Terra Australis, Terre de Quir, and the Great Southern Continent

July 21st, 2009 by Kevin Brown

1691 Map of World by N. Sanson showing Southern Continent

1691 Map of World by N. Sanson showing Southern Continent

One common feature of 15th to 18th century maps of the world and particularly of the South Pacific, is the land known as Terra Australis, the Southern Continent, or Magellanica. The great southern continent was supposed to cover much of the Southern Hemisphere extending north well into the Tropics and including today’s Australia, Antarctica, and many of the Polynesian Islands.

The earliest inkling of Terra Australis emerged more as a philosophical construct than a geographical one. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle asserted that all of creation was in balance maintained an essential symmetry. Hence, the land masses of the Northern Hemisphere, called Arktos referencing the Greek term for the constellation Ursa Major, must inevitably be balanced by a southern continent, Anti-Arktos. Later the Alexandrian geographer Ptolemy included the Terra Australis in his own work though he did specifically note that it was inaccessible due to an interstitial “torrid zone” occupied by “monstrosities”.

Ambrosius Macrobius' View of the World

Ambrosius Macrobius' View of the World

By the late Roman times and in the Middle Ages, the concept of Terra Australis evolved into both a religious and scientific construct. From a religious perspective it was associated with the Biblical lands of Ophir and Tarshish, from whence Solomon acquired the gold with which he built the Temple. From a scientific perspective, the influential 5th century Roman philosopher Ambrosius Macrobius includes what is possibly the first representation of the southern continent in his work In Somnium Scipionis Expositio. Macrobius divided the world into various “zones” and embraced Aristotelian and Ptolemaic theories that the mass of Asia and Europe had to be counter-balanced by a similar mass in the Southern Hemisphere.

Kircher's 1665 Map of the World Showing Terra Australis

Kircher's 1665 Map of the World Showing Terra Australis

Terra Australis next appears in the journals of Marco Polo – which were widely read throughout 14th and 15th century Europe. Polo describes two islands some 700 miles southwest of Java which themselves lead to a rich mainland abundant in gold, brezil wood, elephants, birds and dogs. European scholars immediately associated the islands and lands mentioned by Polo with the Biblical land of Ophir and Tarshish. While it is difficult to say what specific lands Polo was actually referring to (some argue Madagascar, others Australia, and still others that Polo’s geographical descriptions were fabricated), many 15th and 16th century navigators, including Columbus and Magellan, were inspired by his text.

When Magellan began his voyage, the goal was not to circumnavigate the world, but rather to discover a southwestern route to India and the Moluccas. Nonetheless, one must image that the gold of Tarshish, Ophir, and the associated southern continent must have been on his mind. When Magellan navigated the Straits of Magellan between Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia he fully believed that he had discovered the northernmost headlands of Terra Australis. Many early maps subsequently labeled this land, and the southern continent attached to it Magellanica. Frances Drake’s 1577 circumnavigation of the globe a few years later proved conclusively that Tierra del Fuego was not in fact attached to a southern continent, but the search of this land would go on.

The next major exploration in the region was accomplished by the Spaniard Alvaro de Mendana. Mendana set sail from Callao, Peru in 1567 with the intention of discovering both the rich lands of the southern continent and the Biblical islands of gold, Ophir and Tarshish. Nearly a year later Mendana chanced upon a significant Polynesian Island group. These islands were subsequently identified with Ophir and Tarshish and named after King Solomon. Perplexingly, when Mendana attempted to return to the Solomon Islands, in 1595, this time with Pedro de Quiros as his pilot, he was unable to find the islands he once discovered. Mendana contracted malaria and died shortly thereafter leaving the fleet in the hands of his wife, Isabel Barreto who, becoming the world’s first female admiral, eventually returned it to Peru.

Terre de Quir from Sanson's 1691 Map of the World

Terre de Quir from Sanson's 1691 Map of the World

Perhaps the most significant proponent of the southern continent theory was the late 16th and early 17th century Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandez de Quir, or as he is more commonly known Quiros. Quiros was a religious zealot and passionate advocate of the southern continent theory. After serving as a pilot on Mendana’s second expedition, Quiros petitioned the Spanish crown for his own commission to explore and convert the inhabitants of the Solomon Islands. He set out in 1567 and, though he roughly followed Mendana’s path, was unable to locate the Solomon Islands. He did however land on Vanuatu’s Sanma Island which, believing himself to have discovered the Southern Continent, he named Australis de Espiritu Santo. Not long afterward Quiros returned to Europe where he published his voyages, proclaiming to the world that he had, indeed, discovered Terra Australis. Unfortunately, Quiros died shortly after returning to Peru and was never able to return to the Pacific Islands.

1747 Bowen Map of the Western Hemisphere showing Quiros' Land

1747 Bowen Map of the Western Hemisphere showing Quiros' Land

Nonetheless, Quiros’ claims and fame had a significant impact on the mapping of the region. Numerous early maps depict the “Terra de Quiros,” “Quir Land,” or “Terre de Quir” with indefinite southern and western borders thus suggesting that it could indeed be part of the Terra Australis mainland. Later many early maps depicting the tentative borders of Australia refer to it as “St. Espiritu” or some variation, again alluding to Quiros’ discovery of Vanuatu. Some, well in to the 20th century, claimed that Quiros had discovered Australia, but this was merely a confusion of the term “Australis” originally applied to Vanuatu. In nearly 200 subsequent years, no other European would encounter Samna.

1741 Covens & Mortier Map of Bouvet's Island or Cap de la Circoncision

1741 Covens & Mortier Map of Bouvet's Island or Cap de la Circoncision

As for the southern continent, or Terra Australis, others would continue to search for it well into the 18th century. The French explorer, Lozier Bouvet was heavily influenced by the work of Quiros. When he spotted the remote Antarctic island, which he named Cap de la Circoncision and which is now named Bouvet Island in 1739, he believed that he had at last rediscovered Terra Australis Espirtu Santo and the southern continent. Numerous maps published Europe following Bouvet’s voyage support this claim.

It fell to Cook’s voyages at the end of the 18th century to finally disprove the notion of a great southern continent. Cook was also first to correctly identify Quiros’ land of Terra Australis Espirtu Santo as Vanuatu’s Sanma Island. Nearly 60 years following Cook findings in the area, the first confirmed sightings of the Antarctic mainland were accomplished in 1819 and 1829 by William Smith and James Bransfield, respectively. Of course, though they both occupy the same geographic space, Antarctica and Terra Australis are in fact two very different places.

RELATED MAPS:
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/GeoHydro-kircher-1665
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/World-sanson-1691
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/World-lattre-1775
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/SouthPole-covensmortier-1741
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/America-bowen-1747

REFERENCES:
Camino, M. M., Producing the Pacific: Maps and Narratives of Spanish Exploration (1567-1606), New York, 2005.
Suarez, T., Early Mapping of the Pacific, 2004.

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Theoretical Cartography and the Sea of the West or Mer de l’Ouest

June 29th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

The idea of a great inland sea occupying a vast part of the American west and opening into the Pacific attained the height of its popularity in the middle part of the 18th century under the patronage of the influential French cartographers Guillaume de l’Isle and Phillipe Buache. Under Buache and De l’Isle’s influence the Sea of the West, Mer de L’Ouest, or Baye de l’Ouest reached its fullest expression and commonly appeared on maps from about 1740 to 1790.

