During the 1600s, America was still a mostly uncharted territory. As Europeans were beginning to settle in the newly discovered continent more and more, they developed a need for clear maps outlining the pathways they could take to further their move into the land. Cartographers were commissioned to examine the entirety of the American territory and produce the first maps of the continent. These maps would then go on to illustrate entryways into the colonies, showing the Europeans where the settlements were located.
We have acquired four colonial era maps of the Americas so far, each unique and by a different cartographer. Each map is a testament to the power of human-kind’s resourcefulness; during a time when satellite imaging and special mapping software were far from existing, cartographers still managed to provide the world with detailed and incredibly accurate hand-painted renditions of the surface of the world, which would then be printed via printing press and distributed. These maps would make traveling to and colonizing America faster and more effective, as Europeans would arrive already having knowledge of the land they would encounter.
Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612) is the cartographer behind one of the maps in our shop. He was one of the most notable figures of the Golden Age of Netherlandish cartography, and was best known for his early maps of the New World and Europe. The map that we have at our shop shows the way the region of Virginia and the South East used to look. The North Eastern area of what is now the United States was mostly all just Virginia, and we get a glimpse of Florida in the lower left corner. Mountains and lakes are illustrated as well. The writings on the map are in latin and they describe the territory as well as what nation each piece belongs to (Mexico and France are discussed). One description states that the Native American kings and queens live in the province of Florida, amongst the people. An illustration of the mentioned king and queen is included.
Thomas Jefferys (1719-1771) was King George III’s own cartographer; he was the leading map producer of his time. He engraved and printed maps for government and other official bodies and produced a wide range of commercial maps and atlases. His main contributions were his mappings of North America and the Caribbeans. The map of his that we have at our shop depicts Florida (sans panhandle) and the isles of the Bahamas. Every islet and key of the Bahamas has been meticulously documented. Like the previously mentioned map, this map shows all ports and entrances to the land as well as lakes, rivers, gulfs, and canals. Unlike the previous map, this maps inscriptions are in French.
Alexis Hubert-Jaillot (1632-1712) was a renowned geographer and cartographer from Paris in the service of King Louis XIV. His impressive maps had a bit more of a global reach than our aforementioned two cartographers’; Jaillot was known for his maps of all regions of Canada, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, as well as maps of Europe, Asia, and Africa in general. The map that we got for our shop is a geo-hydrographic map, or a world map, of all lands, seas and oceans of the Earth. This map attempts to reconcile the globe’s spherical shape with two-dimensional map-making by separating the Earth into two disk-like hemispheres. This amazing map is adorned with mythical-looking fish-like creatures being ridden by infants, mermen, and stylized fleur-de-lis. The writings on this piece are also in French.
Sayer & Bennett was the partnership of Robert Sayer (1724-1794) and John Bennett (1760-1787). The British duo became a powerhouse of American Atlases, their work being largely based on Thomas Jefferys’ work, who, upon his bankruptcy, sold his plates to Sayer. This particular map depicts North America, Central America, and a small piece of South America (what is now Colombia and Venezuela). Showcased in the map is the extensive land that used to be part of Mexico, taking up about two thirds of what is now the United States. This map is incredibly detailed in what concerns the geography of the land. Every single pathway, hill, valley, and body of water is annotated. Two “Native American” figures have been drawn on the right hand side, similar to Hondius’ piece, and they are accompanied by wild animals and some vegetation. This is the only map we own where the writings are in English, one inscription reading “A New and Correct Map of North America with the West India Islands Divided”. It also includes a very interesting feature that none of the other maps have: the articles of the Treaty of Paris, the peace agreement signed in 1783 between Great Britain and the United States of America following the American Revolutionary War.