Ancient Maps From Martyan Lan
By Michael Stillman
Martayan Lan has issued its 35th catalogue of Fine Antique Maps and Atlases. This New York book and map merchant offers an outstanding collection of early maps, including some of spectacular artistic expression. However, the earlier ones may be a bit confusing if you are looking for directions, as the world has certainly changed in the last few centuries. Still, they provide a fascinating look at the world as it was once thought to be.
Item 2 offers a set of six masterful hand-colored Dutch maps of the world as pictured in 1713. Two are world maps, one including globe-like images of the east and west, and the other from the vantage of looking down at the North Pole. The other maps cover Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Most of the world had been discovered by Europeans at the time, though there are large missing parts of Australia, and the northwestern portion of North America. The mapmaker did avoid creating a large imaginary southern continent, preferring to show nothing in the Antarctic region at all. California is still shown as a large island, with nothing to the north of it, and the Mississippi River emptied into Galveston Bay, a misconception LaSalle had provided. Each of the maps includes drawings of indigenous peoples, though perhaps not always entirely accurate portraits of them. Priced at $45,000.
By 1730, the Mississippi River had been moved to its present location, but it was the source of much heartache. Rampant land speculation led investors to pour money into the Company of the West, which was to develop this part of North America. The "Mississippi Bubble" proved to be similar to the Dutch tulip bulb speculation. This Augsberg (German) map of the United States and Canada contains images depicting this financial disaster, in the form of cherubs issuing near worthless stock. Item 14. $3,500.
Item 57 is a spectacular folio of Paris maps published in 1739, depicting the city as it was in 1734. It includes twenty sheets presenting birds-eye views of the entire city. Every structure, institutional buildings, churches, even private homes, existing in Paris at the time is shown. Even courtyards and gardens of private homes are displayed. Martayan Lan describes it as "one of the most ambitious and beautiful works of urban cartography ever produced..." $18,500.
Item 70 is described as "the finest early map of New York City." It was published in January of 1776 in London, when that city was still the capital of the North American states. It depicts Manhattan up to roughly what is now 50th street, and portions of today's Brooklyn and Queens in great detail. It is hard to imagine, but much of Manhattan was still farms and forests at the time. The 10-acre lake "Collect Pond" can also be seen. This lake was long ago filled in to create more real estate. At the bottom of the map is seen a distant view of the New York skyline, not quite what it is today, but impressive nonetheless. $110,000.