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 specimen of Jan Jansson’s map of North America which was published in Amsterdam in 1636. This map occupies an important place in the history of map making because it spread the 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, the Bay of San Francisco (Po Sir Francifco Draco), 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 Grande (Rio del Norto) 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 map is also richly decorated, and many drawings of animals dot the North American landscape, while the ocean is replete with illustrations of sailing ships and sea monsters.

Condition: This map is in B condition with original coloring around the land features. There is a tear along the centerfold that has been repaired with tape on the verso, and there is also some minor discoloration in the image.

Inventory #19495 

1932 S. Halsted St. #200 Chicago, IL 60608 | P: (312) 496 - 3622

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