The source of Sea of the West, however, precedes both Buache and De l’Isle by several hundred years. The idea of a Sea of the West is intimately related to the hope of either a Northwest Passage or a River passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Such a passage was actively sought after almost from the earliest days of American Exploration. The idea had at its core the commercial interests of British and French traders who, unlike the Spanish, had no easy access to the Pacific and the rich trade with Asia.

Munster's iconic 1841 Map of America.  Verrazano's Sea is seen extending from the north towards Carolina.

Munster's iconic 1841 Map of America. Verrazano's Sea is seen extending from the north towards Carolina.

In it most embryonic form, the Sea of the West can be associated with Verrazano’s sea. This great sea, pictured here in Munster’s classic 1540 map of the Americas, was identified by the Italian navigator Verrazano. Sailing along North Carolina’s Outer Banks in 1524, Verrazano saw the sound on the eastern side of the isthmus and postulated that it must be the Pacific.

. . . where was found an isthmus a mile in width and about 200 long, in which, from the ship, was seen the oriental sea between the west and north. Which is the one, without doubt, which goes about the extremity of India, China and Cathay. We navigated along the said isthmus with the continual hope of finding some strait or true promontory at which the land would end toward the north in order to be able to penetrate to those blessed shores of Cathay …

This concept was taken up by various cartographers back in Europe and, subsequently, a great indentation along the western coast of America starting just north of California was a common characteristic of many early maps of the continent. Even in the 1670s, when John Lederer made his famous explorations of Virginia and North Carolina, most colonial settlers believed that the western sea was only about 10 or 15 days inland from the coast.

Nonetheless, Verrazano’s Sea was largely discredited in the late 18th century when prominent cartographers like Ortelius, Mercator, Hondius, and Blaeu removed it from their maps. It was not until the 17th century that it began to reappear on maps though reformatted to a reduced size and moved farther west.

Jansson's 1631 Map of America showing a mysterious inlet...

Jansson's 1631 Map of America showing a mysterious inlet...

The next serious first hand evidence of the Sea of the West appears in the account of Juan de Fuca’s voyage along the western coast of America published by Samuel Purchas in his 1625 book Purchas His Pilgrimes. The veracity of de Fuca’s account has been the subject of significant debate over the last 100 years or so. Most argue that de Fuca’s account was fabricated by the Englishman Michael Lok to promote his own ideas of a Northwest Passage. However, we find a grain of truth in the narrative. De Fuca was supposedly a Greek Captain active in the Americas in the late 1500s. Colonial records to indicate that such a figure did in fact exist and was an active pilot in New Spain from about 1585 to 1600. De Fuca’s account does ring somewhat of truth if we assume that he actually sailed into the strait now named after him:

…until he came to the Latitude of fortie seven degrees, and that there finding that the land trended North and north-east with a broad inlet of sea, between 47 and 48 degrees of Latitude; he entered thereinto, sayling therein more than twenty days, and found that Land trending sometime North-west and North-east, and North, and also East and South-eastward, and very much broader Sea than was at the said entrance, and that he passed by divers lands in that sayling…

Regardless of any actual veracity De Fuca’s account may or may not have, what is important for our purposes is the effect this report had on European cartographers who widely trusted it. In accounting for De Fuca’s 20 days of sailing, European cartographers, began mapping a large open inlet extending well into the continent – though perhaps not so far as the 16th century Verazanno’s Sea.

Janvier's 1762 Map of North America Showing Buache's Sea

Janvier's 1762 Map of North America Showing Buache's Sea

The next incarnations of the Sea of the West – and perhaps it fullest realization – came through the work of the aforementioned Guillaume de l’Isle and his brother in law Philippe Buache. In the early 17th century it became increasingly important for French and English settlers along the northeastern coasts of North America to find a passage to the Pacific in order to compete with the Spanish for the lucrative East India trade. Both nations sent out several expeditions both by sea and by river. By this time, most agreed that an Arctic route was unfeasible and instead turned their attention to the lake and river systems of the continent. Some believed they would find a river system extending westward from the Hudson Bay along the passage mapped out by Juan de Fuca. Others postulated a more southerly route through the Lake of the Woods and Lake Winnepeg. Still others believed that a route could be found by following the Missouri River.

Such was the competition to get to the Pacific that, when De l’Isle and Buache “discovered” the Sea of the West, they chose to keep it a secret for the benefit of France and never published it in any of their works. It was left up to the competing map publisher Nolin to abscond with a copy of De l’Isle’s map and publish the first Buachian “Sea of the West” map. De l’Isle subsequently filed a law suit against Nolin for copyright infringement,

Il (Nolin) a represente une Mer a l’Occident de la Louisiane, qu’il appelle Mer de l’Ouest. Cette mer estoit une de mes decouvertes, mais comme il n’est pas toujours a propos de publier ce que l’on scait, ou que 1 ‘on croit sqavoir, je n’ai pas fait graver cette Mer sur les ouvrages quej’ai rendus publics, ne voulant pas que les Etrangers profitassent de cette decouverte quelle qu’elle pft estre, avant que l’on eut reconnu dans ce Royaume si l’on en pourroit tirer quelque avantage..

Even so, the damage was done and the Sea of the West began to appear on a number of influential maps of the period.

Of course, one wonders at De l’Isle and Buache’s sources. On this we have some certain evidence and a great deal of speculation. Reports from American Indians of a salt sea far to the west were hardly uncommon in the 18th century. De l’Isle would have had access to numerous missionary reports that were, at the time, streaming into Paris from the new world. At the very least, he would have had access to the narrative of Lahonton (who heard about the Great Salt Lake from his American Indian Guides), Juan de Fuca’s legend, the De Fonte letter, the influential though possibly fabricated tale of the American Indian traveler Moncacht-Ape, as well as the explorations of Pierre de La Verendrye.

Vaugondy's 1772 Map of America Showing the Sea of the West

Vaugondy's 1772 Map of America Showing the Sea of the West

With so many sources and such a history, one might be tempted to ask why De l’Isle and Buache claim to have “discovered” the Sea of the West. The stems from the a cartographic approach embraced by Buache. Cartographers had the difficult job of piecing together legends, missionary reports, astronomical observations, and nautical references into a cohesive whole. It was their job to present the known world in a comprehensible manner. Even with reports from navigators and missionaries coming in from all over the world – much was unknown and much else was unreliable. In these instances cartographers resorted to a number of different strategies. Some filled the space with sketches, drawings, text or cartouches. Others simply left unknown areas blank. Some coped the speculations of other cartographers. By early 18th century, a new movement had evolved in France to address these problems. Though undefined at the time, today it is called “theoretical cartography”. Buache was the leading theoretical cartographer of his day. Theoretical cartography attempted to used known geographic patterns and scientific theories to fill in blank spaces when little else was known. The Mer de la Ouest is the perfect example Though a salt water inlet from the Pacific had long been speculated upon and hoped for, Buache and De l’Isle embraced the theory because it supported both the ambitions of the French crown in the New World and the theoretical geographic theory that Buache was developing.

The Sea of the West remained on map until the end of the 18th century. The late 18th century explorations of James Cook and George Vancouver finally defeated the theoretical cartographers.

