1666 Frederick de Wit 'carte á figures' Map of America

Nova Totius Americae Descriptio Auct. F. de Wit. - Main View

1666 Frederick de Wit 'carte á figures' Map of America


Scarce, separately issued 'carte-á-figures' of America.


Nova Totius Americae Descriptio Auct. F. de Wit.
  1660 (undated)     17.25 x 21.5 in (43.815 x 54.61 cm)     1 : 43000000


This is Frederic De Wit's scarce, separately issued 1660 carte à figures map of America. This beautifully engraved map was one of a handful produced by De Wit to showcase his skill as he struck out on his own as a mapmaker, after having worked for many years under the Blaeu family. It represents a synthesis of traditional imagery with state-of-the-art geographical ideas. It was not intended for any particular atlas, although surviving examples occasionally appear bound into other works, including Doncker's Zee-Atlas.
The Sources
Cartographically the map owes much to Blaeu's 1617 Americae. This is notable in the rendering of the Spanish province of La Florida. As well, in South America, where Blaeu's geography is evident De Wit's network of rivers and lakes spanning Brazil and connecting to the Rio de la Plata is of particular note. However, De Wit is not exclusively following Blaeu's Americae. For example, the Lagoa dos Patos on coast north of the Rio de la Plata is drawn from either the 1630 de Laet map of the Americas or the Blaeu West Indische Paskaert.
The Propaganda of Omission
One notable excision is the lack of any mention of the English colony in New England: New Amsterdam, the New Netherlands, and Manhattan are all named, as are the Iroquois lands between the Dutch settlements and the French to the north, but all the placenames pertinent to New England are Dutch, whereas the English are confined here to Virginia. In this, De Wit's 1660 map appears to be drawing both from the West Indische Paskaert and Joan Blaeu's America Septentrionalis. Although the production of this map fell between the first and second Anglo-Dutch Wars, it would be understandable if Dutch animosity to the English helped inform the editorial process.
An Evolution in Phantom Geography
When wrestling with remote parts of the world, mapmakers of the 16th and 17th century were prone to error - either due to genuine confusion or lack of data, or in some cases falling prey to deliberate fraud. As geographer's data for a given area improves, error sprouts elsewhere. For example, here De Wit's map includes none of the previous century's Zeno geography, and also eschews the phantom island of Buss. As if to compensate, De Wit adds the phantom island of 'Brazil' in the Northern Atlantic at 60° longitude.
California as an Island
The model for North America's remotest coastlines can be ultimately traced to the 1635 Foxe map, but through the conduit of Blaeu's 1659 North America, or possibly his 1648 world map. The shape of De Wit's Buttons Bay is rounder than that which appears on either, but seems to be drawn from the Bay as it is depicted in the subordinate arctic projection on the 1648 world. De Wit has followed Blaeu in his selection of the Foxe/Sanson model of the insular California, rather than the Briggs model preferred by Jansson in 1636 and Visscher in 1658. De Wit's choice to omit any reference to English claims to California is in keeping with the similar east coast snub: there is neither a P. S. Francisco Draco here, nor a Nova Albion.
Canadian Arctic
De Wit's Great Lakes geography appears to be a piece with the mapping to the north and west of it, although engravers' errors create a unique river network in place of the open-ended lake of the 1648 Blaeu world. A similar error transforms the peninsula north of California - 'Agubela de Cato' - into a partial coastline and an inland river.
Carte-à-figures Surround
The maps of Blaeu and Speed are generally best known for their decorative borders in this style, but other Dutch mapmakers (Hondius, Jansson, and van der Keere) also produced such maps. The figures for De Wit's map are derived from the 1614 van der Keere Americae Nova Descriptio. The city views, too, mostly derive from the van der Keere, with the exception of Olinda.

