Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - August - 2006 Issue

Early American Maps and Atlases from Martayan Lan

American maps and atlases from Martayan Lan.


By Michael Stillman

New York map seller Martayan Lan has issued a catalogue of special interest to collectors in the field of Americana. Catalogue 39 is called Fine Maps of America and Atlases, and if you are planning a cross-country trip, what is offered herein won't be of much help. The newest maps are from the 19th century, while most are older. A few go back as far as the early 16th century, when the pilgrim's landing was still a century away. The North American continent turned out looking much different from what was once believed, so following these will surely get you lost. Nonetheless, these maps provide a fascinating look at history, as European explorers slowly figured out what this new, large landmass really looked like.

As you look through the evolution of maps offered, you will find New England and Florida to be among the first areas to be mapped in forms reasonably similar to what we know today. The entire Atlantic coast filled in quickly. The Pacific coast took much longer, as it was less frequently explored. It was not until a few decades into the 18th century that depictions of California as an island finally disappeared. On many maps, the entire Northwest was simply a blank slate.

The most difficult areas to map were those of the inland continent. Voyagers could do a reasonably accurate job on the coastline, but early on, had to rely on Indians for news about what existed inland. Mapmakers back in Europe would then use Indian reports, or perhaps rumors and explorers' imaginations, to depict what existed inland. Sometimes they would come away with reasonable interpretations of what would later be observed, such as lakes or mountains. Other times, they would show the most fanciful of features. Many early maps depicted an inland sea, an extension of the Pacific Ocean, reaching all of the way from the west coast to the Carolinas. North America, at this point, was just a narrow strip of land. Of course, this not only turned out to be false, but there are no features even remotely resembling this. The imaginary sea may have come from a misinterpretation of barrier islands, explorers thinking the water between them and the coast was an arm of the Pacific.

It is always very difficult to write about map catalogues. Books can be readily described with words. Maps require images. We will mention a few items you will find in this catalogue, but issue the caveat that you need to either obtain a copy yourself, or go to Martayan Lan's website, to appreciate the wonderful, historic maps they have to offer.

Item 7 is a striking, early 17th century map of the Americas by Dutch mapmaker Jodocus Hondius. At this time, the Dutch were still actively involved in the exploration and settlement of North America (remember New Amsterdam?). Hondius presents a reasonably accurate image, though North America has been squashed, becoming much wider east to west then it proved to be. He also incorporates the early belief in a huge southern polar continent. It reaches all the way to the tip of South America, Hondius somehow ignoring what he learned from Drake's voyage around the Horn. However, Hondius, like other early mapmakers, had California right, showing it (including Baja) as a peninsula, rather than an island. It would not be separated from the mainland until later in that century. Priced at $8,500.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Keats, John] Spenser, Edmund: The Works of that Famous English Poet, Mr. Edmond Spenser. $50,000 - $80,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: (Walton, Izaak): The Compleat Angler or the Contemplative man's Recreation. Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing. $30,000 - $50,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: Thomas, Gabriel: An Historical and Geographical Account of the Province and Country of Pensilvania; and of West-New-Jersey in America. $25,000 - $35,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Carroll, Lewis]: The Game of Alice in Wonderland. $2,000 - $3,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: Athias, Joseph, et al.: Biblia Hebraica. $7,000 - $10,000.
    Freeman’s | Hindman, June 25: [Warhol, Andy, and Jens Quistgaard] Dansk Designs Salesman's Presentation Catalogue. $2,500 - $3,500.
  • Sotheby’s, June 26: Poe, Edgar Allan. Tamerlane — the most poignant rarity in American literature. 400,000 - 600,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: The Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." 2,500,000 - 5,000,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: William Blake. “Poems with very wild and interesting pictures” 1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, June 26: Thomas Taylor [artist]. The original cover art for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 400,000 - 600,000 USD
  • Bonhams, June 15-25: 18th Century American Sea Captain's Journals of Voyages to Hawaii, China, and South America. $35,000 - $45,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Admiral Richard E. Byrd's Autograph Diary from Bolling Advance Base, Winter 1934. $40,000 - $60,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Cellarius, Andreas. Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et novus, totius universi creati cosmographiam generalem, et novam exhibens. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Nobelist George Stigler's Copy of Ricardo's Classic on the Science of Economics. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Histoire charmante de l'adolescente sucre d'amour. Paris: F. L. Schmied, 1927. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Fine Copy of Walras's Classic on the Theory of Marginal Utility. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Arion Press Moby Dick. Melville, Herman. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Venegas, Miguel. Noticia de la California, y desu conquista temporal, y espiritual hasta el tiempo presente. $7,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Carelton Watkins, Yosemite and the West. Portfolio of 21 imperial albumen prints. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: An Unpublished Archive of Thornton Wilder Correspondence to F.J. O'Neil. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 15-25: Vesalius, Andreas. 1514-1564. Suorum de humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome. $100,000 - $150,000
  • Bonhams, June 25: Vesalius, Andreas. 1514-1564. De humani corporis fabrica libri septem. $200,000 - $300,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Gersdorff, Hans Von. 1455-1529. Feldtbuch der wundartzney. $40,000 - $60,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Pare, Ambroise. C.1509-1590. La Methode Curative des Playes, et Fractures de la Teste humaine. Avec les pourtraits des Instruments necessaires pour la curation d'icelles. $25,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Reisch, Gregor. 1470-1525. Margarita Philosophica. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bright, Richard. 1789-1858. Reports of Medical Cases, Selected with a View of Illustrating the Symptoms and Cure of Diseases by a Reference to Morbid Anatomy. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Berengario da Carpi, Giacomo. C. 1460-1530. Tractatus de fractura calve sive cranei. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Vicq D'Azyr, Felix. 1748-1794. Traite d'antomie et de physiologie. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Croce, Giovanni Andrea Della. 1509?-1775. Chirurgia libri septem... $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bruno Da Longburgo. 1200-1286. La cyrogia di Maistro Bruno: Expertissimo in quella. Tradutta in vulgare. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Schwann, Theodor. 1810-1882. Mikroskopische Untersuchungen uber die Ubereinstimmung in der Struktur und dem Wachsthum der Thiere und Pflanzen. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Cowper, William. 1666-1709. The Anatomy of Humane Bodies, with Figures Drawn after the Life… $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, June 25: Bidloo, Govard. 1649-1713. Anatomia humani corporis, centum & quinque tabulis, per artificiossis. G. de Lairesse ad vivum delineatis. $6,000 - $9,000

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