), still very much alive in 1670–1!; only his “character” of New Jersey was “late,” in the sense of recently published], as to the great advantage of happy living in all respects, for whosoever shall be pleas’d to betake himself thither to live.

[ The Character of a Happy Countrey. ]

Opening single quotation markIF there be any terrestrial happiness (saith he) to be had by any People, especially of an inferior rank, it must certainly be here. Here any one may furnish himself with Land, and live Rent-free, yea, with such a quantity of Land, that he may weary himself with walking over his Fields of Corn, and all sorts of Grain, and let his Stock amount to some hundreds; he needs not fear there want of Pasture in the Summer, or Fodder in the Winter, the Woods affording sufficient supply, where you have Grass as high as a Man’s Knees, nay, as high as his Waste, interlac’d with Pea-Vines, and other Weeds that Cattel much delight in, as much as a Man can pass through: And these Woods also every Mile or half-Mile are furnish’d with fresh Ponds, Brooks, or Rivers, where all sorts of Cattel, during the heat of the day, do quench their thirst, and cool themselves. These Brooks and Rivers being inviron’d of each side with several sorts of Trees and Grape-Vines, Arbor-like interchanging places, and crossing these Rivers, do shade and shelter them from the scorching beams of the Sun. Such as by their utmost Labors can scarcely get a Living, may here procure Inheritances of Lands and Possessions, stock themselves with all sorts of Cattel, enjoy the benefit of them whilst they live, and leave them to their Children when they die. Here you need not trouble the Shambles for Meat, nor Bakers and Brewers for Beer and Bread, nor run to a Linnen-Draper for a supply, every one making their own Linnen, and a great part of their woollen Cloth for their ordinary wearing. And how prodigal (if I may so say) hath Nature been to furnish this Countrey with all sorts of wild Beasts and Fowl, which every one hath an interest in, and may Hunt at his pleasure; where, besides the pleasure in Hunting, he may furnish his House with excellent fat Venison, Turkies, Geese, Heath-hens, Cranes, Swans, Ducks, Pigeons, and the like; and wearied with that, he may go a Fishing, where the Rivers are so furnish’d, that he may supply himself with Fish before he can leave off the Recreation. Here one may travel by Land upon the same Continent hundreds of Miles, and pass through Towns and Villages, and never hear the least complaint for want, nor hear any ask him for a Farthing. Here one may lodge in the Fields and Woods, travel from one end of the Countrey to another, with as much security as if he were lock’d within his own Chamber: And if one chance to meet with an Indian Town, they shall give him the best Entertainment they have, and upon his desire direct him on his Way. But that which adds happiness to all the rest, is the healthfulness of the Place, where many People in twenty years time never know what Sickness is; where they look upon it as a great Mortality, if two or three die out of a Town in a years time. Besides the sweetness of the Air, the Countrey it self sends forth such a fragrant smell, that it may be perceiv’d at Sea before they can make the Land: No evil Fog or Vapor doth any sooner appear, but a North-West or Westerly Wind immediately dissolves it, and drives it away. Moreover, you shall scarce see a House, but the South-side is begirt with Hives of Bees, which increase after an incredible manner: So that if there be any terrestrial Canaan, ’tis surely here, where the Land floweth with Milk and Honey.Closing single quotation mark

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SOURCE:  Ogilby, John. America: being an accurate description of the new world; containing the original of the inhabitants; the remarkable voyages thither: the conquest of the vast empires of Mexico and Peru, their ancient and later wars. With their several plantations, many, and rich islands; their cities, fortresses, towns, temples, mountains, and rivers: their habits, customs, manners, and religions; their peculiar plants, beasts, birds, and serpents. Collected and translated from most authentick authors, and augmented with later observations; illustrated with notes, and adorn’d with peculiar maps, and proper sculptures, by John Ogilby esq; master of His Majesties revels in the kingdom of Ireland. London: printed by Tho. Johnson for the author, and are to be had at this House in White Fryers, M.DC.LXX [1670]. 181–182.
     There is more on the “late Writer” Daniel Denton (1626–1703), and his “character” of 17th-century New Jersey — excerpted here by Ogilby, from Denton’s A Brief Description of New-York: Formerly Called New-Netherlands (1670), without acknowledgment — in a webessay on the fragrant New Jersey coastline in centuries past, appended to She-philosopher.com’s study of California’s flawed Good Neighbor Fence Act of 2013 (AB 1404).