Nova et accurata poli Arctici

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This is a map by Jan Jansson entitled “Nova et Accurata Poli Arctici.” It is a map of the top of the world. As we have already seen in map IV-30, the de L’Isle map of the northern hemisphere, there have been lots of different understandings of what the top half of the Earth looks like. This one, having been done in 1642, is considerably less finished – less full of understanding – than those that followed. One can see lots of wonderfully intersecting rhumb lines.[1] Now, however, because we are at the top of the Earth and all of the rhumb lines have to meet at the North Pole, there is a marvelous concatenation of lines gathering as one gets closer and closer to the center, uh, the North Pole.

Again, we see, both the top of North America, the top of Europe, and the top of Asia, as it was then, as they each were then understood, all quite uncertain. Of the cartouches[2], and there are, there’s one in the upper-portion and one in the lower-right are, uh, wonderfully imaginative. Winds are blowing from various faces. And in the lower-right we have a marvelous combination of two explorers, a polar bear, and what look like two, uh, a fox perhaps, uh, a fox and a deer, or maybe two foxes – some of the wildlife that, um, might have been discovered or seen up in that northern reach.

When compared with still earlier versions of the North Pole, others of which are in the Villanova collection, we get a wonderful series of views as man’s understanding of the northern parts of the world became better and better. It might be said, however, that as our accuracy improved, the colorfulness of the various depictions declined. And I still have a great fondness for these maps in the 1600s and the 1500s which tell their own wonderful story however mythological they might be.

[1] “In navigation, a rhumb line […] is an arc crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle, that is, a path with constant bearing as measured relative to true or magnetic north.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhumb_line
[2] “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

 

 

For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935660

Francisco Pisarro and Athabaliba, ultimus rex Peruanorum

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These are two engravings by a British mapmaker by the name of John Ogilby. One is of the, uh, Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pisarro, the conqueror of the Peruvian, uh, indigenous peoples. And the other is the Incan leader, Athabaliba[1], who was the unhappy monarch deposed by the Spaniards when they invaded and asserted their control over that part of South America. The engravings are beautiful, they’re clear, they almost seem fresh off the press, but are in fact, uh, over two hundred years old, and they have been magnificently colored again to catch the eye. If we look at each of them in turn, we see certain of the items that signal the role or the fate of the two characters in question – Pisarro on the one hand and Athabaliba on the, uh, on the other. In the case of Pisarro, he’s dressed with a magnificently plumed hat, he is in shining armor, the hilt of a sword shown, and behind him are scenes of the invading Spaniards taking on and ultimately capturing the Incan leader, and working their way on the peoples of the day. On the other hand, the picture of Athabaliba tells his story all too graphically. There are chains around his body, there are chains in the graphics, uh, below him. Gold appears here and there. Above the picture of the Incan monarch there is a face – perhaps a face, uh, to be found in the Incan traditions – but it looks at us and it looks over the hapless king with a menacing view, signifying that the days of Incan leadership are close to over.

[1] The name of this ruler has been rendered with many different spellings, now most commonly spelled Atahualpa. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atahualpa Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.

 

 

 

For more details, view the catalog record for Francisco Pisarro: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935589

For more details, view the catalog record for Athabaliba: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935590

China veteribus Sinarum Regio nunc incolis Tame dicta

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This is a map of Southeast Asia, including China, including, uh, the Korean Peninsula, and including, uh, Japan with a little bit of the Philippines down below for good measure. This map was done actually by both, uh, the mapmaker Willem Blaeu and also the mapmaker Jan Jansson, and, uh, 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, uh 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, uh, 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, uh, 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, uh, is marked by beautiful delineation of the best knowledge that the mapmakers had, um, 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 – j-a-n – Jansson – j-a-n-s-s-o-n – 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, uh, 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, thats r-h-u-m-b. 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, uh, with illustrations – there are ships on the on the, uh, 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, 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, uh, to roughly to 1630 (or) 1631. It is full of activity. Uh, 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, uh, there is activity all over. At the very foot of South America, uh, 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. Uh, one depicting the top of the world, the Arctic region. And one depicting the bottom of the world, the Antarctic, uh, region.