RELATED MAPS:
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/NorthAmerica-janvier-1762
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/DeFonteAutres-vaugondy-1772
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/America-latter-1762
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/Amerique-clouet-1785
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/NouvellesDecouvertes-vaugondy-1772
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/Amerique-brion-1786
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/Florida-debry-1591

REFERENCES:
Lucie Lagarde, “Le Passage du Nord-Ouest et la Mer de l’Ouest dans la Cartographie Française du 18e Siècle, Contribution à l’Etude de l’Oeuvre des Delisle et Buache, Imago Mundi, Vol. 41 (1989), pp. 19-43.
Hayes, Derek, Historical atlas of the Pacific Northwest, p. 18-27.
Petty, C. M., When France was King of Cartography, p. 113 – 164.
Kellog, L. P., The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest.
Winsor, Justin, The Mississippi Basin: The Struggle in America Between England and France 1697 – 1763.

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Decorating with Rare and Antique Maps

June 24th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

Decorator Anthony Todd's Use of the Turgot Map

Decorator Anthony Todd's Use of the Turgot Map

Decorating with maps is a tradition that dates back to ancient Rome where elaborate regional maps and city plans were laid in mosaic tile. Hundreds of years later, during the Renaissance and the great age of exploration, maps were hotly contested national secrets and were often hidden away. Yet, even then, the decorative value of maps was appreciated. Wealthy Dutch merchants commissioned elaborate wall maps not only to plan their trading exploits, but as decorative symbols of their wealth and power. By the late 19th and early 19th centuries it was common to frame and display maps in homes and offices. Though the collecting of maps diminished significantly in the early 20th century, once again collectors and decorators are appreciating their beautify and craftsmanship. Today the decorative qualities of fine maps are widely recognized by interior designers who appreciate their beauty and design flexibility. Depending on the individual map, presentation, and context, a rare or antique map can be modern, traditional, abstract, figurative, serious or whimsical.

Unlike painting and other pictures, maps rarely leap off the page, instead, they draw the viewer into themselves. Maps tend to lay flat on the page and be rich in detail. While it is easy to admire a decorative map from a distance, most maps will bear significant intimate perusal and it is up close that a map truly reveals its secrets. Possibly because of this fact, maps have long been most keenly appreciated by the introspective and detail oriented. As subtle objects, a rare map used decoratively conveys a sense of seriousness and gravitas. Consequently, rare maps have historically been a favorite of lawyers, doctors, and business people who appreciate not only an antique map’s individual message, but also its aura of refinement.

Thought those who love rare maps for these very aspects are some of the map industry’s most serious and ardent collectors, maps themselves can offer much more. Many who associate maps with seriousness and gravitas do not realize that an antique map can also be a whimsical or supremely modern. Though maps can indeed be ancient objects, they are also abstractions and have many qualities in common with modern and contemporary art. Maps, much like Cubist painting, attempt to reveal not just the world we see but the world as it really is. Over the years, countless cartographers have struggled with the idea of representing something inconceivably large and complex on a simple piece of paper in a practical and comprehensible manner. While some have some have succeeded magnificently and others failed disastrously, all have produced a fascinating and artistically valuable pieces of work.

A contemporary use of the Turgot Plan.

A contemporary use of the Turgot Plan.

Depending on the context in which a map is displayed, it can evoke and emphasize any of its many aspects. Take for example the dualistic contemporary look accomplished with a multi-paneled Turgot Map of Paris by the Kansas City agency TMB Travel. The designer who imagined this created a sleek modern look using a very antique map. He does this successfully by framing each map individually with no matting and the narrowest possible margins. They are then displayed in a clean high contrast minimal setting. The perfectly placed lighting, like the map itself, is a balance of old world complexity and the clean lines of modern design. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/chicago/look/look-maps-maps-and-more-maps-062431

The Fry Jefferson Map in a Virginia Colonial Home

The Fry Jefferson Map in a Virginia Colonial Home

At right we have a more classic example of how an antique map can be used decoratively. The entryway to this beautiful Virginia colonial home employs the Le Rouge edition of the Jefferson-Fry map of Virginia and Maryland. Here the detail of the map compliments both the home’s colonial history and the delicate slim lines of the furniture shown. Placed at the entrance of the home, this map offers visitors an immediate and fascinating topic of conversation while setting a historic tone for the home as a whole. Moreover, though the map is large and prominently displayed it blends perfectly into the overall design scheme. Historically, foyers, lobbies, and entryways have been popular places to place antique and rare maps because most collectors are eager to show off their prized maps to everyone who visits them! http://antiquesandfineart.com/articles/article.cfm?request=896

The Turgot Plan goes Shabby Chic.

The Turgot Plan goes Shabby Chic.

This is a charming usage of a reduced version of the Turgot Plan (probably from the 19th century) in a shabby chic style antique shop. Here the map blends into an appealing clutter of interesting Frenchish objects. The decorator has framed the plan in a series of simple distressed white frames. While the map itself is somewhat overwhelmed by the tone of the frames and recedes into the background – that is exactly what this design aesthetic calls for. You may not know where to look, but wherever you do look you are certain to find a treasure that draws you in. http://peacockparkdesign.blogspot.com/2009/02/there-is-no-place-like-home.html

While the antique maps below are reproductions (I hope!), we find the idea of using rare maps as ceiling panels fascinating. Of course, there is no reason why a collection of authentic rare maps could not be displayed in a similar fashion – though without putting holes in them for lights! The ceiling is an often neglected decorative space where much of interest can be accomplished if the decorator has a clever imagination. Here, one might not even notice the maps until, looking up, the viewer is

Rare Map Display on the Ceiling

Rare Map Display on the Ceiling

treated to a smorgasbord of visual and intellectual delights. The effect is both creative and classic, evoking a historic feel in an innovative and novel way. http://www.pretorius-art.com/Murals.html

Though these are just a few examples, the potential use of maps as decorative elements is both extraordinary and diverse. Properly framed, lit, and displayed antique maps can be a part of almost any successful design scheme. We have worked with designers who have incorporated our rare map finds into hotel and building lobbies, contemporary homes, yachts, beach homes, professional offices, window displays, and corporate complexes. Each usage has its own challenges and has brought something special and unique to the space.

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The D. Griffing Johnson, A. J. Johnson & J. H. Colton Connection.

June 13th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

The connection between D. Griffing Johnson, Alvin Jewett Johnson and Joseph Hutchins Colton, has long been a subject of speculation. Though greater scholars than ourselves have thrown in the proverbial towel on this one, we will now take our turn. What we know of this relationship, based on the maps themselves is this. During the 1840s and 1850s D. Griffing Johnson and J. H. Colton seem to have worked together on a number of wall maps. When J. H. Colton produced his important world atlas in 1855, many of the places were directly taken from these wall maps. Later, around 1859, D. G. Johnson disappeared and A. J. Johnson appeared on the scene with his 1860 edition of the Johnson’s Family Atlas. This atlas was almost identical to the Colton’s New General Atlas and was published in parallel with the Colton atlas for some 20 years. Here is what we know of the individual players.

D. Griffing Johnson's Map of North America

D. Griffing Johnson's Map of North America

D. Griffing Johnson (?? – 186?) is the most mysterious of our three figures. Our knowledge of him is scant and even his first name is a mystery. What we know is that D. Griffing Johnson was an engraver active in New York in the first half of the 19th century. His earliest maps date to the 1840s. At some point we know that D. Griffing Johnson headed west. The only record of his actual westward journey is that one “D. G. Johnson” (our guy?) traveled to California or Oregon with a missionary party in 1839. We know for a fact that Johnson was at Sutter’s Mill when gold was discovered in 1848 though he must have returned to New York shortly afterward to issue his important map of North America. D. Griffing Johnson’s first map work with Colton was in 1846 or 1847 and his first work with A. J. Johnson was in 1854. In 1855 he had an office at 7 Nassau Street, New York. Regarding D. G. Johnson’s disappearance c. 1860 – 62 we can only speculate, however, that it related to the outset of the Civil War is likely. Most references to individuals of this name (there are several including a Dickson and a David) are from southern families hailing from Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia. One such individual, Dickson G. Johnson is known to have died in a battle near Richmond in 1862.

