“Ce n’est plus une isle”

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367. [MAP]. [SANSON D’ABBEVILLE], N[icolas]. Le Nouveau Mexique, et la Floride: Tirées de diverses Cartes, et Relations. Par N. Sanson d’Abbeville Geogr ordre du Roy. A Paris. Chez Pierre Mariette, Rue S. Iacque a l’Esperance Avec Privilege du Roy, pour vingt Ans. 1656. [lower right above neat line] Somer, Sculp. Paris: Pierre Mariette, 1656. Copper-engraved map showing California as an island, engraved on single sheet of laid paper, watermark showing grapes and lettering within an ovoid; title cartouche framed within sumptuous draped cloth with fringe at bottom and tied with extravagant fancy ribbons; original outline coloring of coastlines and boundaries in yellow, green, and orange; neat line to neat line: 31.1 x 54.5 cm; overall sheet size: 43 x 59 cm. Vertical crease at center and remains of old mounting tab on verso, else very fine, generous margins and very fresh. Written in contemporary ink on California is a note stating that since this map was published the end of the Gulf of California has been discovered and thus California is no longer an island (“ce n’est plus une isle”).

     First edition of a cornerstone map of California and the Southwest, first state (“Chez Pierre Mariette” in imprint) of the first large-scale printed map to place strong emphasis on California as an island. According to Burden, the map appeared both separately and in Sanson’s Cartes generales de toutes le parties du monde (Paris, 1658; Phillips, Atlases 4260). McLaughlin in California as an Island (17) states that the present map was “the first atlas map to focus on California as an island.” See also Map 10 in California 49 for Sanson’s 1657 Audience de Guadalajara, Nouveau Mexique, California, &c, which the author quizzically states is also the earliest to emphasize California as an island, although his map is dated later than the present map. Tooley in “California as an Island” in Mapping of America, p. 116 (#15) dates the Audience de Guadalajara as 1656, gives measurements of 23.5 x 20 cm, and comments: “A reduced version of the left half of preceding [#14, our map] with the same names except that B. Bernabe is omitted. The reduction of Sanson’s maps to a convenient small 4to size, included...a general map of N. America showing California as an island but with few names.” Although the California factor tends to overshadow all else about the map, this map includes other important features, such as early use of the words of Apache and Navajo (from Sanson’s 1650 Amérique Septentrional), the first recognizable depiction of Lake Erie, etc.

     Amon Carter Museum Exhibit, Crossroads of Empire (June 12-July 26, 1981) 8. Brown, The Story of Maps, p. 241 (discussing Sanson’s cartographical eccentricities due to combining older geography with newer factual information, and noting that Sanson was really “an antiquarian by nature and a cartographer by necessity”). Burden, Mapping of North America, Vol. I, #319, pp. 413-414: “First application of ERIE LAC to a recognisable lake [not noted by Karpinski in present map].... One of the introductions is the so-called second Sanson model of California as an island.” Cohen, Mapping the West, pp. 40-42 & color illustration on pp. 41-42: “The Island of California Expands. The French map of the West.” Cumming, Southeast in Early Maps, Plate 31 (detail); #49. Day, Maps of Texas 1444. Goss, The Mapping of North America, Plate 34. Leighly, California as an Island 27. Lowery 147. Portinaro & Knirsch, The Cartography of North America, 1500-1800, Plate LXXV (first state). Reinhartz & Colley (editors), The Mapping of the American Southwest, Plate 3 (detail); p. 11 (Buisseret’s discussion of Type 2 Maps). Schwartz & Ehrenberg, pp. 111 & 121. Tooley, Geographical Oddities, or Curious, Ingenious, and Imaginary Maps, Plate 31. Tooley, “California as an Island” in Mapping of America, p. 115 (#14): “An important map, the first printed in an atlas to put the greatest emphasis on California and New Mexico. A map of great influence, it became the model for the delineation of California for the next fifty years. In this map Sanson changed the place names from French into Spanish, and altered the shape of the island giving it an indented Northern Coastline.” Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast, pp. 130-132 & #374: “New Mexico contains a new set of names, and Santa Fe is on the wrong side of the Rio del Norte.”

     Martin & Martin 20: “The first significant map in a printed atlas to specialize in what is now the American Southwest.... Sanson’s map has served as a summary of information available for the greater Texas region during the middle of the seventeenth century.... As a composite of the best information available in Europe, the map presented a stark depiction of how little was known about the Texas region prior to the Spanish missionary period. Sanson located a few of the Indian tribes in the Texas region, but the river system clearly was unknown and undescribed—including the Great Mississippi. In spite of its shortcomings, the map has continued to be studied as an extraordinary document of the cultural and geographical resources known in the centers of learning in Europe, and it served as an important beginning in the great strides made by French scientists of the eighteenth century.”

     Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West #50, Vol. I, pp. 39-40: “Sanson’s 1650 map of North America and 1656 map of New Mexico seem to the present writer by far the most interesting and important maps—so far as what is now western United States is concerned—that had appeared since Enrico Martínez drew his little ‘sketch’ of Oñate’s route to Quivira in 1602—and this despite their manifest deficiencies and their retention of much of the older mythical geography.”

     Cohen in Mapping the West provides a good overview of Sanson’s work in general and this map in particular (p. 42):

Nicolas Sanson (1600-1667) is known as the “father of French cartography” as he was the first important figure to take advantage of the geographical research being supported by the Royal Academy of Science in Paris. Sanson, however, did more than affiliate himself with the Royal Academy; he associated with royalty. In 1630 he became the geographer to King Louis XIII who, in time, entrusted the geographical education of his son Louis XIV to Sanson. The mapmaker and teacher provided lessons to lesser individuals as well, one of whom, Claude Delisle went on to establish the next two generations of prestigious French map publishers.... As geographer to the king, Sanson had certain privileges such as access to the latest official geographical knowledge. With an even hand, he blended the factual with the fanciful onto his maps.... With California triumphantly occupying center stage on this important map, it is easy to understand why the misconception of California-as-an-Island persisted well into the eighteenth century.

     Engraver Jean Somer (fl. 1650-1663), sometimes referred to as Jean Somers Pruthenus, worked in Paris for Sanson, Mariette, and others. Thought to be a Prussian, he was the principle engraver for Sanson’s firm. Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition), Vol. IV, p. 187. The publishing firm of the Pierre Mariette family also sold books and prints and were active between 1643 and 1698. The Mariette establishment worked closely with the Sanson firm. Pierre the Elder died in 1657. Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers (revised edition), Vol. III, p. 206. See also Sir Herbert George Fordham, Studies in Carto-Bibliography, British & French (Oxford: University of Clarendon Press, 1914), pp. 159-163.


Sold. Hammer: $4,000.00; Price Realized: $4,900.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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