Pictorial map of the American continent

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This is a map that was produced by Standard Oil of New Jersey – ESSO, I guess it later became – and it depicts the Pan-American Highway[1], which runs from the very top of the North American continent all the way down to, uh, the bottom. Along the way, Standard Oil and the mapmaker include all manner of illustrations, each one of which has a beguiling nature to it, suggesting that travelling along the Pan-American Highway would be a wonderful and entertaining thing to do. It was a day, of course, when the great oil companies and recently organizations like Exxon and Sunoco would all publish maps of various subjects, frequently state-by-state and offer them free-of-sale to motorists who just came by to fill their gas tank. The oil companies have largely discontinued that practice in the face of modern technology and GPS systems, and it’s probably not cost effective to do it anymore. But this map reflects kind of a romantic notion that all of the Americas were now available to the motorist and it was time to get in the car and go see North and South America.

[1] “The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads stretching across the American continents and measuring about 30,000 kilometres (19,000 mi) in total length. Except for a rainforest break of approximately 106 km (70 mi) across the border between southeast Panama and northwest Colombia, called the Darién Gap, the roads link almost all of the Pacific coastal countries of the Americas in a connected highway system.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-American_Highway Accessed 11 Mar. 2021.


Low resolution previews (front and back) for in-copyright image.


Title: Pictorial map of the American continent : featuring the Pan American Highway and showing some of the natural resources, scenic wonders, and points of interest

Contributor: General Drafting Company, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey

Call Number: SMITH IV-10

For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935581

North America

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This map is a map called “North America” that was made by a mapmaker named John Tallis in 1851. Tallis was well known for the high quality of his engraving work and also known for the ways in which he would illustrate various features of the subject of his map. So, in this particular case we have a wonderful collection of images: Images of the indigenous peoples of the north, in the very top. Off to the right, images of beavers, the beaver having been a major economic force in the development of the Americas because their pelts were so widely desired. Pictures of travelers and explorers. Pictures on the left-hand side of Indians next to their teepee and a magnificent buck on the left-hand side as well. Tallis also has a unique border – very delicate, very attractive. And all together, this beautifully colored map makes a nice impression.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935560

China veteribus Sinarum Regio nunc incolis Tame dicta

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This is a map of Southeast Asia, including China, including the Korean Peninsula, and including Japan with a little bit of the Philippines down below for good measure. This map was done actually by both the mapmaker Willem Blaeu and also the mapmaker Jan Jansson, and was prepared by both of them in the 1630s. They were great rivals.

This particular map was a great advancement at the time. Before it was done, a mapmaker by the name of Abraham Ortelius had tried to depict East Asia, and it was very, very rough-hewn indeed. One might say the same of this map, but it has to be noted that it is, and was, a significant, significant improvement.

Several features might be pointed out. There is an island called “Pakan al I. Formosa,” which is modern-day Taiwan. Off to the west, there is a completely mythical lake, “Lake Chiamay,” in the western-extreme portion of the map, that happens to be where Assam, India now lies. So, you can see that, as with so many maps of this period, there was a lot of guesswork being engaged in by the mapmaker and not all of it was right. Happily, this map has survived in very good condition and is marked by beautiful delineation of the best knowledge that the mapmakers had at that time.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935547

Insulae Americanae in Oceano Septentrionali, cum Terris adiacentibus

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This is a map by a mapmaker by the name of Jan Jansson who lived from 1588 to 1664. This was one of the prize maps in my collection, and I’m so glad that it is now in Villanova University’s Special Collections. It is a depiction of the lower portion of the then-known portions of North America, plus the Central American region, and the very top of the continent of South America. Featured are the great islands of the Caribbean, including Cuba and Hispaniola, and then of course the string of islands that radiate to the east from Hispaniola and circle down to the South American continent, the so-called Windward Islands. In this map we have two compass roses; each is the starting point for a series of lines called Rhumb lines which could, and in many cases were, used by mariners to plot courses, at least portions of courses, as they navigated from one part of the world to another. Like so many maps of the day it also is rich with illustrations – there are ships on the sea, there are various creatures – a lizard, a turtle, a snake and others – and circling the cartouche in the upper left-hand corner of this map. Again this map is called Insulae Americanae in Oceano Septentrionali, and it is a prize edition of an early map of the Caribbean.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935545

America: Noviter Delineata

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This map is a depiction by a mapmaker by the name of Hondius, Hendrikus Hondius, dating to roughly 1630 (or) 1631. It is full of activity. There are galleons. There are large sailing ships. There is a conflict going on between two of them in the Pacific, the so-called Mar-del-Zur. And there is activity all over. At the very foot of South America there is a sea creature, a fairly large sea creature belching water – probably not a creature that the average mariner would want to run into. And a similar creature appears on the left-hand side.

There are various insets. One depicting the top of the world, the Arctic region. And one depicting the bottom of the world, the Antarctic region.

If one looks through the map at various points where there may be a blank spot, the mapmaker has chosen to fill them in with some interesting animal life or other activity that characterized that part of the world. Obviously, by this date, not too much was known by the interior either of South America or North America, and when one looks up to the North American portion of the map, there is a great deal of blank space, a great deal of geography yet to be discovered.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1933458

Terra Firma et Novum Regnum Granatense et Popayan

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This map, “Terra Firma et Novum Regnum,” is a beautiful map of a portion of Central America and the northwest coast of South America. At the very top is a representation of the “Mar del Norte,” the Sea of the North, with a compass rose there; and below the Central American depiction is another compass rose and the words “Mar del Zur.” Many people think about the Americas as separating the oceans, east and west, but in this particular context the water is to the north, hence “Mar del Norte,” and also to the south, therefore “Mar del Zur.” Whereas portions of Colombia are shown as well as various portions of Peru, the map is wonderful in its depiction of the very mountainous coast that characterizes that part of South America, and, indeed, goes right down the entire western coast of South America. The mountains are not there to depict specific peaks, but you get a wonderful sense of just how many mountains there are, and it graphically illustrates the fact of the great mountainous character of the area. Another beautiful map by Blaeu.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935539

Nova Virginiae tabvla

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This map is “Nova Virginiae Tabula” and it’s a map by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, who lived from 1571 to 1638. It’s an extraordinary map, and Clive Burden, one of the great compilers of antique maps in the United States has described it as one of the most important maps ever published about America or a part of America. What it shows is a good portion of the state of Virginia, particularly that portion surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, which is clearly indicated. It’s nicely colored. The map is a little bit toned but the color still is striking.