Colton's Map of Persia and Arabia

Colton's Map of Persia and Arabia

Joseph Hutchins Colton (July 5, 1800 – July 29, 1893) was born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts in 1830. He was a descendent of Quartermaster George Colton, one of the original founders of Springfield, Massachusetts. As a young man he worked in dry goods store in Lenox Massachusetts before moving to New York City in 1830 to establish a publishing firm. Colton envisioned his career in pocket and railroad maps. Though not an engraver himself, Colton did employ some of the preeminent engravers of his day, including David Burr, S. Stiles, John Disturnell and D. Griffing Johnson. Colton’s first work with D. Griffing Johnson as the engraver dates to 1846 or 1847 and includes a map of the world and a map of North America. Later, when Colton’s son George Washington Colton decided to take the firm into the atlas business, most of the maps used were extracted from one of these two D. G. Griffing maps – though D. G. Johnson himself was not credited. By 1856 the Colton firm had attained international prominence. In 1857 Colton was commissioned at sum of 25,000 USD by the Government of Bolivia to produce and deliver 2500 copies a large format map of that country. Though Colton completed the contract in good faith, delivering the maps at his own expense, he was never paid by Bolivia, which was at the time in the midst of a national revolution. Colton would spend the remainder of his days fighting with the Bolivian and Peruvian governments over this payment and in the end received over 100,000 USD in compensation. However, at the time, it must have been a disastrous blow. J. H. Colton and Company is listed as one of New York’s failed companies in the postal record of 1859. It must have been this event which lead Colton into the arms of Alvin Jewett Johnson and Ross C. Browning. The 1859 edition of Colton’s Atlas lists Johnson and Browning as the “Successor’s to J. H. Colton” suggesting an outright buyout, but given that both companies continued to publish separately, the reality is likely more complex.

1862 Johnson Map of Arabia

1862 Johnson Map of Arabia

Alvin Jewett Johnson (September 23, 1827 – April 22, 1884) was born in Wallingford Vermont on September 23, 1827. He attended public schools and took a brief graduate course at a Vermont country academy. His first career was as a teacher. To supplement his income he began to work as a book canvasser or a door to door salesman offering books on a subscription plan. He published his first map with D. G. Johnson (and possibly Colton) in 1855, this was the wall map, “Johnson’s New Illustrated and Embellished County Map of the Republics of North America”. This map is virtually identical to an 1854 map by D. J. Johnson and Gaston and entitled “Johnson’s New Map of Our Country”. In 1859 Johnson entered into a business relationship with fellow Vermonter Ross Browning (1832 – 1899) and a bankrupt J. H. Colton to publish the 1859 edition of Colton’s Atlas – where the Johnson and Browning imprint first appears. Once year later, in 1860, the first edition of the Johnson’s Atlas appears. Their firm, Johnson and Browning was originally based in Richmond Virginia, where Browning’s previous careers had taken him. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 Browning, being a Union man, fled to New Jersey leaving behind most of his publishing materials and printing equipment (which was subsequently used to print Confederate currency and war bonds). This must have been a considerable hardship on Browning who, unable to contribute to the firm without his presses, left the company. Johnson, presumably lacking printing equipment of his own, formed another partnership with “Ward”, and from 1862 on the Johnson and Browning imprint would be replaced by Johnson and Ward. What we know from the Johnson’s Atlas itself is that most of the plates are very similar, if not identical to the plates used by J. H. Colton in his 1855 New General Atlas. Many of the maps from the 1860 and 1861 editions of the Johnson Atlas also bear the Colton imprint.

Armed with this information we can reconstruct the story somewhat. Colton began publishing pocket maps, wall maps, and folding maps for books c. 1830. As he was not an engraver himself he employed the services of outside engravers, including D. Griffing Johnson. Johnson, a skilled engraver, produced a number of maps with Colton and others.

Colton's Bolivia - the map that broke the camel's back...

Colton's Bolivia - the map that broke the camel's back...

His most important projects with Colton included a large wall map of the world and an even larger map of North America. In the late 1850s Colton had developed a large and prosperous business that attracted the attention of the Bolivian government, who needed accurate maps of their country for administrative purposes. Bolivia commissioned Colton to produce 2,500 large format maps of said country. Colton was paid 2,000 USD upfront and promised an additional 23,000 USD upon delivery (by some indexes this amounts to about 8,000,000 USD in modern money). Colton completed and delivered the maps at his own expense in 1858 or 1859 but was never paid by the Bolivian government. This must have been a severe economic blow, for J. H. Colton and company is listed in the 1859 postal records of failed businesses.

Meanwhile D. G. Johnson and A. J. Johnson made their first map together in 1855. The connection between D. G. and A. J. remains vague. We have stumbled across several D. G. Johnsons though none with a clear relationship to A. J. Johnson. One individual, Dickson Griffing Johnson, did however name one of his sons A. J. Johnson, leading one to speculate. This D.G. Johnson (Dickson), also seems to have disappeared or died in sometime between 1859 and 1861, corresponding to our knowledge of D. G. Johnson. Further, the Jewett family tree is sprinkled with Griffings, though, again, no clear connection with D.G. exists. In any case the possibility of a family connection leads on to speculate that A. J. Johnson may have inherited some of rights to the various D.G. map plates that Colton modified for his 1855 Atlas. What seems clear is that Johnson entered into some sort of financial relationship with Colton that allowed Colton to publish his atlas in 1859. Later in 1862, calling himself the successor to “J. H. Colton”, Johnson published his own Atlas. The financial boost provided by Johnson seems to have been sufficient for Colton to get his own business going again. Presumably, Johnson did not acquire the full Colton copyrights but rather only the right to use the map plates. Colton, maintaining his copyright and flush from funds relating to the sale of the 1859 Colton’s atlas, managed to rebound and continue to grow his own publishing empire parallel to Johnson’s. The Colton-Johnson relationship remained close and in the years to come both map publishers would frequently update their plates in concert.

Please feel free to add your own information to this discussion. The mystery of this relationship may never be solved, but a little light here and there can go a long way in illuminating the whole picture.

RELATED MAPS:
Map by J. H. Colton
Map by A. J. Johnson

REFERENCES:

http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CAD&Product_Code=colton

http://www.geographicus.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CAD&Product_Code=johnson

http://www.usgennet.org/alhnorus/ahorclak/list41.html

Wood, W. S., The Descendants of the Brothers Jeremiah and John Wood, 1885.
Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Second Circuit
By United States Circuit Court (2d circuit), Circuit Court (2nd Circuit, Samuel Blatchford, United States
, published by Derby and Miller, 1868.
Hinton, Rowan Helper, Oddments of Andean Diplomacy, and Other Oddments …, 1879.
Jewett, F. C., History and genealogy of the Jewetts of America: a record of Edward Jewett, of Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, and of his two emigrant sons, Deacon Maximilian and Joseph Jewett, settlers of Rowley, Massachusetts, in 1639; also of Abraham and John Jewett, early settlers of Rowley …
Garner, S. O., The Roebucks of Virginia: a genealogical history of the descendants from Robert, George, James, and Benjamin Roebuck (Robuck), 1979.
Funeral Services of Alvin J. Johnson: at no. 9 East Sixty-fourth Street, New York, Saturday April 26, 1884.

