“A primary source document of the first magnitude in the history of discovery and cartography”

The Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas and Tampico

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347. [MAP]. [ORTELIUS, Abraham]. Three maps on one sheet: [Left] MÉNDEZ, Diego de. Pervviae avriferæ regionis typvs. Didaco Mendezio auctore. [text in block at lower left] Hæ insulæ primum detecta fuere ao 1574. Neat line to neat line: 33.5 x 22.2 cm; [upper right] CHAVES, Gerónimo de. La Florida. Auctore Hieron Chiaues. [cartouche at top right] Cum Priuilegio. Neat line to neat line: 15.3 x 22.3 cm; [lower right] Gvastecan Reg. Neat line to neat line: 17.4 x 22.3 cm. Overall sheet size: 47 x 57.7 cm. [Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, 1592]. Copper-engraved map with full original color, decorative cartouches, fine italic calligraphy, symbolic ornaments, ships, and stipple engraved seas. Fine copy, beautifully colored, generous margins. Ortelius expert Marcel P.R. van den Broecke states that during the long life of this map (1584-1641) 5,425 copies of it were printed. Of this 1592 state, 525 copies were printed. Regrettably, since the La Florida portion of the entire sheet map is more popular and the “money” map of the three maps, increasingly parts of the map are offered on the market instead of the intact sheet with all three maps, as here.

     Ortelius included this map in his atlas beginning in 1584. The present map appeared in Additamentus III to a 1592 edition of Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas of the world (Phillips, Atlases 392). Van den Broecke, Ortelius Atlas Maps, State 15a.1 (Peru); 15b.1 (La Florida); 15c.1 (Guastecan), horizontal hachuring along coastlines measure 1.5 cm; Text 1592L9 (signature 9, Latin text, last line with “seruentum”). The map La Florida is based on actual exploration of the region by the Spanish, particularly de Soto (for a discussion of how the de Soto map evolved before passing into Ortelius hands, see Jean Delanglez, El Rio del Espíritu Santo, New York: U.S. Catholic Historical Society, 1945, pp. 55-78).

     Burden, The Mapping of America 57, pp. 71-73. “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.” Harrisse, p. 710. Lowery 70n. Martin & Martin, pp. 18 & 75n: “Privy to all of the official reports of the Spanish explorers, Chaves’ map recorded the discoveries of Cabeza de Vaca, de Soto, and Moscoso. One of the earliest printed maps of the territory based on actual observations.” Dennis Reinhartz, “The Americas Revealed in the Theatrum,” pp. 209-220 in Van Den Broecke, Van der Krogt, and Meurer (editors), Abraham Ortelius and the First Atlas, HES Pubishers, 1998. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, Plate 35, p. 73 & 79-80 (illustrating and discussing La Florida): “First regional map of Florida, shown in coastline from Carolina to Mexico.” TCU, Going to Texas: Five Centuries of Texas Maps, Plate 2, p. 9. Van der Krogt, Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici, Vol. IIIA, 31:041 (9)9.

     Robert S. Weddle, “Spanish Mapping of Texas,” Handbook of Texas Online: “Gerónimo Chaves’ 1584 map, La Florida, reflected the de 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 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.”

     Dennis Reinhartz & Charles C. Colley, “Spanish and French Mapping of the Gulf of Mexico in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” pp. 8-11 in Reinhartz & Colley, The Mapping of American Southwest, Texas A&M Press, 1987 (designating Ortelius’ La Florida as the “Type Two, 1544-1680” Gulf of Mexico map, with a network of rivers and a mountainous barrier to the north, which “was to become the standard map for the next 130 years.... In the latter sixteenth century, the most widely disseminated Type-Two map was that published [by] Abraham Ortelius. This map is ascribed to Gerónimo de Chaves, Spanish royal cosmographer who worked at Seville in the Casa de Contratación. It is less detailed in its account of the internal settlements than the Alonso de Santa Cruz map of 1544 [but it] was very influential, and not merely in successive editions of the Theatrum.”

     Cumming 5, Plate 9n (“La Florida”), and p. 1:

Ortelius’ map of Florida, which was based upon information derived from the Spanish royal cartographer Chaves, included the territory south of the present latitude of Virginia and west to New Mexico. This map is not as accurate as Mercator’s and in its nomenclature is based upon early Spanish explorers; but it is the first printed regional map and remained the basis for the charts of many continental mapmakers for over a century. It is a mother map of the first importance, for its general geographical outline is found in many maps, in which the details were revised and corrected upon occasion as additions to geographical knowledge were acquired, until the beginning of the eighteenth century.

     The map Pervviae avriferæ regionis typvs shows part of Central America and northwest South America. In northern Peru is Aurea Regio, or Kingdom of Gold, perhaps a reference to the fabled El Dorado. The map of Florida is generally considered to be the first printed map attempting to delineate any part of the interior of the present U.S. It influenced all maps of the region for a century and is “a primary source document of the first magnitude in the history of discovery and cartography” (Rucker Agee, Birmingham Pub. Lib. Cat. 1970). La Florida covers the area from Colorado-Kansas south to Rio de las Palmas (often said to be the Rio Grande, but in reality, the Soto la Marina River in Tamaulipas), east from Texas to the tip of Florida, and north along the Atlantic, showing the present southeastern United States. The map below shows the Guastecan region, depicting the eastern shore of Mexico, extending the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico from Rio de las Palmas to south of Tampico. Its creator is unknown but based on the reckoning of the longitude it has been suggested to be the work of Chaves, the same cartographer who delineated the Florida map (see Howard Cline, “The Ortelius Maps of New Spain, 1579, and Related Contemporary Materials, 1560-1610,” p. 104 in Imago Mundi, Vol. 16, 1962).

     The text on verso gives a brief description of the three regions shown in the maps. Comments on Florida include its discovery by Ponce de Leon and the following:

The French have more than once tried to put settlements there, but they have not been able to, blocked by the Spaniards who have ejected them often from thence. The people who inhabit it are barbarous, sordid, and inhuman. They feed upon spiders, ants, lizards, serpents, and all sorts of venomous and creeping things. The area is sufficiently fruitful, and there is a quantity of gold. Concerning this country James Cole, my nephew, writes me as follows, taken (he says) from the testimony of an eye-witness. The inhabitants are of a brownish color, but the wives of their rulers are purposely blackened. The ruler has the power to give, or rather to sell wives to those desirous of marriage. A married woman, being taken in adultery, is for her unfaithfulness bound with her back to a tree, her arms and legs stretched out, and sometimes she is beaten with rods. Within three hours after childbirth, the women carry forth their infants and wash them in the river. Instead of plows they have certain wooden pickaxes with which they open the ground and sow a kind of grain commonly called Turkish or Guinae-wheat [maize] of which they raise two or three annual crops. They have pheasants and the like. They sow in the months of May, June, and July, and reap six weeks thereafter.

Together, the three maps show the most significant parts of the New World in the last decades of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century.


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,225.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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