One of the things that your eye is immediately drawn to is the print material in the upper-left hand corner which features the Indian Chief Powhatan sitting in a longhouse along with the leaders of his tribe with a smoking fire before him. Now Powhatan, as most people have heard, is associated with a daughter by the name of Pocahontas, and the legend has it that Pocahontas, Powhatan’s daughter, met and had an amorous relationship with one of the earlier explorers, Captain John Smith – no relation to me, by the way! In any event Powhatan took a shine to Captain Smith, not necessarily on behalf of his daughter but perhaps because his tribe was being pressed on all sides by other Indian rivals and the speculation is that he may have seen the English Captain John Smith, as potential allies in a conflict.

The map itself is actually based on a map that John Smith, the original, in 1612 drew of this same area, the Chesapeake Bay area. When you look at the map, you’ll realize that north is essentially to the right, west is where we would normally think “north” to be, and east is at the bottom of the frame. Captain John Smith’s map was largely laid out the same way. It was then emulated by still another mapmaker, Jodocus Hondius, in 1618, and, ultimately, Willem Blaeu created this masterpiece, one of the great maps of America’s Mid-Atlantic in the 1600s.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935518


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This map is a map of America by Ruscelli. He is a 16th Century mapmaker. This is heavily annotated, and so it is fun to look closely at both what is set forth as North America and also what is South America, and to compare the names of that day with those of the present. So, one can find, by looking closely, Florida. The islands of Cuba and Hispaniola are there, as are literally dozens and dozens of other locations. It’s all a little congested, but it’s beautifully engraved with all the flourishes that Ruscelli was known for, and again, in pretty good condition for a map that’s more than four-and-a-half centuries old.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1700142

Passage par terre a la Californie decouverte par le R.P. Eusebe- François Kino, Jesuite depuis 1698 jusqu’a 1701 ou l’on voit encore les Nouvelles Missions des PP. de la Compag.e de Jesus

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This map records a historic event that took place a few years before it was published. The background is that once upon a time, the very earliest mapmakers described California as part of the North American continent, part of the mainland. And then in 1625, a mapmaker by the name of Briggs[1] decided that it was really an island[2], and he was so famous that succeeding mapmakers followed his example and described California on their maps also as an island. It wasn’t until Father Kino[3] decided to try out how you got to this so-called “island” and he began walking west and he continued walking west, and he continued walking west, until he got to the Pacific Ocean without having gotten his feet wet in the meantime. All of a sudden, people realized that the island notion was a mistake the whole time and California was, in fact, part of the North American mainland. Of course some people think that there may come a day with earthquake activity that California might someday, again, be seen as an island. We will see!

[1] “Henry Briggs (bap. 1561-1631) was an English mathematician. He is best known for his pioneering work on logarithms and his 1625 map depicting California as an island, the first English map to do so.” https://www.raremaps.com/mapmaker/1190/Henry_Briggs Accessed 16 Mar. 2021.
[2] “In 1622 [Briggs] published a small tract on the Northwest Passage to the South Seas, through the Continent of Virginia and Hudson Bay. The tract is notorious today as the origin of the cartographic myth of the Island of California. In it Briggs stated he had seen a map that had been brought from Holland that showed the Island of California.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Briggs_(mathematician) Accessed 16 Mar. 2021.
[3] “Eusebio Francisco Kino (10 August 1645 – 15 March 1711), often referred to as Father Kino, was a Tyrolean Jesuit, missionary, geographer, explorer, cartographer and astronomer born in the Territory of the Bishopric of Trent, then part of the Holy Roman Empire.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eusebio_Kino Accessed 16 Mar. 2021.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1700139

Carte réduite du détroit de Magellan

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This map is a depiction of the famous Strait of Magellan. This is the Strait that roughly two-hundred years or so before the map was made, Ferdinand Magellan made his famous circumnavigation of the Earth – or I should say, his expedition did, because he didn’t make it. Nevertheless, he was the one who pioneered the Strait. And, as you can see, there are innumerable nooks and crannies as you go through it and islands in the midst of it – places where it would be easy to get lost or hide or make a wrong turn. And, in fact, Magellan found to his chagrin that that set of hiding places resulted in the captain of one of the ships of his expedition, deciding that the voyage was not worth pursuing, finding a way to hide while Magellan and the other ships proceeded forward, and then that recalcitrant[1] captain and ship worked their way back out to the front and headed back to Spain.

The map is also fun for its reference to “Terre De Feu,” better known as the “Tierra Del Fuego,” where, at least, there were outcrops of fire, whether it was native-created or maybe secretions of flammable substance. The long-and-short of it is that the early sailors thought that they saw fire on the island, and that became the way in which it was named: the “Land of Fire” – Tierra Del Fuego.

[1] Recalcitrant can be defined as, “obstinately defiant of authority or restraint” or “difficult to manage or operate.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recalcitrant Accessed 18 Mar. 2021.



For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1700119