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Fou-Sang or Fusang, a 5th Century Chinese Colony in Western America?

June 5th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

1776 Zatta Map of the Pacific Northwest Showing Fusang

1776 Zatta Map of the Pacific Northwest Showing Fusang

East of the Eastern Ocean lie
The shores of the Land of Fusang.
If, after landing there, you travel
East for 10,000 li
You will come to another ocean, blue,
Vast, huge, boundless.

This ancient poem, written by a 3rd century Chinese poet, describes a place that is often referred to in Chinese folklore as the “Birthplace of the Sun”. It was a place well known in ancient China. It appears frequently in poetry and around the 2nd century BC, one Han emperor is said to have sent an expedition to colonize this land. Where was the legendary land of Fusang? Eighteenth century mapmakers placed it in North America, usually near what is today Washington or Vancouver. These cartographers, most notably De L’Isle and Zatta, mapped Fusang based on a popular essay written by the French orientalist historian Josepth de Guignes in his 1761 article “Le Fou-Sang des Chinois est-il l’Amérique? ” De Guignes was a dubious historian at best, but with this he may have been on to something. Fusang is most fully described on by the 6th century itinerant monk Hui Shen.

Hui Shen is said to have been a mendicant Gondaran monk and to have appeared in the court of the Emperor Wu Ti at Jingzhou in Southern Qi in 499 AD. His adventures, which are described by Yao Sialian in the 7th century Book of Liang, describes his voyage in both known and unknown lands. Starting around 455 AD, he traveled to the coast of China, to Japan, Korea, to the Kamchatka Peninsula, then to Fusang. Fusang, he reports is some 20,000 Chinese Li (about 9,000 km) east of Kamchatka. This would place it somewhere around what is today British Columbia, roughly where Zatta and De L’Isle map the colony of Fusang.

While it is a subject of ferocious debate, numerous scholars and historians have embraced the idea that the Chinese not only visited the New World but maintained regular contact with it. We have long known that, given the advanced stated of shipbuilding and navigation in ancient China, the Chinese were capable of launching expeditions across the Pacific. The real question is, did they? The story of Hui Shen is one of the few actual documents that describe such an voyage. Hui Shen’s tale, which offers anthropological and geographic commentary consistent with Pacific Coast of America, describes Fusang in considerable detail. Over the past 200 years numerous scholars, both eastern and western, have broken down the Hui Shen text. Some have declared it a fabrication, but most have embraced the idea that the Chinese did in fact not only visit America, but maintained a minor but active back and forth communication.

1772 Vaugondy Map of the Pacific Northwest showing Fou-Sang

1772 Vaugondy Map of the Pacific Northwest showing Fou-Sang

Though many scholars agree that the Fusang tale does have some element of truth, few agree on where it may have been. Some point to Peru (Hui Shen describes the leader of Fusang as the “Inki”), others to Mexico (Fusang = Maguey), and still others to British Columbia (most likely arrival point sailing east from Kamchatka with the easterly North Pacific Current). The name Fusang itself is derived from Chinese mythology where it is a land or tree in the east from which the Sun is born. This kind of plant, or something similar, is described as common in the Land of Fusang. Fusang is billed as a kind of all purpose plant which can be eaten, made into clothing and made into paper, etc. There is considerable debate as to what Fusang may have been, with some identifying it with the Maguay of Mexico, others with various types of Cactus, and still others ancient varieties of corn (which were common along the Pacific Coast of North America).

There is some, but not significant, historical evidence to support the idea that the Chinese were active in Ancient America. Ancient Chinese coins, ship anchors (James R. Moriarty of the University of San Diego), and other relics have been discovered along the American coast – some dating back as much as 2,000 years! Also, Hui Shen’s descriptions do correspond somewhat with what we know of the New World around 450 AD. It is far too much for this short blog post to breakdown the details of Hui Shen’s narrative, especially when it has been done so well and so well by others, however, our list of references below can offer significant further reading.

RELATED MAPS:
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/NouvellesDecouvertes-vaugondy-1772
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/AmericaWest-zatta-1776

REF:
San Francisco Chronicle, November 25, 1979.
Guignes, Jospeh, de, “Le Fou-Sang des Chinois est-il l’Amérique?”, Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, tome 28, Paris, 1761
Mertz, Henriette, Columbus Was Last, Hyperion 1992.
Wei Chu-Hsien, China and America -Volume One, Shuo Wen Shu Dian Bookstore, 1982.

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Starting a Map Collection – buying the first map.

May 28th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

As a dealer, we frequently work with first time map buyers who are just starting their collections. Guiding new collectors on their first antique map purchase and helping new collectors to focus their interests is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an rare map dealer. While some first time map buyers are very focused right from the get go, others have only a vague idea of what they are interested in and what they are looking for.

The first thing we do is determine what is important to our collectors in a rare map or antique map. Most collectors prefer to build their collections around a theme. In this regard the possibilities are endless. Some popular focus areas are historical periods, geographic areas, a single cartographer, maps made for a certain purpose (say railroad maps), certain types of maps such as pocket maps or wall maps, map styles, etc. Thus, by asking the right questions before making a purchase, a collector can go a long way in narrowing the many options. We generally ask:

  • Are you interested in particular areas?
  • Are you interested in maps from a specific period?
  • Do you like elaborate decorative maps or simpler maps without decorative embellishment?
  • Do you want sea chart or a land-based map?
  • Are you interested in historic value, decorative value, or both?
  • Do you want it to be colored, black and white, or does it not matter?
  • Is your map collection an investment?
  • How large does it need to be, or does it not matter?
  • Is it important that the map names certain regions, towns, buildings or villages?
  • How important is it that the map is accurate ( many of the most valuable and interesting early maps are far from accurate )?
  • How important is condition?
  • Lastly, what is your budget?

 

Once these questions are addressed, we generally have a very good idea of exactly what a new collector might like to see. From this point, a good dealer or advisor can a suggest range specific maps that will interest a new buyer. Of course, once collectors start looking at actual maps, many find that their aesthetic ideas change and that their interests evolve in new interesting directions. This is part of the learning process and can be expected as a collector and collection matures.

Geographicus is always ready to help first time collectors and gift buyers choose the best map for their particular circumstances. Just call our customer service number for an expert (usually myself) who will be happy to assist you.

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El Dorado, Manoa, Lake Parima, Patiti, and the “Lost City of Z”

May 22nd, 2009 by Kevin Brown

1688 Coronelli Map of America

1688 Coronelli Map of America

Having just finished David Grann’s wonderful book The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, which examines the obsessive hunt of Colonel P.H. Fawcett for a lost city in the Amazon, I felt compelled to write on the legend of El Dorado. This book is a wonderful read, offers some surprising insights, and is exceptionally well researched, we highly recommend it. Grann’s “Lost City of Z” focuses on Fawcett’s expeditions in the lower Xingu, a southern tributary of the Amazon. Here Fawcett believed he would discover a great lost city and indeed, modern archeologists are unearthing just such a site in this precise area. The modern day discoverer of these ruins is the archeologist Michael Heckenberger who had unearthed several great cities surrounded by massive moats and connected by gigantic arrow straight causeway-roads. Though now largely overgrown by the jungle and their once great populations vanished, such cities were indeed reported by the first Europeans to venture into the Amazon. It was long thought that the conditions in the Amazon were inimical to large populations and that the first conquistadors to travel the Amazon were simply lying. However, the truth is far more terrifying, for these first lonely explorers carried with them diseases and illnesses previously unknown to region and in the dark years that followed when few white men entered the Amazon, the great indigenous populations were all but wiped out.

