Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2011 Issue

Maps, Atlases, Charts and "Cartefacts" from Jonathan Potter Antique Maps

Pottersummer2011

Maps and more from Jonathan Potter.

Jonathan Potter Limited Antique Maps has issued their Catalogue Summer 2011, subtitled A Fully Illustrated Selection of Antique Maps, Atlases, Celestial Charts, Curiosities & Cartefacts. Cartefacts? We recognize the other terms, but Potter gives us a definition for the unfamiliar "cartefacts":  "any object with a map, chart or plan applied, which serves a purpose other than just providing spatial information." Examples of "cartefacts" to be found in this catalogue are plates, coffee mugs, handkerchiefs and pincushions with maps printed on them. Here, now, are a few of the traditional, and unusual, maps and charts to be found within this latest catalogue from Jonathan Potter.

 

We will start with the first item, five woodcut maps from an early edition (1540s) of Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia, including the world, Europe, Africa, India, and the New World. This was not a world well understood, except for general shapes of most continents. Indeed, rapidly developing knowledge of the world is demonstrated by differences in continents between area maps and the world map. The most confused map applies to the New World, or the Americas, only just beginning to be understood, barely half a century after its discovery. North America is far smaller than it turned out to be, and what is today the United States is divided, from the Pacific almost to the Atlantic, by a vast inland sea. This error resulted from confusion between the outer banks of the Carolinas and coast, early explorers believing the water between to be an inlet all the way to the Pacific. Priced at £8,500 (British pounds, or roughly $13,577 U.S. dollars).

 

By the latter part of the 16th century, the world was beginning to take better shape. Item 4 is Typus Orbis Terrarum, the third world map to appear in an atlas by Abraham Ortelius - Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, between 1589-1612. In particular, Africa becomes fairly accurate, while South America generally approaches its actual shape. The largest change is in North America, which goes from being the smallest continent to about the same size as Asia and Europe combined. Its large size is due to the then totally unknown nature of the continent's northwest, which was imagined larger than it proved to be. Meanwhile, the mythical inland sea that divided it up has disappeared. What also appears, and became a feature of maps for another two centuries, was a massive southern continent, reaching much farther north than Antarctica in reality does. This continent would remain a feature of most maps until Captain James Cook disproved its existence in the 1770s. £6,800 (US $10,898).

 

The southern continent is particularly noticeable in Ortelius' Maris Pacifici from the Ortelius atlas. The continent runs from just below the South American continent in a northwesterly direction to just south of New Guinea, subsuming Australia and much of the Pacific in the process. Ortelius has added an image of Magellan's ship Victoria to the Pacific. Victoria speaks, starting, "It was I who first circled the world, my sails flying." Victoria was the only one of Magellan's five ships to make it all the way around the world, the others, like Magellan himself, dropping off along the way. Item 60. £7,500 (US $12,017).

Rare Book Monthly

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