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California as an Island

Elaborate 1719 Wall Map Celebrating America & the Age of Discovery

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278.     [MAP]. CHÂTELAIN, Henri Abraham. Carte très curieuse de la Mer du Sud contenant des remarques nouvelles et très utiles non seulement sur les ports et îles de cette mer, mais aussy sur les principaux pays du l’Amérique tant Septentrionale que Meridionale, avec les noms & la Route des Voyageurs par qui la découverte en a été fait. Le tout pour l’intelligence des dissertations suivantes [upper right sheet above title] Tom: VI. No. 30. Pag: 117. [numerous splendid vignettes and scenes within rococo frameworks: sugar mill, Niagara Falls and the industry of beavers, bear hunting, turtle fishing, method of drying cod, attack of Cortés on Veracruz, Native customs, town plans, flora and fauna, various bays and maritime features around the world; portraits of explorers and authors within medallions, ships at sea, explorers’ routes, etc.]. [Amsterdam: Chez l’Honoré & Châtelain Libraries, 1719]. Copper-engraved map on four sheets, showing the Americas (including California as an island, the west half of Africa, and the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean), each map approximately 37.5 x 70 cm from neat line to neat line (together approximately 80 x 142 cm, or 31-1/2 x 56 inches). Light creases where formerly folded, otherwise very fine with sharp, dark impressions. Each quadrant framed, matted, and under Plexiglas.

     This map was published in Châtelain’s Atlas Historique ou nouvelle introduction à l’histoire… (Tome VI, No. 30, Page 117, reissued in 1732). Goss, The Mapmaker’s Art: A History of Cartography, p. 235. Goss, Mapping of North America, Plate 52. Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici II, Cha 7.11 (p. 38). Lowery 291. MCCS No. 8, #80. Phillips, America, p. 979. Phillips, Atlases 548. Portinaro & Knirsch, Cartography of North America, Plate XVIII (pp. 216-217): “Both lavish in its decoration and full of eccentricity.” Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 142 & Plate 85. “One of the most elaborately engraved maps ever published that includes North America.” Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 511: “Contains the track of the Philippine galleons and of Olivier du Nord in 1600.” Wheat (Mapping the Transmississippi West #94) comments that Châtelain’s 1719 publication is based on De Fer’s 1713 map of the same title.

     This grand production was among the later maps depicting California as an island. Leighly, California as an Island 142 & Plate XX: “Although California is shown as an island in the old way, its outlines are fading. The parts of its coast considered speculative are drawn with a very light line, and printed on the island is a notation to the effect that some moderns now believe the northern part of California to be attached to the American continent.” McLaughlin, The Mapping of California as an Island 190. Tooley, Mapping of America, p. 130 (#80 in “California as an Island: A Geographical Misconception Illustrated by 100 Examples from 1625 to 1770”): “One of the most decorative maps of North America of the eighteenth century…. Based partly on the De Fer map of 1700 it is of interest as showing some of the missions established in Southern California.”

     The Châtelain brothers, apparently Huguenots, were active in Amsterdam in the first half of the eighteenth century, when they published the atlas in which this map appeared. Known for highly decorative maps, such as this one, they also combined geographical facts with speculation and fantasy. On this map, however, as is noted above, an interesting intrusion of reality occurs in the depiction of California, where it is noted that some contemporaries believe the place is not really an island. The reference is probably to Father Kino’s map published fourteen years earlier (Jesuit Letters, 1705), in which California was delineated as peninsular (see Items 323 and 324 herein).


Sold. Hammer: $5,000.00; Price Realized: $6,000.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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