Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2009 Issue

Exceptional Antique Maps and Related Material from Martayan Lan

Lan41

Maps, atlases, globes and more from Martayan Lan.


By Michael Stillman

Martayan Lan has issued a new catalogue, number 41, of Fine Antique Maps, Atlases and Globes. Actually, there are a few other items in here, including broadsides and even cabinets, but the title does cover the vast majority of items found within its pages. These are top tier items, including some of the earliest and most important maps ever printed. They go back as far as the 15th century, to the world before Columbus, a much smaller place than the one we know today. Map collecting has become very popular over the past few years, and if you are a participant in this exciting field, you will definitely want to see what Martyan Lan has in store. Here are a few samples.

We will begin at a logical starting point - the first still obtainable map of the world. It is the 1478 Rome edition of the Ptolemaic map of the world. It is perhaps the finest of the early maps, and one which would have been consulted by Columbus prior to his epic journey. Of course, there is no New World here. Only the European continent is seen in full, along with Asia as far east as the coasts of the Indian Ocean, and the northern half of Africa. While Europe, the Mediterranean and Near East are reasonably accurate, the rest of what is shown is only vaguely recognizable, as it slips off into the complete unknown. Item 6. Priced at $175,000.

By the time item 1 was published, a century later, most of the remaining world (saving Australia) was at least rudimentarily known. This is a circa 1581 German etching of Franciscus Draeck, better known as Francis Drake. Sir Francis Drake, that is, though hardly the gentleman one would expect of a knight. Drake was a privateer on behalf of the English, though his Spanish adversaries would have seen him as little more than a common pirate. Drake achieved his status, and was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth, because her share of the jewels and wealth he stole from the Spanish was quite bountiful. Nevertheless, she suppressed most information about him, and kept him holed up on land for many years as he was a sore point with the Spanish, with whom they were then at peace. As to why such a noble looking portrait of Drake would have come from Germany, it should be noted that these states were battling the Spanish at the time, this being an era of spirited Catholic versus Protestant dispute. It is likely he was admired as a foe of their foe. One more thing about Drake - his most notable privateering trip took him around the tip of South America to the Pacific, where he claimed the lands north of Spanish rule for England (the Pacific Northwest). He then continued on across the Pacific to become the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. This portrait shows a determined, strong Drake, grasping a musket in one hand, while a crew loads his ship in the distance. This is the only known contemporaneously colored copy of this rare portrait. $55,000.

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