By the time Fawcett began exploring the Amazon in early 20th century the legend and mythic quality of El Dorado was already firmly established. Thus when Fawcett started discovering these causeway-roads and pottery deposits in the middle of an area inhabited only by a few primitive seeming jungle tribes, the association with the mythical lost city of gold was natural. However, for centuries El Dorado had already been appearing on maps, though quite far from the lower Xingu. Instead most antique maps place El Dorado far to the north, on an island in the midst of a vase saline lake between the lower Orinoco River and the northern Amazon tributaries. How did it get there?

Map of the Amazon River System

Map of the Amazon River System

The legend of El Dorado, or “Golden Man”, seems to be an amalgamation of fact and fantasy. The legend, which describes a great king who is daily covered in gold dust so that he shines like a god before cleansing himself in a sacred lake, is in fact based on Chibcha rituals. The Chibcha, a tribe living in what is today part of Columbia, did exactly this, though not daily. By the time the Europeans had arrived, this practice seems to have been largely abandoned but it easy to imagine why Europeans, fresh from the conquest of Peru and Mexico, would be drawn to the idea.

However, we digress, the real culprit responsible for several hundred years of mapping “El Dorado” and “Lake Parime” in Guyana must be Sir Walter Raleigh, who explored this region in search of the legendary kingdom of gold in 1595. Raleigh was the first to connect “El Dorado” to the the land or city of “Manoa”. Raleigh does not visit the city of Manoa (which he believes is El Dorado) himself due to the onset of the rainy season, however he describes the city, based on indigenous accounts, as resting on a salt lake over 200 leagues long somewhere in what today must be Guyana, northern Brazil, or Southeastern Venezuela. Nor does Raleigh precisely locate Manoa, but his second, Captain Keymis, does provide directions in his own narrative:

it lieth southerly in the land, and from the mouth of it unto the head they pass in twenty days; then taking their pro-visions, they carry it on their shoulders one day’s journey; afterwards they return to their canoes, and bear them likewise to the side of a lake, which the Jaos call Roponowini, the Charibes Parime, which is of such bigness that they know no difference between it and the main sea. There be infinite numbers of canoes in this lake, and I suppose it is no other than that whereon Manoa standeth.

Back in Europe cartographer Hondius, reading Raleigh’s narrative and enchanted by the idea, added the Lake Parime to his 1599 map “Nieuwe Caerte van het Goudrycke Landt Guiana.” Most subsequent cartographers followed suit for the next 300 years or so.

This lake may indeed have some basis in fact. Sir Robert Schomburgk, studied this region from 1835 to 1844 and made this interesting note:

From the southern foot of the Pacaraima Range extended the great savannahs of the Rupununi, Takutu, and Rio Branco or Parima, which occupy about 14,400 square miles, their average height above the sea being from 350 to 400 feet. These savannahs are inundated during the rainy season, and afford at that period, with the exception of a short portage, a communication between the Rupununi and the Pirara, a tributary of the Mahu or Ireng, which falls into the Takutu, and the latter into the Rio Branco or Parima.

1730 Covens and Mortier Map of South America

1730 Covens and Mortier Map of South America

The annual inundation of this region thus opened what must have been an ancient and popular trade route from the Orinoco, to the Rio Branco and hence to the Amazon tributaries, the Solimoes, the Japura, and the Rio Negro. Thus when European explorers in the lower Orinoco during the rainy season saw Indian traders appear with gold jewelry and trade pieces, the connection to El Dorado seemed obvious. When asked where the gold came from, the local tribes could only answer “Manoa.”

As late as the 17th century the Manoas were a large and populous trading nation, lead by the dynamic King Ajuricaba, occupying the banks of the Rio Negro. It seems that the Manoas were very secretive of their trade routes – as all good traders must be – and jealously guarded their territory. There are records of trade arrangements between the Dutch in Guyana and “Manoa” dating to the late 16th century. The range of the Manoa trade network extended over a vast region from the “mouth of the Jupura up and down the Amazon to Quito and Para, from the Cayari to Santa Fe and the Upper Orinoco, from the Parima to the Essequibo and its sister rivers of the northern watershed of Guiana”. This may partially account for the extraordinary diverse regions where legends of Manoa can be heard.

1780 Bonne Map of Guyana

1780 Bonne Map of Guyana

But where did all the gold come from? This may be impossible to answer, but we can speculate. The first European to “see” Manoa was Juan Martinez c. 1542. Martinez was a munitions master under the conquistador Diego Ordas. Ordas was searching for El Dorado in lower Orinoco where he perished. Before his own death, which is itself mysterious, Ordas condemned Martinez to death as the culprit in an unfortunate munitions explosion. Martinez was to be tied up and set adrift in a boat upon the Amazon. Many consider what follows to be a complete fabrication on the part of Martinez, but I generally consider the habit of attributing of anomalous elements in early travel accounts to intentional falsification an easy solution to a complex issue. Martinez claims to have been picked up by Manoan traders in the region who, finding him unusual due to his skin tone, conveyed him, blindfolded, to their city. Here, Martinez describes a great city. Curiously, he also describes meeting the heir to the recently conquered Inca Empire. Given the discoveries of Heckenberger and the new understanding that, at least in the earliest days of South American exploration, that the Amazon was indeed a populous and well organized region, this story is completely reasonable. That the Manoans may have had traffic with the Incas, given their range in the western Amazon is almost a given. It would also allow them access to gold mining regions on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Martinez’s association of Manoa with the lost heir to Inca Empire also brings up the possibility that this was none other than the long lost refuge city of Pattiti – though this opens an entirely new can of worms.

RELATED MAPS:
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/NEAmericaGore-coronelli-1688
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/SouthAmerica-covensmortier-1730
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/America-t-1815
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/America-cary-1806
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/SouthAmerica-cary-1807
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/SouthAmerNorth-bonne-1780
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/TerrarumOrbis-bormeester-1685

REF:
Edmondson, George, “Early Relations of the Manoas with the Dutch, 1606-1732″, The English Historical Review, Vol. 21, No. 82 (Apr., 1906), pp. 229-253. Edmondson, George, ” The Dutch on the Amazon and Negro in the Seventeenth Century. Part II.-Dutch Trade in the Basin of the Rio Negro,”The English Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 73 (Jan., 1904), pp. 1-25. Von Hagen, Victor W., The Golden Man: The Quest for El Dorado (Farnborough, Saxon House, I974, 4.-25). Pp. xiii+338. Meggers, Betty J., “The Continuing Quest for El Dorado: Round Two”, Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 12, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 304-325. Raleigh, Sir Walter, The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtifiul Empyre of Guiana. Grann, David, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, 2008.

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Cayamay Lactus – Apocryphal Source of the five Great River Systems of Southeast Asia

May 18th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

1570 Ortelius Map of Asia - Chiammay

1570 Ortelius Map of Asia - Chiammay

For nearly four hundred years many maps of Asia, and particularly India and Southeast Asia, depicted an enormous lake far to the northeast of the Bay of Bengal. This lake, alternately called Chiamay, Chiam-may, Chian-nay, or Cayamay, is postulated to be the source of four to five of the great Southeast Asian river systems, the Irrawaddy, the Dharla, the Chao Phraya, the Bramaputra, and the Mekong. Today we know that the Lago de Chiamay is entirely non-existent, but where did this persistent myth come from?

