Beautiful map showing California as an island goes under the hammer in Arizona

Rare book collectors and cartography fans won't want to miss their chance to take part in Old World Auctions' latest sale of Antique Maps, Atlases and Historical Graphics.

With Hartmann Schedel's famous World Chronicle smashing its estimate at Ketterer Kunst this week, to sell for $367,700, it's clear that demand for antique views of the world including maps is very strong - a great opportunity for investment.

Old World Auctions is offering 73 lots with maps, plans and charts relating to everywhere from Africa to the Arctic via America, Europe and the Holy Land.

Two highlights stand out in particular:

Firstly there is a beautiful double hemispheric world map by John Speed which carries the imprint of George Humble. The map is dated 1626 but it was known to have been published through 1632 with this imprint. This map is based on William Grent's rare, separately issued map of 1625.

It is considered one of the earliest published world maps to be printed in English, and is the first atlas map to show the bizarre notion of California as an island, which persisted for nearly 100 years, and one of the first to show the settlement of New Plymouth.

The highly decorative production is surrounded by two celestial hemispheres, figural allegorical representations of Water, Earth, Air and Fire, plus portraits of Ferdinand Magellan, Oliver van der Noort, Thomas Cavendish and Sir Francis Drake.

Apparently not widely distributed, it is graded as condition B+ and estimated at $16,000-20,000.

Secondly, a map by William Blaeu in A grade condition is expected to be marginally the top lot. It featuring a carte-a-figures border with allegorical representations of the sun, the moon, the five known planets, the four elements and the four seasons.

Blaeu world map
Blaeu world map
(Click to enlarge)

Blaeu appears to have used Petrus Plancius's world map of 1592 as the main source of geographical information.

North America has the westward bulge characteristic of the time, with the Strait of Anian noted. Korea is shown as an island and Japan is in a kite-like shape. The map itself is richly decorated with cartouches, sea battles, monsters and compass roses.

Overall it is expected to sell for $18,000-$22,000 in the sale which is based in Arizona but is taking place primarily online with bidding closing on December 1.


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