Hemisphere Septentrional pour voir plus distinctement les Terres Arctiques

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This is a view of the top half of the world by Guillaume de L’Isle. The “Hemisphere Septentrional” is depicted as well as the then-state of geographic knowledge permitted; but, as one can see, there is some uncertainty as to what exactly were the northern reaches of the North American continent, left quite non-distinct, as well as what the top of Greenland might have looked like, with some greater distinctiveness at the top of Europe.

It is a great map by a great mapmaker, de L’isle, and was printed by the house of Covens and Mortier. We don’t often think of the world in this fashion – looking down from above. But it is instructive to see what the world really looks like from that vantage point and how close we come to touching one another at the top of the world.



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A new map of part of the United States of North America

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This is a map by a mapmaker named John Cary dating to 1819, relatively early in the Republic. It is very densely annotated on the coast, and those annotations become increasingly sparse as one goes west in Pennsylvania or New York on into what is referred to here as the “Northwest Territory.” Ohio and Indiana and so forth have not yet come into existence, so Cary doesn’t have a great deal to tell us about what has- what will become of them. But his depiction of the- the Great Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, at least as far as it goes, are more-or-less accurate and an important step in trying to understand what the northeastern part of North America truly looked like.

Up in New England, you’ll see that there’s a very ragged line between Connecticut and Massachusetts that will, in time, be sorted out and straightened out. Vermont appears as does New Hampshire, but we still do not have a formal state. We simply have the “District of Main” – M.A.I.N, no “e,” reflected in the upper right-hand portion of the map. A softly and attractively colored map, it is.



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Carta delle Isole Antille

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This map is a map of the Caribbean by an Italian mapmaker named Luigi Rossi. The map is, of course, in Italian and reflects both the Windward Islands – those are the islands more to the west, referred to here as the Isole del Vento (Islands of the Wind) – and along the bottom of the gulf are islands like Curaçao and so on, which are referred to as the Leeward Islands, or in Italian, Isole sotto il Vento (the Islands under the Winds). It’s a nice map with outline color, nicely engraved, and makes an effort to identify which nations control which islands through a color code reflected in the upper left-hand corner. The islands owned or controlled by France are one thing, the islands owned or controlled by the English are another, and by looking at the color coding one can tell one island and its allegiance from another – at least at that time.



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Geographical and topographical map of the island of Cuba

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These are two highly detailed maps of portions of the island of Cuba, emphasizing the geographical and topographical nature in each section. The mountains, and of course there are very significant mountains throughout Cuba, the mountains are rendered and made quite graphic with a technique known at the time as hachure, which with very fine strokes of the engraving pen create a sense of what is up and what is down and the result is quite powerful in showing the elevations – at least relative elevations- of the mountains of the island. All of that has been replaced in modern times by topographic lines, lines of equal height above sea level, but there is a compellingness about this particular technique. One of the maps reflects the Bay of Havana and both the maps are about as complete as could be done by the producing authority here, which was the Office of the Chief of Engineers in the United States of America. So, this was the best depiction that the United States had, and I imagine anybody of the world had of the interior of Cuba as of 1873, the date that the maps were prepared.


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North America

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This is a map of North America by a cartographic business called Allan Cartography, based in Bedford, Oregon. It is quite recent, within the last twenty years, and benefits from the fact that we’re now able to see the entire continent from space. The map does not have any particular man-made features indicated on it. It’s simply a map showing the native earth that is comprised in the North American continent with gradations of color reflecting those portions that tend to have significant rainfall and therefore are green and those portions which are dry and are therefore depicted as a yellowish-brown. It’s large, very large, and immediately makes a statement, and, I think, gives one a sense of the overall sweep of this magnificent continent that we are privileged to live on.


Low resolution preview for in-copyright image.

Title: North America / map prepared by Allan Cartography, Medford, Oregon, with assistance of Dr. A. Jon Kimerling, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University

Contributors: Allan Cartography (Firm), Raven Maps & Images, A. Jon Kimerling

Call Number: SMITH IV-16

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Mappa geographica regionem Mexicanum et Floridam

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This is a map by Tobias Lotter, entitled Mappa geographica regionem Mexicanum et Floridam. The map was made roughly in the middle of the 18th century, around 1750, and, again, it marks the way in which the territories of the new world had, by that time, been marked out. There is a longish green portion to the east coast of North America, which are the then-British colonies. In the middle of the country, the lower half of the entire Mississippi Basin, as well as in the Florida peninsula, there is a pink mass all labeled Florida, and then a yellow portion descending below that reflects the Hispanic influence, all the way from what is now Mexico down through Central America. Like other maps by Lotter, the engraving is a little heavy-handed, but it sure pops out at you and catches your eye. In the lower left hand corner reflecting so much of the conflict that existed in the mid-18th century, between England and France and between Spain and each of them and between some other countries, including Holland, we see a pitched battle going on between cross-masted sailing warships with explosive clouds as one ship cannonaded another. Adding to the human interest, a further part of that illustration in the lower left depicts a number of people at the coast, with the one with a spyglass, one gesturing, observing this conflict going on. The map is also well known for depicting some of the important ports of the area. There’s a very large depiction, for example, of the port of Cartagena, as well as several others. All together, a map that tells several stories and is well worth a close look.