1685 Bormeester Map of the World showing Chiamay

1685 Bormeester Map of the World showing Chiamay

The earliest reference to the Lago de Chiamay that we have been able to come across is the c. 1550 geographical study produced by Jao de Barros. Barros, who is not known to have traveled to the orient himself, compiled his geography from reports from Portugese explorers in the region, who themselves no doubt extracted many of their ideas about the remote interior of Asia from indigenous authorities. His most likely source for our purposes is most likely Fernao Mendez Pinto. Today the Barros geography is unfortunately lost, but some of its commentary survives via G. B. Ramusio and his 1554 edition of “Navigationi et viaggi”. While some have argued that Ramusio could not have possibly have had access to Barros’ commentary, as it had not been published at the time, Ramusio himself provides clear reference that he did in fact have an unpublished Barros manuscript. Ramusio includes several maps in his “Navigationi et viaggi” that were drawn around 1550 and depict the Lago.

Fernao Mendez Pinto, Barros most likely source and the lake’s supposed “discoverer”, is the only European who claims to have visited the lake itself. Pinto apparently discovered the lake in 1744. Generally speaking, while Barros was well respected in his day, Pinto is considered an unreliable geographer at best and at worse has been dubbed the “prince of fiction”. Why this is the case when he was without a doubt actually in Siam, may be explainable when his own sources are evaluated. Pinto may have heard about the lake in the Royal Court of Siam, one of the kings of which is said to have invaded Chiamay and captured many cities around it.

1540 Seutter Map of India, Tibet and Southeast Asia

1540 Seutter Map of India, Tibet and Southeast Asia

That Pinto derived much of his geography from local sources is highly likely. What he and his readers back in Europe may not have counted on is the presence of a mythical and semi-mythical Hindu-Buddhist geography overlaying the actual geography. Hindu and related Buddhist mythology consider Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal, in modern day Tibet, to be the spiritual source of four religiously and geographically important subcontinent rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Karnali, the Indus and the Sutlej. As the Hindu-Buddhist culture expanded into southeast Asia, these four rivers and their source lake were reassociated with local rivers such as the Irrawaddy, the Dharla, the Mekong, and the Chao Phraya.

From a European perspective, associating these rivers systems with one another and with a single source is an almost natural assumption. All five rivers bear a great deal of similarity. That is, all seem to originate from roughly the same area, all flow along roughly parallel courses, and all have enormous fluvial volume. Associating a great lake with said source is equally natural. Given the size and orientation of these river systems, one naturally speculates that the source lake itself must be enormous. Such speculation was not uncommon for map makers working in the 18th century and earlier. Cartographers, who rarely traveled the world themselves, had the difficult job of piecing together and interpreting various vague and often contradictory traveler’s accounts as well as reconciling such new information with accepted mappings.

Whatever the original source for the Lago de Chiamay may have been, it begins appearing on maps as early as the Gastaldi map of 1550 (though some speculate that this map was actually drawn a few years earlier). The Lago was embraced by Ortelius in his c. 1570 mappings of Asia and was eventually associated with various hopeful fantasies of a river passage through central Asia to the North Sea. Almost all subsequent mappings until the late 18th century included the Lago de Chiamay in various forms. Later, as explorers began to penetrate the region with greater regularity, Chiamatwas at various point associated with any lake discovered in the area, including Koko Nor (Qinghai Lake) in China and the actual Lake Manasarovar in Tibet. By the late 18th century the lake had moved far west of its original location and been reduced to a fraction of its original size. By the 19th century, it disappeared entirely.

The source of the name itself, “Chiamay” may be derived from Pinto’s original discovery of the lake in the records at the Royal court in Siam. Pinto was told of a royal raid to conquer and claim Chiang Mai, once the Capital of the Lanna Kingdom.

1848 Homann Heirs Map of India & Southeast Asia

1848 Homann Heirs Map of India & Southeast Asia

The city of Chaing Mai, now fully part of Thailand was founded in 1296 and was frequently invaded and conquered by both the Siamese and Burmese empires before being formally incorporated into the Siamese empire in the late 18th century. Though there is no lake near Chiang Mai, Pinto, who is not known for reliability, may have misinterpreted what he was told. The Lago de Chiamay is most likely the result of Pinto’s misunderstanding of stories from the royal court of Siam, misassociations regarding the Buddhist-Hindu mythology associated with Lake Manasarovar, and natural assumptions based upon the observable similarities of the great southeast Asian river systems.

Sven Hedin discusses this lake and its origins in great detail in his fascinating and well researched 1919 article, “Early European Knowledge of Tibet”.

RELATED MAPS:
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/AsiaeNovaDescriptio-ortelius-1570
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/IndiaMogolis-seutter-1740
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/Asiae-homann-1730
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/OrbisClimata-cellarius-1700
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/India-hmhr-1748

REF: Hedin, Sven, “Early European Knowledge of Tibet”, Geografiska Annaler, Vol. 1 (1919), pp. 290-339. Carpentier, Jarl, Some Additional Remarks on Vol. 1 of Dr. Sven Hedin’s ‘Southern Tibet’, Geografiska Annaler, Vol. 1 (1919), pp. 269-289

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Lederer’s Lake, Desert, and Savanna – An Early Exploration of Carolina

May 14th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

1676 Speed Map of Carolina based on Lederer's Discoveries

1676 Speed Map of Carolina based on Lederer's Discoveries

The first serious mapping of the Carolina Colony’s interior was accomplished in the 1670s by the intrepid German explorer and physician John Lederer on the commission of Virginia Governor Berkley. Lord Berkley, like many Europeans at the time, believed that the Pacific could be reached by traveling westward from the Atlantic Coast no more than two weeks. Lederer was commissioned to find this path.

Pre-Lederer maps of Carolina tended to be vague at best, incorporating semi-fictional elements from both the De Bry – Le Monye map of Florida and the De Bry – White map of the Grand Banks. Lederer’s explorations changed all of this, describing the interior for both future explorers and for the map publishers in Europe. The mapping of Carolina was heavily influenced by Lederer’s work with elements of it appearing on maps of the region for the next 60 years.

Today Lederer’s explorations and discoveries are highly criticized and considered by some to be outright fabrications. The narrative of Lederer’s three journeys consists of no more than 35 short pages and a map drawn by the man himself. Nonetheless, the text expresses much of the man’s character. He is determined, brave, honest and humble. We must agree with his friend and compatriot, Sir William Talbot, who describes him as “a modest ingenious person and a pretty scholar.” Further, Lederer’s narrative and his map are sufficiently accurate on a number of counts, including the course of several important rivers, the orientation of the Appellation Mountains, the identification of certain mountain passes, and the placement American Indian villages, that there can be little doubt Lederer truly passed through this region. Why then, is his significant contribution to cartography so heavily criticized?

It comes down to three seemingly anomalous elements that appear both in Lederer ‘s narrative and in his map: the Deserta Arenosa, Ushery Lake, and a great savanna in the piedmont region. We will attempt to examine each of these both individually and in the context of his greater voyage.

Close up of the Arenosa Desert from John Speed's Map

Close up of the Arenosa Desert from John Speed's Map

The most easily tackled is the Deserta Arenosa. Lederer encounters this desert on the return portion of his second journey. He describes it as “a barren Sandy Desert where I suffered miserably for want of water; the heat of the summer having drunk all of the springs dry,” and he surely would have died there had he not “found a standing pool, which provident nature set round with shady oaks, to defend it from the ardor of the sun.”