Generally, this grand treatment was reserved for maps of the continents as large-scale showcases for the mapmaker's art. Often, such maps were separate issues or intended for larger, deluxe editions of their respective atlases. De Wit's four continental maps of 1660, for example, were separate productions, not intended for inclusion in a specific atlas (when he did produce an atlas, he included newly engraved and quite different continental maps).
The Armadillo as an Epic Mount
The title cartouche - otherwise a very traditional strapwork oval - is topped with the remarkable image of America anthropomorphized as an Indian Queen astride an enormous armadillo. Such imagery was not isolated to this map. Armadillos appear on maps as early as the 1529 Diego Ribeiro manuscript world map. The third quarter of the 16th century saw a proliferation in Europe both of actual specimens and drawings of American oddities, with the armadillo a particular favorite. In 1589, the Antwerp engraver Adriaen Collaert produced a series of four allegorical engravings of the continents after drawings by Maerten de Vos. The series presented each continent separately. The image of America in this series represents the first printed instance of America astride an armadillo. Collaert, as an engraver, was connected to the map trade through marriage. He was Philip Galle's son in law, and he worked for Gerard De Jode where he produced the allegorical prints after de Vos. Later he worked for Plantijn and Moretus. Plancius incorporated Collaert's allegorical imagery into his double hemisphere 1592 world map. Collaert's allegories were subsequently used in multiple world maps by Josua van den Ende, Blaeu, van der Keere, Visscher, Allard, and Danckerts. Rather surprisingly, De Wit's employment of these images in the context of individual continental maps, as here, appears unique.
Publication History and Census
This map was printed in 1660 along with similarly styled cartes-à-figures of the other continents, and a map of the world. These were separately published and are scarce. They were occasionally added to composite atlases, most frequently to Doncker's maritime atlas. When first engraved, the map included the date 1660 in the cartouche, but in 1666 this date was removed. The present example, undated, is identifed by Burden as the second state. McLaughlin proposes an intermediate state, in which the plate's number was altered prior to the excision of the date, thus he identifies the present example as state 3. There are fourteen separate examples in OCLC, all but one of which correspond to this edition.


Frederik de Wit (1629 - 1706) was a Dutch Golden Age cartographer active in the second half of the 17th and the early 18th centuries. De Wit was born of middle class Protestant stock in the western Netherlandish town of Gouda. He relocated to Amsterdam sometime before 1648, where he worked under Willem Blaeu. His first attributed engraved map, a plan of Haarlem for Antonius Sanderus' Flandria Illustrata, was issued around this time. He struck out on his own in 1654. The first chart that De Wit personally both drew and engraved was most likely his 1659 map of Denmark, REGNI DANIÆ Accuratissima delineatio Perfeckte Kaerte van ‘t CONJNCKRYCK DENEMARCKEN. His great wall map of the world and most famous work, Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula appeared one year later. Following the publication of his wall map De Wit quickly rose in prominence as a both cartographer and engraver. He married Maria van der Way in 1661 and through her became a citizen of Amsterdam in 1662. Around this time he also published his first major atlas, a composite production ranging in size from 17 to over 150 maps and charts. Other atlases and individual maps followed. In 1689 De Wit was granted a 15 year Privilege by the Dutch States General. (An early copyright that protected the recipient's rights to print and publish.) He was recognized with the honorific 'Good Citizen' in 1694. De Wit died in 1706 after which his wife Maria continued publishing his maps until about 1710. De Wit's son, Franciscus, had no interest in the map trade, instead choosing to prosper as a stockfish merchant. On her own retirement, Maria sold most De Wit maps and plates at a public auction. Most were acquired by Pieter Mortier and laid the groundwork for the 1721 rise of Covens and Mortier, the largest Dutch cartographic publishing house of the 18th century. More by this mapmaker...


Very good. Few marginal mends, upper centerfold split just touching border. Old manuscript L'Amérique added to upper margin. Fine hand color.


OCLC 54625648. Burden, P., The Mapping of North America, #356 state 2. McLaughlin, G., The Mapping of California as an Island:  An Illustrated Checklist, #24 state 3.