Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2012 Issue

Five Centuries of Maps from Jonathan Potter Antique Maps

Munstam

Sebastian Munster's 1540 Americas.

Item 7 is a map of the Americas from Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia, first published in 1540. While certainly rough by today's standards, understanding of the New World had advanced greatly from the time of Waldseemuller. While looking as if someone had pressed down on the top of it, South America's shape is still easily recognizable now. The West Indies are reasonably accurate, including the correctly named “Cuba.” The Gulf of Mexico looks close, with rivers that could readily be the Mississippi, Sabine, and Rio Grande emptying into it at essentially the right locations. Florida is also well defined, but the rest of North America is not so accurate. A huge inland sea, connected to the Pacific, though entering from the north, practically divides North America in half. It came about due to misconceptions that the water between the continent and barrier island of the Carolinas was an inland sea connected to the Pacific. The Pacific coast of North America, still virtually unexplored, is way off, and Japan, then called “Ziprangi,” is shown as an island off the coast of North America rather than Asia. £7,500 (US $11,605).

Moving over a century forward, we see how the world looked in this double hemisphere map from 1660 by the French mapmaker Pierre Du Val. Here we see the rough outlines of an added feature and a fantasy that would exist until the voyages of Captain Cook more than a century later – the great southern continent. It is far larger than any other. Another myth of the time that would last through the early 18th century is that of California as an island. Korea is also shown as an island. The west coast of North America north of island California is simply left blank, it being an unknown at the time. However, the east coast of North America is now mostly accurate, and internal features, including the five Great Lakes, now appear. Item 55. £4,500 (US $6,964).

Item 105 is a map of The Antarctic Regions by Edward Stanford. Stanford has portions of the coastline, but the interior is mostly unknown. He has plotted several expeditions, including Shackleton's. However, missing from these tracks are those of Amundsen and Scott. Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott would be engaged in a race to reach the South Pole, Amundsen prevailing by about a month, arriving late in 1911. Stanford would not have been aware of these discoveries as his map was created the year before, in 1910. £500 (US $774).

Jonathan Potter Limited Antique Maps may be reached at info@jpmaps.co.uk or +44 (0)20 7491 3520. The website is found at www.jpmaps.co.uk.

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