The Sand Hills Region Outlined in Red

The Sand Hills Region Outlined in Red

To us this seems to be a not-inaccurate description of the Sand Hill region during a dry summer. And indeed, by comparing our example map from 1676 with a modern detailing the Sand Hills region, we can easily see that the Arenosa directly overlays the Sand Hills.

Lederer’s description of a large savanna has long been one of the strongest attacks used against him. Lederer encounters the savanna on his third journey and describes it thusly:

These Savannae are low grounds at the foot of the Apalataeans, which all the Winter, Spring, and part of the Summer lie under snow or water, when the snow is dissolved, which falls down from the Maintains commonly about the beginning of June, and then their verdure is wonderful pleasant to the eye, especially of such as having traveled through the shade of the vast Forest, come out of a clear and open skie.

By the late 18th and early 19th century much of this savanna had largely disappeared. Many 19th and 20th century historians were locked into the convention that, prior to settlement by white man, that the region was covered by a vast primeval forest. This could not be farther from the truth. The historian, William Henry Foote describes this area as it existed in before 1750,

Extensive tracts of county between the Yadkin and the Catawba, now waving with thrifty forests, then were covered with tall grass, with scarce a bush or shrub, looking at first view as if immense grazing farms had been at once abandoned, the houses disappearing, and the abundant grass luxuriating in its native wildness and beauty, the wild herds wandering at pleasure, and nature rejoicing in undisturbed quietness.

We also know from historic records and fossil evidence that buffalo once wandered in this region on a short time before it was settled by colonials. The map scholar Cummings also supports this view, “It is certainly probable that before the forest land was denuded and the top soil washed away, the Piedmont may have had marshy sections, which have since largely disappeared”. In this light, the savanna described by Lederer, if anything is the strongest evidence to his veracity, rather than the opposite.

The lake that Lederer calls Ushery is possibly his most enduring legacy as well his most damning. We must first remember that Lederer did not invent this lake – it had in fact been on maps of the region for over 100 years!

Lederer's Savanna

Lederer's Savanna

Our earlier blog post on the “Great Sweet Water Lake of the Southeast” discusses and explains the history of this lake in more detail. Lederer claims to have not only discovered the lake, but to have actually sampled its waters. Lederer’s validation of this lake kept it on maps of the region well into the 1780s!

Now why? Lederer, as a learned man, would no doubt have been familiar with the many maps issued prior to his expedition, aware of, and even expecting to discover the Lactus Aquae Dulce. No doubt had Lederer returned and not discovered the lake, his explorations would have been more highly criticized in his time and may never have found their way into the cartographic corpus. Many have suggested that Lederer was conscious of this and simply added the lake to his narrative in order to validate the greater substance of his work. We find this supposition highly contrary to the humble and truthful character appearing elsewhere in the narrative.

Still others suggest that Lederer actually turned back without seeing the lake and then added the lake based upon a misinterpretation of American Indian descriptions of the wave-like undulations of the Blue Ridge mountains. This is plausible especially given that Lederer makes a similar mistake elsewhere with regard to the land of the Rickohockans “who dwell westward of the Apalataean Mountains, are seated upon a land, as they term it, of great waves (the Blue Ridge Mountains), by which I suppose they mean the seashore.” While we do believe this idea has merit, it again strikes us as odd and against Lederer’s character to lie.

Lake Ushery renamed after Lord Ashley by John Ogilby.

Lake Ushery renamed after Lord Ashley by John Ogilby.

More likely Lake Ushery is a case of “seek and ye shall find”. That is, since Lederer no doubt expected to discover the lake, it was easier to interpret what he did find as what he expected to see. Lyman Carrier explores this idea in his excellent analysis of Lederer’s travels. Carrier maps Lederer’s lake in either the Yadkin or Catawba Valley. Lyman writes, “Had the rivers been obstructed by beaver dames or debris, or had the channels through some of their gorges not been cut to their present levels, large areas of flooded land would have resulted.” While this may seem farfetched, we feel that the expectation of a lake combined with the discovery of a large flooded area, may have led to easy misinterpretation.

In general we find Lederer’s narrative to be truthful if limited in its scope. The errors that he did make are easily understood given the trials he faced. He had no reliable way to measure distance, no shared language with his American Indian guides, and only limited experience as a cartographer or surveyor. Moreover, it was nearly 50 years before other explorers contributed significantly to the knowledge of this region. For lack of contrary information from other explores, Lederer’s errors, which are surprisingly few, enjoyed considerable longevity.

REALATED MAPS:

http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/Carolina-speed-1676
http://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/Florida-debry-1591

REF: Carrier, L.,”The Veracity of John Lederer”, William and Mary Quarterly, Series II, Vol. 19, No. 4, p. 435 – 445. Talbot, W., The Discoveries of John Lederer…, 1672. Cumming, W., “Geographical Misconceptions of the Southeast in the Cartography of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”, The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 4, No. 4., pp. 476-492. Cunz, Dieter, “John Lederer: Significance and Evaluation”, The William and Mary Quarterly, Series II, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 175-185. The North Carolina State Archives, MC.150.1676s;MARS Id: 3.3.1.1.63. Phillips (America), p. 817. Cumming, W. P., The Southeast in Early Maps, #77. Goss, J., The Mapping of North America, Three Centuries of Map-Making 1500-1860, 41. Foote, W. H., Sketches of North Carolina, historical and biographical, 1847, p. 180.

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The Confederate Territory of “Arrizona” (Arizona)

May 11th, 2009 by Kevin Brown

1862 Johnson's Map of the American Southwest

1862 Johnson's Map of the American Southwest

In 1861 “Arrizona” was an alternate name for the lands added to the New Mexico territory by the 1854 Gadsden Purchase. With only a small population and minimal political influence this region was largely ignored by the New Mexico territorial government in distant Sante Fe. Bandits, hostile American Indian tribes, and outlaws ran rampant as only token effort was made by the New Mexico territorial government to police the region. The loosely organized inhabitants of southern New Mexico, or Arizona as it was being called, sent several appeals to Washington D.C. to be granted independent territorial status, but its low population caused the request to be repeatedly denied. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Arizonans saw an opportunity to appeal to an alternate body for the political needs of the region and through their lot in with the secessionist southern states. Around this time the Union began to withdraw troops from the region in fear that Sante Fe would be attacked by Confederate soldiers operating out of Texas. In Texas itself Col. John Robert Baylor, recognizing a strategic opportunity, led his troops into Southern Arizona. In a series of brilliant tactical maneuvers, Baylor defeated the much larger Union garrison and seized Fort Fillmore and Messilla. Shortly thereafter Baylor declared himself Territorial Governor of the Confederate Territory of Arizona including “all that portion of New Mexico lying south of the thirty-fourth parallel of north latitude.”

Johnson's 1866 Map of the Southwest

Johnson's 1866 Map of the Southwest

The Confederate Territory of Arizona lasted less than a year before it was seized by the Union Army and dismantled in favor of the current configuration with the Arizona – New Mexico border situated along a north-south axis. Some have suggested that the current border between Arizona and New Mexico was chosen for no other reason than that it differed from the Confederate border. However, it is far more likely that this border was influenced by the prospect of a Southern Pacific railroad route. If the Confederate boundaries had remained the railroad would have would have run only through Arizona, thus denying New Mexico the political and business opportunities that would have inevitably followed. A longitudinal border, however, allowed both territories to be enriched by the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Related Posts: The Proposed Routes of the Pacific Railroad in Antique Maps

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