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Influential Prototype Printed Map of the Gulf of Mexico

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348.     [MAP]. ORTELIUS, Abraham & Gerónimo de Chaves. [Three copper-engraved maps on one sheet] [1] ORTELIUS, Abraham. Pervviæ avriferæ regionis typvs. Didaco Mendezio auctore (neat line to neat line: 33.4 x 22 cm) [2] CHAVES, Gerónimo de. La Florida. Auctore Hieron. Chiaves [cartouche top right] Cum priuilegio (neat line to neat line: 15.3 x 22.1 cm) [3] Gvastecan Reg. (neat line to neat line: 17.4 x 22 cm); overall: 33 x 45.7 cm. N.p., n.d. [Antwerp: Plantin Press, 1591-1592]. Copper-engraved map, contemporary partial, outline, and shaded hand coloring, decorative cartouches, symbolic ornaments, ships at sea, stipple-engraved seas, fine italic calligraphy. Text in Latin on verso (signature 9 at lower right). Very fine, with superb contemporary coloring. Matted with opening on verso showing text.

     First state, early issue (third Latin issue). The map was first printed for insertion in Ortelius’ 1584 Additamentum III to his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici, Vol. III, p. 47, Ort 18, No. 103). The printing issues relate to the text on verso of the map, rather than any change to the map proper. The map appeared without change in the Latin, French, German, and Spanish translations, from 1584 to 1612, and even as late as a ca. 1640 edition of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (see Burden). The first Latin issue had no signature below the Latin text. The next Latin issue was also 1584, with signature 8 below Latin text. The present map is the third Latin issue, with signature 9 below Latin text, and it appeared in fourth edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which came out during 1591 and 1592. Printing began in 1590, but due to a shortage of paper, the printing took longer than expected. Koeman (Ort 27 A & B) considered the “later” issues as variants of the first state. Later states in the early seventeenth century may be identified by the break to the lower left corner of the plate, which occurred with the 1606 edition.

     Burden 57: “One of a handful of prototypes produced, its influence was considerable… The map provided the foundation cartography for the region, particularly noticeble by the depiction of the river system.” Cumming, Plate 9n, and p. 12 commenting on the anonymous manuscript map of the De Soto expedition (Plate 5), which has been conjectured to be among the sources for the present printed map: “One of the half-dozen most important mother maps of southeastern North America. This map probably had more influence than any other map in establishing the subsequent conception of Florida as including that part of the present U.S. from the peninsula of Florida northward to about 40° north latitude and westward to or beyond the Mississippi.” Jackson, Flags along the Coast, pp. 7, 99-100. Krogt (editor), Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici, New Edition, Vol. III, Part A, p. 95, No. 31:041(9). Lowery 70n. Mapoteca Colombiana, p. 25.

     Martin & Martin, pp. 18 & 75n: “It was not until 1584, when Ortelius succeeded in enticing a map from Spanish royal cosmographer, Gerónimo de Chaves, that accurate information on the explorations of the Spanish expeditions in the interior were printed on a map…. The small map entitled La Florida…became the prototype which was copied by the map trade for several decades. Privy to all of the official reports of the Spanish explorers, Chaves’ map recorded the discoveries of Cabeza de Vaca, de Soto, and Moscoso." Schwartz & Ehrenberg, pp. 79-81 & plate 35: “The first regional map representation of Florida.” Van den Broecke, Ortelius Atlas Maps 15.

     Ralph E. Ehrenberg, in an online article “‘Marvellous Countries and Lands,’ Notable Maps of Florida, 1507-1846" discusses the map:

Hernando de Soto’s ill-fated four-year overland expedition from Tampa Bay to the Mississippi River Valley from 1539 to 1543 contributed to several notable maps of Spanish Florida. The first to appear was a small regional map, entitled La Florida. It was drawn by Spanish royal chartmaker Jerónimo de Chaves and published by Abraham Ortelius (Antwerp, 1584). Scholars believe that Chaves drew primarily from the report of the “Gentleman of Elvas,” a de Soto expedition survivor from the province of Elvas, Portugal. The Chaves-Ortelius map is an historical document of major significance. It provided Europeans with their first detailed but distorted image of the present southeastern interior of the United States. The lower course of the Mississippi and the Mobile-Tombigbee Rivers are clearly discernable for the first time on a printed map, although they are portrayed in a pattern of interlocking streams that appear greatly distorted and unnatural. According to geographer Louis De Vorsey, this unconventional configuration actually reflects the Native American concept of their transportation system. Indians did not differentiate between waterways and pathways. “To the Indian the overall pathway or route system was the important thing and whether a segment was traveled on foot or in a dugout canoe was incidental.”

