Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2005 Issue

Antique Maps From Martyan Lan

R1211

Fine Antique Maps... from Martyan Lan.


By Michael Stillman

Martyan Lan
has released its 34th catalogue, featuring "Fine Antique Maps, Atlases and Globes." Maps, atlases and globes are much more difficult to write about than books. Books are, essentially, text, while maps are visual. How do you describe the Mona Lisa in words? You don't, at least not adequately. So what follows is a few very inadequate descriptions of the material available. Map collectors will need the catalogue to begin to appreciate what is being offered.

Starting right from the top, item 1 is a 1632 Champlain map, Carte de la Nouvelle France... Champlain, of course, was more than a mapmaker. He was an explorer who had the personal experience to design his maps of the New World. This map of "New France" covers much of what is today Canada, New England, and the northeastern United States. It is also the first to show the Great Lakes as a network of lakes. Champlain depicted five separate lakes at a time when others still showed one large one. It isn't perfect, and he didn't get Lake Champlain right, but it was far ahead for its day. Priced at $120,000.

Item 34 is a three-map sheet by Ortelius from 1584. One map is of La Florida. What is remarkable about this map is how accurately Florida is depicted. Later maps would be far less true, some almost unrecognizable. Martyan Lan notes that some maps as late as the mid-18th century were less accurate. $3,000.

An example of deterioration in mapping is the 1600 Quad map Novi Orbis pars Borealis, America Scilicet, complectens Floridam... By this time, Florida had evolved into two peninsulas. There is much else that's highly inaccurate, including a straight, clear Northwest Passage that so many vainly sought. Item 21. $4,500. By 1636, Dutch mapmakers Jansson and Hondius were generating a more accurate North America in America Septentrionalis. They had the good sense to leave most of the northwestern part of the continent blank, rather than invent something. However, they did adopt one inaccuracy that developed at the time: they show California as an island. Maybe after the next major earthquake it will be, but not yet. Item 22. $8,500.

Speaking of California, it was still attached to the mainland in 1598. This rare Metellus map, Granata Nova Et California, is based primarily on Spanish sources. It predates the 17th century island myth and is thereby more accurate than some of the maps that succeeded it. Item 53. $5,500.

Rare Book Monthly

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