Ancient Maps From Martyan Lan
Fine Antique Maps and Atlases from Martayan 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.
Ancient Maps From Martyan Lan
This 1579 map displayed Holland and Belgium as a lion.
Item 29 is an exciting map compilation for American Civil War collectors. It is a bound group of five birds-eye views of the South from 1861. Artist J. Bachmann describes the maps as "drawn from nature," a phrase whose meaning is unclear as the views look to be taken from heights requiring an airplane. Possibly Bachmann sketched these maps from a balloon, as nothing else in that era could have achieved such a view. These images, which are something of a cross between traditional maps and high altitude images, were unprecedented in their time. The five maps cover the various Deep South states, the border states of Kentucky and Tennessee, and go as far north as Maryland and Delaware. One of these maps is displayed on the cover of this catalogue (see image on page 1). $30,000.
Item 5 is an Ortelius map of the world from the 1570s. It is certainly not bad for the knowledge of the time. However, the mapmaker has chosen to fill in areas that were not yet explored. The northwestern part of North America is far more extensive than it turned out to be and South America was still shaped like a potato. Another addition was a vast southern continent, spanning the globe and extending as far north as the southern tips of Australia, South America, and almost to the Indonesian archipelago. It would not be until late in the 18th century that theories of this vast continent would finally be laid to rest. $8,500.
Item 16 is the first and only edition of a Venetian map of the northeastern portion of North America. It is a struggle to recognize this area from a map that was based on a letter from explorer Verrazano. The northern portion, perhaps today's Newfoundland, is called the "Island of the Demons." Like most of the names on this map, that one didn't stick. $10,500.
Item 1 is a most spectacular map. It is a 1579 map of Holland and Belgium in which those lands have been transformed into the shape of a lion (see the image on this page). Martayan Lan believes this may reflect certain conflicting emotions by the mapmaker. This area of Europe was under Spanish domination at the time, and he may well have been attempting to display strength to the local population, and the will to overthrow the interlopers. However, such a call would have been dangerous, which may explain his caution that the land was displayed in this lionized form simply because it was a convenient visual aid, and that the map would be found truthful by all parties. $20,000.
Martayan Lan may be found online at www.martayanlan.com or reached by phone at 800-423-3741.