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Sir Humphrey Gilbert

One of the most significant documents relating to the colonization of the New World—the contract that began British settlement in North America

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Sir Humphrey Gilbert (British, c.1539-1583).

Arguably one of the most important business contracts in Western history, this document made English settlement in North American possible and signifies a landmark in the history of Canada, the beginning of the English Empire and the establishment of commercial rights in the New World.

13 pages, large 4to, unbound but tied at head, written recto only in secretary hand in sepia ink, titled “Articles trip[ar]tite Indented of Agreament made concluded and agreed uppon the syxt daye of June in the xxiiijth yere of the Reigne of o[u]r Soveraigne Ladye Elizabeth . . . “ at head of first page, probably by Gilbert, followed by “this booke is agreed uppon & Ingrossed for Isilandes & xvcm acres of ground”, with “ther are leves in this booke thyertyen in all” and “I think this to be very well & according to trewe mening Thomas Harris”, endorsed “ingrosseyt” at the end, with a modern stamp, and signed in full by Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir George Peckham, and initialed by Gilbert at the foot of each leaf, with revisions and corrections throughout possibly by Gilbert, dated 6 June 1582.

Complete cataloging and additional images may be viewed here


Sotheby's London, 1964, lot 278


Gilbert, Sir Humphrey. A discourse of a discoverie for a new passage to Cataia. London: 1576 (reprinted in:

Quinn, David Beers. The Voyages and Colonising Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. London: The Hakluyt Society, 1940, Vol. I, pp. 129);

Hayes, Edward. “A report of the voyage and successe thereof, attempted in the yeere of our Lord, 1583. by sir Humfrey Gilbert knight...” (in: Hakluyt, Richard. Principall navigations. London: George Bishop, 1589, pp. 679–97);

Probasco, Nate. “Cartography as a Tool of Colonization: Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s 1583 Voyage to North America” (in: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 425-472);

Quinn, David B. “Gilbert, Sir Humphrey” (in: Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Tornonto: University of Toronto Press, 2019, Vol I.,

accessed 3 July 2020; Slafter, Carlos (ed.). "Sir Humfrey Gylberte and his enterprize of colonization in America" (in: Prince Society, Issue XXIX, 1903)

Height: 13.25 inches / 33.66 cm
Width: 11 inches / 27.94 cm
English literature and history, Travel, topography and voyages, World, Document, Americana, British history