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–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 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 foxes perhaps, or a fox and a deer – some of the wildlife that 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,
[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,



For more details, view the catalog record:

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 Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pisarro, the conqueror of the Peruvian 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, 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 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 below him. Gold appears here and there. Above the picture of the Incan monarch there is a face – perhaps a face 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. Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.




For more details, view the catalog record for Francisco Pisarro:

For more details, view the catalog record for Athabaliba: