Five Centuries of Maps from Jonathan Potter Antique Maps
Summer catalogue from Jonathan Potter.
Jonathan Potter Antique Maps has released their Catalogue Summer 2012. No surprise as to what will be found here – maps. Lots of them. They range from the 15th century to the middle of the 20th. Most are quite old, dating to times when knowledge of geography was still imperfect. One can see the world evolve, at least in the eyes of its beholders, as new discoveries added to mankind's understanding of the world they inhabited. From the 15th century, when to Europeans the known world was a much smaller place, to the discovery of new lands in the East and West, to the refining of the coastlines of these new discoveries, and lastly to understanding the internal regions of these new lands, the evolution of man's understanding of their world can be traced through these maps. Here are some of those steps along the way as seen on the pages of Jonathan Potter's latest catalogue.
We will start with the world as it was known for 1,500 years, perhaps longer, at least to those in the West. There was little difference in the world as it was known in antiquity and at the dawn of the Age of Discovery. In 1493, Hartmann Schedel published his history of the world, known commonly as the Nuremberg Chronicle. Item 1 is the world map from this great work. The world to Europeans had not changed since Greek and Roman times, consisting of Europe, southern Asia, and northern Africa. Schedel's map shows this small world being supported by the three sons of Noah, while various heads blow winds from different directions. Along the side are various strange-looking creatures thought, or perhaps surmised, to live in the far corners of the earth. What Schedel would not have understood as he prepared his work was that a man named Columbus was discovering vast new land masses that would forever change the size and understanding of what was out there. Schedel's map was, in effect, the last look at the ancient Ptolemaic world, soon to be changed forever. Priced at £14,000 (British pounds, or roughly $21,686 U.S. dollars).
Item 4 is a 16th century printing of one of the most important maps ever published, it being one of the first to display the New World. Martin Waldseemuller first published his map of the New World in 1507, calling it “America.” However, when he reprinted it in 1513, he changed it to “Terra Nova,” perhaps recognizing that Columbus, not Amerigo Vespucci, discovered it. By then it was too late. The name “America” had stuck to the land. Laurent Fries republished a smaller size version of Waldseemuller's 1513 atlas four times between 1522 and 1541. Item 4 is taken from the 1541 printing. Fries made some minor changes updating current knowledge, and added a vignette showing some South American cannibals and an opossum. The last two editions of Fries' atlas were published by Michael Servetus, a Spanish cartographer, but also a scientist, humanist, and theologian. That last role got him in much trouble, and reduced the copies of his books available as many were burned. Servetus did not believe in infant baptism, nor did he believe in the orthodox view of the Trinity, arguing that the Trinity represented three aspects of one God, rather than three distinct beings. Such differences could get you in serious trouble in those days, and not even reformist Protestants had much mercy on nonconforming thoughts. Servetus was burned at the stake for his heresies, with John Calvin being a leader in pushing for his execution (Calvin did call for the more merciful beheading, but others overruled his request and burned him alive). £12,800 (US $19,806).
Five Centuries of Maps from Jonathan Potter Antique Maps
Sebastian Munster's 1540 Americas.
Item 7 is a map of the Americas from Sebastian Munster's Cosmographia, first published in 1540. While certainly rough by today's standards, understanding of the New World had advanced greatly from the time of Waldseemuller. While looking as if someone had pressed down on the top of it, South America's shape is still easily recognizable now. The West Indies are reasonably accurate, including the correctly named “Cuba.” The Gulf of Mexico looks close, with rivers that could readily be the Mississippi, Sabine, and Rio Grande emptying into it at essentially the right locations. Florida is also well defined, but the rest of North America is not so accurate. A huge inland sea, connected to the Pacific, though entering from the north, practically divides North America in half. It came about due to misconceptions that the water between the continent and barrier island of the Carolinas was an inland sea connected to the Pacific. The Pacific coast of North America, still virtually unexplored, is way off, and Japan, then called “Ziprangi,” is shown as an island off the coast of North America rather than Asia. £7,500 (US $11,605).
Moving over a century forward, we see how the world looked in this double hemisphere map from 1660 by the French mapmaker Pierre Du Val. Here we see the rough outlines of an added feature and a fantasy that would exist until the voyages of Captain Cook more than a century later – the great southern continent. It is far larger than any other. Another myth of the time that would last through the early 18th century is that of California as an island. Korea is also shown as an island. The west coast of North America north of island California is simply left blank, it being an unknown at the time. However, the east coast of North America is now mostly accurate, and internal features, including the five Great Lakes, now appear. Item 55. £4,500 (US $6,964).
Item 105 is a map of The Antarctic Regions by Edward Stanford. Stanford has portions of the coastline, but the interior is mostly unknown. He has plotted several expeditions, including Shackleton's. However, missing from these tracks are those of Amundsen and Scott. Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott would be engaged in a race to reach the South Pole, Amundsen prevailing by about a month, arriving late in 1911. Stanford would not have been aware of these discoveries as his map was created the year before, in 1910. £500 (US $774).
Jonathan Potter Limited Antique Maps may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 7491 3520. The website is found at www.jpmaps.co.uk.