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Antique Map of North America: America Septentrionalis by Jansson 1636
Antique Map of North America: America Septentrionalis by Jansson 1636 | VERSO
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1636 America Septentrionalis

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By: Jan Jansson

Date: 1636 (Published) Amsterdam

Dimensions: 22 x 18.5 inches (55.88 x 46.99 cm)

This is a rare, first-state example of Jan Jansson’s map of North America, published in Amsterdam in 1636. This map occupies an important place in cartographic history as is was the first map of just North America to propose the famous misconception that California was an island.

With this map, Jansson provides an illustration of North America that is simply arresting to the modern viewer. He spares little detail in his description of California, and shows many of the important places discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, including Catalina Island,  Po Sir Francifco Draco ( Port of San Francisco), and the Bay of San Diego (Po ds Diego). But most notably he draws California as an island, separated from the American mainland by the mythical Mare Vermio and a string of unnamed islands.

Jansson was not the first to advance the theory that California was an island, the Spanish explorer Antonio de la Ascension did so in a 1602 journal entry, but his map popularized it, and many subsequent maps featured the “Insula California” as a result. The practice became so widespread that in 1747, King Ferdinand VI of Spain was compelled to issue a royal edict declaring that California was part of mainland North America.

Jansson’s depiction of California may be the map’s most remarkable feature, but there are other elements worth investigating. In the Southwest, the Rio del Norto (Rio Grande) has a fictitious lake as its source and is incorrectly shown flowing into the Sea of Cortez. In the Northeast, the region labled Novum Belgium is disproportionately elongated. The St. Lawrence River is shown to originate from just one Great Lake, Ontario, which is named "Lac des Iroquois," an obvious reference to the great Iroquois Nation that once thrived throughout the region.

The map is richly decorated with vignettes showing animals of the North American landscape including the wild horse, warthog, deer, polar bear, and longhorn steer. The ocean is replete with illustrations of sailing ships and sea monsters.

As previously stated, this is the scarce first state example of this map, identified by a blank cartouche at lower left, latin text on the verso and the signature Oooo at the bottom of that text. 

Ref: Burden 245; Koeman Vol. II, p.397, no. 486; Leighly 13; McLaughlin 6; Tooley p.113

Condition: This map is in A condition with original color identified by oxidation on the verso and full margins on all sides. Any minor edge separations have been reinforced on the verso with archival materials. 

Inventory #12035

1200 W. 35th Street #425 Chicago, IL 60609 | P: (312) 496 - 3622

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