If, uh, 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. Uh, 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, uh, map, “Terra Firma et Novum Regnum,” is a beautiful map of a portion of Central America and the northwest coast of South America. Uh, 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, uh, the Americas as separating the oceans, uh, east and west, but in this particular context, uh, 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, uh, that characterizes that part of South America, and, indeed, goes right down the entire western coast of South America. The, uh, the mountains are, uh, not there to depict specific peaks, but, uh, you get a wonderful sense of just how many mountains there are, and it graphically illustrates, uh, the fact of- of- of the great mount- mountainous character of the, uh, of the area. Another beautiful map by- 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 Burton, one of the great, uh, 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, uh, a good portion of the state of Virginia, particularly that portion surrounding, uh, the Chesapeake Bay, which is clearly indicated. It’s, uh- 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, uh, print material in the upper-left left-hand corner which features the Indian Chief Powhatan, uh, 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, uh, Powhatan took a shine to Captain Smith, uh, not necessarily on behalf of his daughter but perhaps because his tribe was being pressed on all sides by other Indian rivals and, uh, the speculation is that he may have seen the English, uh, Captain John Smith, as potential allies in- in a conflict.

The map itself is actually based on a map that John Smith, the original, uh, 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, uh- 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, uh, 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

Tabula geographica-hydrographia motus oceani

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This map is a curious and, to some degree, insightful, uh, rendering of how the Earth works. It was prepared by Athanasius Kircher, um, who made it his business to try to understand ocean currents, try to understand, uh, hydrological activity, try to understand volcanic activity. And so, his maps are full of representations and some speculation about how the waters of the world connect to each other, how the volcanoes are arrayed, and so on. Very interested in those features, uh, and some of his theories, which had long underground passageways connecting one body of water with another, um, were interesting in their speculative character – uh, not many of them, uh, proved to be true, but he was at least asking the questions that, uh, later scientists, hydrologists, and oceanographers were to explore.

 

 

For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1691570

Polus Antarcticus

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This is a map, uh, by, uh, Johannes Janssonius of the, uh, Antarctic – “Polus Antarcticus.” This map was published in the first half of the 17th Century. And, again, uh, it reflects how little was actually known about that southernmost part of the planet. Mapmakers had been guessing for years about what might be down there; and there were only glancing blows struck by the earliest explorers. So, what you see on the map are a few hazy lines. One doesn’t know how they connect up. One doesn’t even know if they’re real, but there was a stab at it and that’s what this wonderful map shows. I particularly like the bird in the lower right-hand corner – an artist’s, um, guess, anyway, at what might actually, uh, be located there.

 

 

For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1691558

Novi orbis pars borealis, America scilicet complectens Floridam, Baccalaon, Canadam, terram Corterialem, Virginiam, Norombecam, pluresque alias provincias

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This is a map entitled “Novi Orbis Pars Borealis America” by a mapmaker by the name of Matthias Quad. It was done in or about, uh, 1600 and was, like so many maps of the day, an effort to understand what the North American continent was all about using very, very limited information. Despite these limits, Quad was working with some important feedback and information from some of the great explorers of the day. They included Jacques Cartier, Sebastian Cabot, Giovanni Verrazano, and Sir Walter Raleigh, among others. The, um, depiction of North America is, of course, very squashed and, to the modern eye, not at all realistic. But it is quite comprehensive, uh, including that portion of the map that is today the United States and that portion of the map which is today Canada, identified almost throughout as “Francia Nova.”

Perhaps the most interesting and curious feature of the map is the long strip of sea that goes from East all the way to West. Here, the mapmaker was speculating. There was a great deal of hope on the part of many in Europe that there would, in fact, be a passageway – a so-called “Northwest Passage” – that would go transversely across the North American continent, providing an opportunity for European ships to reach the Orient directly without having to go all the way down around the bottom of South America and travel up along and across the sometimes-violent Pacific Ocean. So, in this particular case, uh, the wish became the fact, and Quad depicts a Northwest Passage that, in fact, did not exist. I think it’s interesting that in today’s modern times, with, uh, the enhanced ability of ships to traverse the Arctic region, ships are once again imagining regular commercial traffic through the icy waters of the Artic and, perhaps today, there is some version of a Northwest Passage that is actually shaping up.[1] 

[1] “Until 2009, the Arctic pack ice prevented regular marine shipping throughout most of the year. Arctic sea ice decline has rendered the waterways more navigable for ice navigation.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Passage Accessed 24 Mar. 2021.

 

 

For more details, view the catalog record: https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Record/1935558