||Pring, Martin, 1580-1646
||The Voyage of Martin Pring, 1603
||Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 343-352.
||12 / 0
Martin Pring (1580?-1626), was born to a Devonshire family, but the
details his early life remain obscure. By age twenty-three,
Richard Hakluyt and a group of Bristol merchants considered
Pring “sufficient Mariner for Captaine” and placed him in
command of the voyage to northern Virginia recounted by this
text. Impressed by the success of Captain Gosnold’s 1602 voyage
(see AJ-039), the group of Bristol merchants underwrote this
voyage to discover and exploit commercial opportunities along
the northern Virginia coast (present-day New England). Pring’s
backers focused primarily on the valuable sassafras Gosnold had
discovered but unlike Gosnold, they first secured Sir Walter
Raleigh’s permission prior to undertaking their venture.
Pring enjoyed a long and active career as a mariner
whose actions continued to influence the development of
England’s colonial trade. In 1606, Pring returned to Virginia as
a master Captain Hanham’s ship and mapped the coast with an
accuracy that drew him praise. By 1613, he was again serving as
a ship’s master, this time in the employment of the Dutch East
India Company. By working with the Dutch to exclude the Spanish
and Portuguese, he enjoyed great success. By 1619, Pring was
commander of naval forces for the entire Company. He returned to
England in 1621 and was made a freeman of the Virginia Company
and given two hundred acres. His pro-Dutch policies, however,
along with accusations of private trading, forced him to resign
from the Dutch trading company in 1623. Pring returned to sea
and enjoyed notable success capturing French and Spanish prizes.
He died in 1626 and is buried in St. Stephen’s Church, Bristol.
Pring Expedition, 1603
Pring left England on April 10, 1603, and reached the shores
of what is now Maine and New Hampshire in the late spring. Pring,
on the the flagship Speedwell and the bark, Discoverer,
explored the islands, rivers, and harbors of New England,
including the Piscataqua , Saco, Kennebunk, and York Rivers.
They sailed south to present-day Plymouth Harbor and to the
Elizabeth Islands south of Cape Cod. The Discoverer
sailed home first with a boatload of sassafras. On the
Speedwell, Pring and his men had a near-disastrous encounter
when the local Indians tried to attack their ship. Two mastiffs
brought along on the journey woke the crew and held the Indians
at bay before they could take the ship. The Indians then set
fire to the woods along shore and nearly two hundred shouted at
the departing boats from the land. The Speedwell departed
August 8 or 9 and reached England in October 2, 1603.
Following its publication, this document became an important
piece of promotional literature. Pring’s account stimulated
interest in the economic potential of the northern coast of Sir
Walter Raleigh’s “Virginia.” The document provides firsthand
descriptions of the region’s geography, plants, animals, and
people. Pring’s record of interaction with the Indian
inhabitants provides one of the most detailed accounts of
pre-settlement English-Native American contact. Pring was
particularly fascinated by the Native Americans’ reaction to the
European’s two mastiff dogs and a member of the crew who played
the gittern, a late-medieval stringed instrument similar to a
Richard Hakluyt obtained a copy of Martin Pring’s report but
never published it. After Hakluyt’s death, his papers passed
into the hands of Samuel Purchas, who first printed this
narrative in 1625 as part of his fourth Pilgrimes volume.
Purchas ascribed the work to Pring, although some parts appear
to have been written by others.
Other Internet and Reference Sources
Maine’s Davistown Museum maintains a site with an essay about
the early explorations of the area, including information about
Pring’s travels: http://www.davistownmuseum.org/InfoNorumbegaDeCosta.html
The Museum also offers an extensive online bibliography of
On the birch-bark canoes collected and observed by Pring, see
the Plimoth Plantation site at:
Axtell, James. Beyond 1492: Encounters in Colonial America.
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) and Baker, Emerson W.,
et. al., eds. American Beginnings: Exploration, Culture, and
Cartography in the Land of Norumbega. (Lincoln, Nebr.:
University of Nebraska Press, 1994) contain the modern standard
treatments of these events.