The World's Most Important Maps from the Arader Galleries
Part I of the Most Important Maps from Arader Galleries.
By Michael Stillman
Here is a catalogue with a heady title to live up to: The Most Important Maps Since the Dawn of Printing. It comes from the Arader Galleries, and it certainly is a remarkable collection of the most significant maps and atlases of the past five and one-half centuries. This is a catalogue for those who collect at the highest level, but for those who do, it is a requirement. It is very unusual to find so many important maps in one location.
This is actually just the first volume in what promises to be a three-part set. This is Part I: Tradition and Innovation. It begins in the 15th century, literally the dawn of printing. Engraving made large-scale reproduction of maps possible, just as printing had done for the written word. From the limitation of hand-drawn maps and manuscript words, knowledge could be spread, perhaps not to a vast audience, but at least a wide audience of the wealthy and elite. Knowledge of the world became possible on a scale never before known.
Of course, there wasn't all that much to know at the end of the Middle Ages. The result is that the first decades of maps were based on Ptolemy's maps, well over a millennium old at the time. Knowledge had advanced little in the previous thirteen centuries. Fortunately, the development of printed maps and inquisitive explorers would soon result in updated maps covering lands previously unknown. Once Columbus completed his memorable voyage, those new lands would include territories now dear to the heart of ever American. Here are a few maps from Part I offered by the Arader Galleries.
Item 1 is a world map from 1478 from Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Buckinck. It is from their edition of Ptolemy's Geographia. Sweynheym set up the first printing press in Italy in 1465 and was the first to use the new process of copper engraving to print maps. Arader describes this as, "In terms of accuracy, beauty and graceful engraving, it remained the finest printed Ptolemaic map for nearly one hundred years after its publication." The map uses a curved projection to display the Earth's spherical shape, though it covers only a small part of the world we know today -- Europe, eastern Asia, northern Africa. That's all there was in 1478. Priced at $95,000.
Item 2 is a slightly newer, spectacular, complete atlas, the first atlas printed in Germany. This is the 1482 Ulm edition of Ptolemy's Cosmographia. The edition includes 32 full-sheet woodcut maps, hand-colored throughout. It at one time belonged to Cardinal Emilio Altieri, aka Pope Clement X. He was a compromise candidate, selected in part because his age promised a brief papacy (he was 80 years old when selected in 1670, and despite ill health, lived to be 86). The Ulm edition was the first whose maps were made from woodcut blocks, and was the first to extend the boundaries of Ptolemy's world, even if only slightly. An extension above the world map's northern boundary adds Scandinavia. $1,800,000.
The World's Most Important Maps from the Arader Galleries
This original oil portrait of Abraham Ortelius by Adriaen Key is offered.
Item 4 is the first obtainable map to depict America. Other than a 1506 Roselli map and the 1507 Waldseemuller "America" map, each known in only one copy, this map from Johannes Ruysch, published in 1507, is the earliest. It was said that Ruysch traveled to North America, and if so, he would be the first mapmaker to have visited the land, though it does not appear it helped his accuracy all that much. Ruysch did get South America right, at least in depicting it as a separate continent, labeled "New World," but North America is shown attached to Asia. Once upon a time it was, but that was much longer ago than 1507 (a few hundred million years). Ruysch did improve on the earlier views of India, accurately depicting its triangular shape. $550,000.
Martin Waldeemuller was first to use the name "America" on a map, in his 1507 version. However, by the time he produced Item 6 in 1513, he had withdrawn the name. Evidently, he must have learned later that the land was discovered by Columbus, not Amerigo Vespucci, but his earlier name stuck, not the "Terra Incognita" he used this time. Nevertheless, his Claudii Ptolemei, with 47 maps, is an extraordinary atlas, containing the first map devoted to America. While hardly a perfect representation, many features are clearly recognizable, including the Florida peninsula, the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba and Hispaniola. $850,000.
Item 9 is the earliest obtainable map to name the New World "America." It is boldly written across the continent of South America (North America is little more than a medium size island). It is contained within Caius Solinus' millennium-plus old work Polyhistor (a 1518 edition from Joannes Camers), bound with another ancient text from Pomponius Mela and Vadianus' letter upholding the naming of the continent after Vespucci. $275,000.
Item 12 is a most interesting world map attributed to mapmaker Sebsatian Munster. While the sea monsters and assorted scary creatures are entertaining (one wonders whether people really believed these creatures existed in far-off lands), what is most notable are the angels turning cranks at the top and bottom of the globe. Copernicus had not yet published his theory that the Earth rotated, but reports of it, so to speak, had been leaked to intellectual circles. What is interesting is that this theory could be depicted so freely. In the following century, Galileo would get in serious trouble with the Church for such blasphemy, but at this time, people evidently did not realize that this would become an issue. $45,000.
Abraham Ortelius was one of the great Dutch map and atlas makers, in the period when the Dutch dominated the field. His work is well represented in this catalogue, but here is an unexpected one-of-a-kind Ortelius -- a portrait by Adriaen Key. This oil painting was created no later than 1579 as it began to be included at that time in Ortelius' atlases. A copy of the Key portrait would be commissioned in the following century of artist Pieter Paul Rubens. The Key portrait is the only known one of Ortelius painted during his lifetime. This portrait was purchased by J. Paul Getty in 1938, and donated by him to the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1954, which de-accessioned it this year. Item 21. $380,000.
There are many more maps and atlases of similar worth and importance to be found in this catalogue. The Arader Galleries may be reached at 212-628-3668 or visit their web site www.aradergalleries.com.