Saturday, February 19, 2011

Unusual antique maps at the Book Fair

Traditionally the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair offers more than just books, though, to be sure, it is a book fair and books predominate, the older the better.

But fans of the cartographic arts will find some rare treasures as well. Case in point: the collection of Gary Hudson, proprietor of Antique Atlas. Here is a small sampling of the kinds of unusual examples Hudson will have at the Book Fair.

In 1544, a Franciscan monk named Sebastian Munster published Cosmographia, one of the most successful descriptions of the world ever, and certainly for the 16th century. You can see a map from that book in the slide show above.

This is a rare second edition of the book in its original pig skin binding. It was published in 1545.

Sebastian Munster (1489 - 1552) joined the Franciscan order in 1505 and sent to the monastery in Rufach where he studied Hebrew, Greek, mathematics, cosmography and astronomy. In 1540, he published an edition of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia. In 1544, he published his major work, the Cosmographia.

The Cosmographia continued to be published long after Munster's death of the plague in 1552 and altogether 46 editions were produced, including issues in German, Latin, Italian and French.

The second picture in the slide show is one sheet of Italian cartographer Antonio Zatta's 12-sheet map of North America.

Zatta produced atlases containing very attractive maps. This set was published in Venice, in 1778. It is titled Le Colonie Unite dell' America Settentrle. Di Nouva Projezione aSS.EE. li Signori Riformatori dello Studio di Padova Venezia 1778 ..."

The 12-sheet unjoined, hand-colored map is based on the landmark map by early Virginia settler John Mitchell (1711-1768), who produced the most comprehensive map of eastern North America made during the colonial era. Each sheet of the Zatta map measures about 12.5 inches x 16.5 inches.

The next two prints in the slide show are by Theodore De Bry, the famous Belgian engraver, who never saw the New World, but produced remarkably detailed illustrations from the first-hand accounts of explorers. These illustrations, produced about 1595, show Florida Indians and the French landing at their first (and failed) attempt at settlement, building Fort Caroline, on the banks of the St. Johns River near present-day Jacksonville.

The last picture above is of the Americas volume from Philippe Vandermaelen, a famous Flemish cartographer.  It was published in Brussels in 1837 as Atlas Universel ..., Vol. IV, Amerique Septentrionale.

It is a complete and overall fine example of Vandermaelen's North American volume [Volume 4 of 6] of his monumental Atlas Universel de Geographie Physique ... " It contains 79 double-page maps. The first map [shown], Carte D'Assemblage de L'Americque Septentle, is the index map showing the layout of all of the uniform scale maps.  Next is the stunning Tableau Provinsiore d'Assemblage ... The next 77 maps are the indexed individual maps and contains many highly desirable hand-colored maps of the continent.

Vandermaelen was the son of a wealthy industrialist who abandoned his father's business to pursue cartography. His goal was to generate the first atlas with every map on the same projection and the same scale, mapping the known world. This is one of the volumes he produced.

If all maps from the six volumes were joined they would form a globe more than 25 feet in diameter. This also is the first lithographic atlas ever produced. Only 810 copies are reported to have been printed, few of which remain intact.


  1. It really does sound interesting! Maps are such an important part of life–whether they are made of paper or are digital–and it would interesting to learn their history and how they came to be.

  2. Have a great time, especially at the book fair.