In the southeast the Appalachian Mountain chain makes an early appearance although it too is incorrectly depicted, aligned in a northwestern rather than a northeastern orientation. The representation of these major features and the rectangular configuration of the Florida peninsula serve as unique identification markers for this map type. Chaves’ map first appeared in the third edition of Ortelius’ popular world atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which went through numerous editions from 1570 to 1724 in Latin, Dutch, French, German, English, and Italian. Many other European map publishers also copied it.

     As for the delineation of Texas and Rio Grande, Robert Weddle plows through various theories about the present map and provides sound conclusions in his excellent article on “Spanish Mapping of Texas” in the Handbook of Texas Online:

…Until the so-called “De Soto map” [in Archivo General de Indias; see Cumming’s notes to plate 5 on p. 94] came to light, nothing was known of the Texas interior. This map, attributed to Alonso de Santa Cruz, was found among the cosmographer’s papers after his death in 1572. It is often given the date of 1544, about the time some of Soto’s men returned to Spain. In truth, both its authorship and the date are uncertain, its popular label misleading. Obviously, the date it was drawn can be no more than a guess. There is a marked difference between the style of this map and another found among Santa Cruz’s papers at the same time, a general map of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the east coast of North America. It is misleading to call it the Soto map, because it contains data from other explorers, including Juan Ponce de León and Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, in the east, and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and Francisco Vázquez de Coronado in the west. The map shows the mountains of northeastern Mexico, too far from the coast to have been seen by Soto’s men as they sailed along the coast toward Pánuco but surely seen by Cabeza de Vaca on his trek west from the Texas coast…. The “Soto” map was the first to show the courses of North American rivers, albeit somewhat inaccurately. There is a semblance of accuracy to some of those west of the Mississippi that were seen on the march led by Luis de Moscoso Alvarado into eastern Texas and again from the Gulf. Of some sixty Indian towns shown on the map, fourteen are identifiable with those named in the three primary accounts of the Soto expedition; a few, like the Ays (Eyeish) and Guassa (Guasco), are identifiable with the Caddoan tribes of eastern Texas.

The Soto map influenced mapmakers of Spain and other nations for half a century. Gerónimo Chaves’ 1584 map, “La Florida,” reflected the Soto map’s style and much of its content, while adding some new coastal toponyms and altering configurations here and there. It repeated names from the 1520 Ribeiro maps, such as Río del Oro and Río Escondido, and showed the Médanos de Madalena, the Padre Island dunes named by salvagers of the Padre Island Spanish shipwrecks of 1554. Chaves’ map, like several others of the period, failed to show the Rio Grande, or Río Bravo, as it is called in Mexico. That river, in fact, came late to the maps and took even longer to be given its recognizable form. Since the Río de las Palmas often appeared as the first river south of the Río Escondido, it was natural for historians to mistake it for the Rio Grande.

     Gerónimo Chaves (1523-1574) was the son of Alonso de Chaves, a topographical engineer who worked in Mexico and also as a pilot and cosmographer to Charles V of Spain. Gerónimo drew this manuscript map, probably after 1560. He succeeded Sebastian Cabot as “Piloto Mayor de la Casa de la Contratación” the repository of Spain’s secret maps of their explorations and conquests.

     Map 1 by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza shows Spanish vessels cruising by the gold-rich region of Peru. The legendary kingdom of El Dorado is marked as “Aurea Regio,” and the Amazon River is shown with several of its tributaries. The elaborate bull’s head cartouche of Map 3 identifies the region of Guasteca, Mexico, and shows northeastern Mexico (Huasteca, or present Tamaulipas) along the Gulf coast and into the interior.


Sold. Hammer: $1,600.00; Price Realized: $1,920.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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