By: Reiner & Joshua Ottens / Frederick De Wit
Date: 1720 (circa) Amsterdam
Dimensions: 42 x 48.5 inches (106.5 x 123 cm)
This grand, six sheet map of the world exudes the splendor and style of of Dutch map making during the golden age of discovery and enlightenment.
This is just the third known example of De Wit's wall map, first published in 1680. It is therefor incredibly rare and with the other two example housed in the British Library and the University Library of Amsterdam, the only known example available to the public. This example is identified as being published by the Ottens family, which we have concluded to most likely have been printed in 1720.
What undoubtedly catches the eye first for most people is the lavish decorative borders that surround the double hemisphere map on all sides and fills every crevasse of what would otherwise be blank paper. The top portion of the map features a small celestial map, surrounded by cherubs and allegorical figures that appear to have captured and/or tamed a bull, ram, lion, and scorpion, referencing their connection to the zodiac signs of Taurus, Aires, Leo, and Cancer.
The lower portion centers on a polar projection with the goddesses representing the four continents resting above. On either side are scenes of human debauchery and wickedness. To the right, a king marches on a barren land while two kids beat a goat and another crawls on the ground lured by another with two fish on the end of a rod. At bottom left is a scene of drunkenness with one man being carried while another vomits on the ground.
As for the cartography of the map, it includes several of the geographic features many seek when collecting world maps of the era, including California as an Island, partial coastlines of New Zealand, Antarctica, and several areas in the northern pole and an unwillingness to discern as to whether or not Australia is connected to New Guinea.
It also includes tracks of many important explorers, including Hudson, Columbus, Le Maire, Drake, Joris van Spilbergen, and a most interesting track of Edmund Halley's voyage to the southern Atlantic. This voyage for some unknown reason is not recorded on Halley's own charts that were produced from this expedition and therefor may be the only cartographic account of that particular voyage.
I KNOW OF only two copies of De Wit's six-sheet wall map, either the master for his revised terrestrial world map of c.1680 described above, or an enlargement of it. There are the same minor geographical changes - three islands not one in Hudson's Bay, the islands of New Guinea and (in part) Quiri Regio inserted on the western hemisphere, and the improved representation of the Great Lakes - all of which are typical of revisions to be found on maps from about 1680 onwards.
The large comer decorations are directly copied from the brilliant scenes in De Wit's earlier terrestrial map of c.1670, combining the four seasons, the elements, and the signs of the zodiac. Between the main hemispheres are, at the top, two smaller celestial circles and, at the bottom, north and south polar projections. The engraving of the centre part of the map appears to be by a different hand: it is altogether finer and more detailed and could well be a later insert. The title at the top is printed outside the natural frame of the map and in the British Library's copy a cartouche at the bottom which might contain the publisher's imprint has been left blank. The other copy in the University Library, Amsterdam, has the eighteenth-century imprint of the Ottens family tot Amsterdam Gedrukt by Reinier & Josua Ottens Konst en Kaart Verkopers op den Nieuwendyk by den Dam in de Warelt Kaart. It is possible that, as with De Wit's eight-sheet world map (Entry 453), there was also an intermediate state from the 1690s with the imprint of Joachim Ottens the elder.
State and Rarity
As noted by Shirley, there are two known examples of the map representing two distinct states; one is in the British Library (BL K.4 .11.8 TAB END) and the other in the University Library, Amsterdam (UBA W.B .001). This is the second of the two states.
Condition: This map is in B condition with professional restoration work recently completed. The six sheets of the map joined and archivally backed to provide support. Evidence of old repaired tears, most notably between Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand, below western Australia, above Baffin Bay, below South Africa and below and to the east of Madagascar.
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