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Senex’s World Map Showing California as an Island

With Text by Isaac Newton & Edmond Halley

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361.     [MAP]. SENEX, John, Edmond Halley, Isaac Newton, et al. A Map of the World Corrected from the Observations Communicated to the Royal Societys [sic] of London and Paris By John Senex F.R.S. To the Right Honourable Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington and Cork, Viscount Dungarvan, Baron Clifford of Lansborough and Baron Boyle of Youghail. This Map is Dedicated by his Most Obedient & Most Humble Servts. Iohn Senex [John Maxwell scrubbed from plate but still faintly visible] H. Hulsbergh Sc. [right center] Sold by I. Senex at the Globe against St. Dunstans Church in Fleetstreet London 1725 [bottom center of right hemisphere] Drawn & Engraved by Iohn Senex [engraved text at top left] The Theory of the Tides from Sr. Isaac Newton’s Phil. Nat. Pinc. Mat… [engraved text at top right] An attempt to assign the Physical cause of the Trade Winds and Monsoons by Dr. Ed. Halley…. [London, 1728-1749; University of Oxford Library dates its copy 1740 (see notes below)]. Copper-engraved map on heavy laid paper, two sheets joined to form large double-hemisphere map of the world, pictorial cartouche showing female representations of the four continents surrounding dedication, contemporary hand coloring (full coloring of land masses and cartouche), wind directions shown by arrows, Halley’s magnetic variations indicated by lines, extensive text by Sir Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley in corners and at lower center; neat line to neat line: 59 x 109 cm.; diameter of hemispheres: approximately 54.5 cm; sheet size: 63.5 x 113 cm. Contemporary ink number “2” on verso. Contemporary paper selvage, old reinforcements at folds, one fold with small split (no loss), several minor wormholes, small areas abraded with minor loss along centerfold and in Russia and India. A few stains at lower center, some marginal chipping, and a small hole in lower blank margin. Overall a very good, unsophisticated copy of a fragile format. When found, the map has generally been backed and restored.

     This large-scale world map showing California as an island appeared in various permutations between 1711 and ca. 1750. John Senex and his partner John Maxwell first published the map in 1711 (Leighly, California as an Island 156), and both their names appear on it. Maxwell’s name has been scrubbed from the plate in the present version, although it is still partially legible. Another version of the map came out in 1750 with alterations, including showing California as a peninsula rather than an island, as in the present map. The map appeared in Senex’s Modern Geography [1708-1725] and as a separate, as here. Despite the engraved date of 1725, according to Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, revised edition (Vol. III, pp. 146-147), Senex was not elected to the Royal Society until 1728. On the present map Senex’s name at the top is followed by F.R.S. (Fellow of the Royal Society). Normal attribution of date is 1725, but the range of 1728 to before 1750 seems more reasonable.

     Leighly, California as an Island 156. Phillips, Atlases 550 (map 2 in Senex’s Modern Geography [1708-1725, Bowles & Bowles]). Portraits of the World, #47, p. 56. Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast 522. Whitfield, The Image of the World, pp. 110-111: “This map represents the complete ascendancy of scientific taste in the eighteenth-century twin-hemisphere world map: the map’s borders are filled neither with classical motifs nor even with scientific motifs, but with scientific texts, long and detailed passages from two of the foremost scientists of the day [Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley].”

     John Senex (1678-1740), was a major mapmaker, globe maker, and engraver in early eighteenth-century England. For a time, he even had Ephraim Chambers as his apprentice. Senex served as cartographer to Queen Anne and was admitted to the Royal Society on July 24, 1728. He often cooperated with Edmond Halley and published the results of his research. Senex sought the latest, most accurate information for his maps, plagiarizing Delisle’s 1718 Carte de la Louisiane (see Item 288 herein), and, in an instance of real piracy, using maps that the English adventurer and freebooter Woodes Rogers seized from the Spanish along the coast of Peru and Chile. Yet the information on this map is not really the latest and best; California is still shown as an island, a cartographic myth that was challenged during the first decade of the eighteenth century and which Senex soon corrected in later iterations of this map.



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