This is a bombshell. Christie’s has cancelled its upcoming auction of a (supposedly) newly discovered copy of Waldseemüller’s globe gores. Experts found evidence suggesting that the gores were a carefully faked copy of the gores found in the James Ford Bell Library. In today’s New York Times, Michael Blanding (who wrote a book on the Forbes Smiley affair) has the scoop on how the red flags were raised. The auction was supposed to take place on Wednesday; the gores were expected to fetch between £600,000 and £900,000.
When the news broke that Christie’s was auctioning a previously unknown copy of Waldseemüller’s globe gores—the sixth known to still exist—I wondered where it came from and how it was found. Christie’s has now posted an article about the globe gores that answers that question.
Waldseemüller’s set of gores was widely reproduced, yet the example to be offered at Christie’s on 13 December was never cut out—which largely explains why it has survived for hundreds of years. If it had been pasted as intended, Wilson says, ‘wear and tear would surely have seen its demise in the intervening centuries.’
Instead of being cut up, this particular map was used as scrap for bookbinding. It ended up among the belongings of the late British paper restorer Arthur Drescher, who died in 1986 and whose family recently came upon the piece.
Here’s the auction listing. The auction will take place on 13 December; the gores are expected to fetch between £600,000 and £900,000.
The William P. Cumming Map Society’s North Carolina Map Blog has a post looking at miniature maps of North Carolina (“miniature” is defined as less than four inches in size) and a post about minchiate, a 16th-century Florentine card game; there were were educational minchiate decks with a map on each of the 97 cards. [WMS]
The Library of Congress has acquired the Codex Quetzalecatzin, an extremely rare 1593 Mesoamerican indigenous manuscript that depicts, using Nahuatl hieroglyphics and pre-contact illustrative conventions as well as Latin characters, the lands and genealogy of the de Leon family. John Hessler’s blog post describes the codex and helps us understand its significance.
Like many Nahuatl codices and manuscript maps of the period it depicts a local community at an important point in their history. On the one hand, the map is a traditional Aztec cartographic history with its composition and design showing Nahuatl hieroglyphics, and typical illustrations. On the other hand, it also shows churches, some Spanish place names, and other images suggesting a community adapting to Spanish rule. Maps and manuscripts of this kind would typically chart the community’s territory using hieroglyphic toponyms, with the community’s own place-name lying at or near the center. The present codex shows the de Leon family presiding over a large region of territory that extends from slightly north of Mexico City, to just south of Puebla. Codices such as these are critical primary source documents, and for scholars looking into history and ethnography during the earliest periods of contact between Europe and the peoples of the Americas, they give important clues into how these very different cultures became integrated and adapted to each others presence.
AP reports that Christie’s will be auctioning “a previously unknown copy” of Martin Waldseemüller’s globe gores on 13 December. This would be the sixth known remaining copy of Waldseemüller’s gores, which were designed to form a small globe a few inches across when pasted onto a sphere. They’re a smaller, less-detailed version of Waldseemüller’s famous 1507 world map, and yes, the globe gores have “America” labelled as well.
The Yorkshire Society has erected a plaque in Tingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, to commemorate the 16th-century cartographer Christopher Saxton, the Yorkshire Evening Post reports. Saxton produced the first county maps of England and Wales; they were collected in his 1579 Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales. A major name in the history of British cartography (see this page about Saxton from the University of Glasgow Library), Saxton was born in West Yorkshire—thus the local interest. [WMS]
Maps aren’t always named for their creators. The Gough map and the Selden map are named the people who owned them last before bequeathing them to the Bodleian Library. The Cantino planisphere, a Portuguese map of the world showing that country’s discoveries in the Americas and along the African coast, is named after the person who, ah, acquired it: in 1502 Alberto Cantino, undercover agent for the Duke of Ferrara, smuggled it out of Portugal, where maps were state secrets. Here’s an article about the Cantino planisphere from the March/April 2017 issue of National Geographic History magazine.