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Hispaniae Novae sivae magnae, recens et vera descriptio, 1579

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This is a map by Abraham Ortelius – an early map entitled “Hispaniae Novae Sivae Magnae, Recens et Vera Descriptio” that was made by Ortelius in 1579, so it’s one of the earlier maps in the collection. It basically depicts New Spain, which became Mexico for the most part, but also pushing up into parts of what is now the United States of America. The cartouches[1] are typical of Ortelius’ work in that in that mapmaker’s conception, a strap-type of design was highly popular, and you see two examples of it both in the lower left-hand corner and in the upper right-hand corner. And adding piquance[2] to the whole thing, various sardonic[3] characters or animals peer out from curls in the cartouche, and a devilish figure with horns appears on top.

This map features quite a number of cities in what again became- ultimately became Mexico. But in the period of time when it was still New Spain, there were many fables about what these cities were like, and some were reputed to have streets of gold, and, no doubt, maps like this only increased the ardor of future explorers to seek out those cities and make their riches.

[1] “Cartouche, in architecture, ornamentation in scroll form, applied especially to elaborate frames around tablets or coats of arms. By extension, the word is applied to any oval shape or even to a decorative shield, whether scroll-like in appearance or not.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/art/cartouche Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.
[2] Piquance can be defined as “a tart spicy quality” or “the quality of being agreeably stimulating or mentally exciting.” https://www.thefreedictionary.com/piquance Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.
[3] Sardonic can be defined as “disdainfully or skeptically humorous” or “derisively mocking.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sardonic Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.



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Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississipi

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This is a map, truly, to be reckoned with. It’s a map that was made by a Frenchman by the name of Guillaume de L’Isle and is entitled “Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi.” The map was originally made by de L’Isle in approximately 1718. What we have here is a reprint of the map by a French firm Cóvens and Mortier dating to 1730. When it was first made in 1718, this map was a real breakthrough. It charted the course of the Mississippi with an accuracy that had never been seen before. Of course, the Mississippi, uh, the Upper Mississippi and the Lower Mississippi were both, at that time, the province of French explorers and, perhaps equally important, French fur-traders who went up and down the Mississippi as the main “highway” plying their fur trade.

The map is important for other reasons as well. It is the first map ever to name Texas, which appears as “Mission de los Teijas” on the map, but it is that expression that matured to the name of America’s largest state among the forty-eight lower states. It is also distinctive because the territory in the middle called “La Louisiane” is huge. It surrounds all of the Mississippi, plunges down into Florida, presses up against the Carolinas and Virginia, and the overwhelming sense is that the French occupy most of the new North American continent. The British Colonies along the eastern seaboard barely cling on to the seaboard that they occupy, and this would be followed, later, by maps prepared by Englishmen showing the French portion of North America as much reduced and the English Colonies as extending a lot further out into the middle of the country than they do here. In many ways, this map is the father, or mother, of many maps to follow. De L’Isle was highly respected and this work of his would be reflected in maps for many generations to follow.



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A new chart of the Bahama Islands and the windward passage

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This map is entitled a new chart of the Bahama Islands and the Windward Passage. Well, this “new” chart, it was actually done in 1749, but at the time it was a contribution to one’s understanding of that portion of the Caribbean, lower Florida, and the Bahamas themselves. One of the distinctive features of the map is its depiction of two areas that are not in fact above water. One being the Bahama Bank and the other being the Grand Bahama Bank and, as the map shows, those relatively shallow areas surround the Bahamas. The shallowness of those banks provide for lots of good fishing, they also over time provided lots of ways in which ships could and did run aground. Cuba is at the very center of the map, Jamaica below it and off to the right a portion of Hispaniola. The entire map is full of rhumb lines, which were very useful to navigators and helped them lay out courses using one portion of a rhumb line and then another in order to get from A to B. There’s a beautiful compass rose and lots of color in what is I think a most soft and attractive map of that part of the world.



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Dominia Anglorum in America Septentrionali

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This map is actually four maps. It’s done by a German mapmaker by the name of Homann, and all together the four images are referred to as “Dominia Anglorum in America Septentrionali” – basically, four of the British colonies, English Colonies, in the North American continent. This being done by a German mapmaker, each one of the areas, Newfoundland for example, the New England area, Carolina and part of Florida, and Virginia and Maryland are nicely colored, each reflecting the jurisdictional boundaries of the day. So, when one looks at this particular map, which was made originally in 1725 and then reprinted several times afterwards, you’re seeing a version of, for example, New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania that shows the Iroquois as occupying a very large portion of what is now Pennsylvania and New York, with New York squashed to the right and New England squashed still further to the right. Again, like so many antique maps, this tells us a great deal about the way in which the lay of the land ran back at the time, and it’s always fascinating to compare it with what we know to be the geography and the boundaries of countries and states today. Almost certainly, all those boundaries will, over the next one-hundred or two-hundred years, evolve still further; so, with maps like this, we get to see a snapshot in time of four areas. So, stay tuned! We’ll see what they look like in another one-hundred years.



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