Maps, Atlases and Views from Donald Heald Rare Books
By Michael Stillman
We recently received a spectacular catalogue of Maps, Atlases and Views from Donald Heald Rare Books of New York. This is a collection of antiquarian works which depict a changing world, as new discoveries brought greater understanding of the unknown. Some maps are surprisingly accurate considering the difficulty in obtaining accurate information; others make you wonder what people thought they saw. The greatest concentration in this catalogue is of maps pertaining to North America, though there are others depicting the eastern hemisphere or the whole world. Offered are some of the rarest and most important of maps and atlases, for those who collect on the highest level. Here are a few.
Item 68 is likely the best map of North America for its time -- 1650. It is Nicolas Sanson's Amerique Septentrionale. Sanson had access to the just published Jesuit Relations of the French missionaries to help understand some of the inland territory otherwise unknown. This was the first map to name Lake Ontario and Lake Superior. It also shows Montreal, at the time less than a decade old. It does depict an imaginary inland strait running from Hudson's Bay into the interior Northwest. This referenced a hoped for a Northwest Passage. However, the Northwest is all a blank, as Sanson did not attempt to invent features for territories still uncharted. Other named places include New Amsterdam, now New York, and New Sweden, now Wilmington, Delaware. To the southwest, Sanson used data gained by the Spanish, this being the first map to list Santa Fe. California, as was the case through most of the 17th century, is depicted as an island. Map priced at $7,500.
There would be a major advance in the mapping of North America with America Settentrionale...anno 1688 (this version published in 1690 or later). This map was created by the Venetian friar Vincenzo Coronelli. In this map, the Great Lakes are no longer just there, but depicted with surprising accuracy. The American Southwest now appears in much greater detail, though the Northwest remains unknown. The Mississippi is shown with reasonable accuracy except for one large mistake. Coronelli used La Salle's inaccurate description, moving the river 600 miles to the west. The mouth ends up in South Texas. And, California is still an island. Item 12. $22,000.
Item 2 is a map of when Texas was even bigger than Texas. It is the John Arrowsmith Map of Texas, from 1841, when the state was still an independent republic. East and South Texas are similar, but West Texas and the Panhandle are another story. Texas encompassed much of present-day Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado. A small arm even winds its way into today's Wyoming. Texas would shrink to its current size as a result of the Compromise of 1850, where anti-slavery northerners would demand reduced boundaries to allow the slave state to enter the Union. $27,500.
Item 11 consists of a collection of seven early manuscript surveys of western North Carolina. They were created by William Churton in 1752. Churton was the surveyor for John Carteret, a wealthy landowner and British nobleman, who had agreed to sell up to 100,000 acres of land to the Moravian Church. The Moravian Bishop and five others set out for the frontier to participate in the survey, and ultimately the land was purchased. The area is located near today's Winston-Salem. Churton's surveys would be used to generate several later maps. $85,000.