A Turkish filmmaker is working on a documentary about the life of Ottoman admiral and mapmaker Piri Reis, whose 1513 portolan chart, a fragment of which was rediscovered in 1929, claimed to draw upon ancient and contemporary sources, including Columbus. According to the Doğan News Agency story, the 75-minute film “will feature dramatic reconstructions starring actor Mehmet Günsur as Piri Reis, Riccardo Scamarcio as Christopher Columbus and actress Deniz Özdoğan. Can Atill will reportedly compose the music for the film.” If you can read Turkish, the website of the filmmaker, Gülsah Çeliker, is here; the movie’s website is here. The documentary is supposed to be finished by the end of the year. [WMS]
A 16th-century portolan chart is being auctioned later this month at TEFAF New York. “The map, which was created by a Genoese cartographer named Vesconte Maggiolo in 1531, is one of the first depictions of America’s eastern seaboard. It’s also the first (extant) map, ever, to show New York harbor,” Bloomberg’s James Tarmy writes. The asking price is $10 million—which would tie it with the Library of Congress’s copy of the Waldseemüller map as the most expensive map ever. The seller, Daniel Crouch Rare Books, has produced a detailed, lavishly illustrated 56-page booklet befitting a map with an eight-figure asking price. [WMS]
A Land Beyond the Stars is a major new website dedicated to Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map. Announced last week, it’s a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the Galileo Museum in Florence, Italy; the latter institution is responsible for the multimedia presentation.
[The website] brings the map’s wealth of historical, technical, scientific and geographic data to a broader public. Interactive videos explain the sciences of cartography and astronomy and the state of navigational and geographic knowledge during the time of Waldseemüller. Developed with materials from the Library of Congress and other libraries around the world, the name of the website stems from Waldseemüller’s use of a passage from Roman poet Virgil, which can be found in the upper left corner of the 1507 map.
Later this week, the Library of Congress will host a two-day conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1516 map, Carta Marina. Facts or Fictions: Debating the Mysteries of Early Modern Science and Cartography will take place on 6-7 October in the Coolidge Auditorium in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C. The conference agenda is not limited to Waldseemüller or his 1516 map; notable speakers include Kirsten Seaver, Chet Van Duzer and, with a major lecture, Dava Sobel. Free admission; no tickets or reservations required.
(The 1516 Carta Marina should not be confused with the Waldseemüller map most people mean: it’s his 1507 Universalis Cosmographia that names “America.” Nor should it be confused with Olaus Magnus’ Carta Marina.)
Speaking of map monsters, here’s a piece in the Public Domain Review from 2014 that I only encountered this month. It’s a look at the sea serpents found in Olaus Magnus’s 1539 Carta Marina: “The northern seas of the marine and terrestrial map teem with fantastic sea monsters either drawn or approved by Olaus,” writes the author—none other than Joseph Nigg, who literally wrote the book on the Carta Marina’s sea monsters. [WMS]
Previously: Sea Monsters and the Carta Marina.
Earlier this month Voice of America had a short, introductory piece on Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world. Because it’s the first time the word “America” appears on a map, it’s become known as “America’s birth certificate.” It’s for that reason that the Library of Congress spent $10 million to acquire the last known copy of the map. The story of the map, however, is much more interesting than that: it’s an amalgam of classical knowledge with more recent discoveries, a curious document that tries to bridge two different ways of thinking about the world. [WMS]
Several books about the map have been published. I haven’t yet seen The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio by John W. Hessler (Giles, 2008) or Putting “America” on the Map by Seymour I. Schwartz (Prometheus, 2007), but I have read and reviewed The Fourth Part of the World by Toby Lester (Free Press, 2009), which wraps the map in considerable historical context (buy the book at Amazon or iBooks).
The Gallery of the Geographical Maps was a papal tour de force for its size, scope, speed and style. At 120 meters it is longer than a football field, yet the magnificent frescoes articulate the space with an elegant rhythm. The hall itself was designed by Ottaviano Mascherino for Pope Gregory XIII who wanted to link his new astronomical observatory, “The Tower of the Winds,” with the apostolic palace, so his guests would walk amidst terrestrial maps before climbing to observe the heavens.
An exhibition of 16th-century Italian maps, Quando l’Italia disegnava il mondo: Tesori Cartografici del Rinascimento Italiano (“When Italy Drew the world: Cartographic Treasures of the Italian Renaissance”) opened last Friday at the Palazzo del Podestà in Bergamo, Italy. It runs until 10 July. English summary. [Tony Campbell]