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Antique Maps of the Poles

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Blaeu North Pole
Willem Janszoon Blaeu. "Regiones Sub Polo Arctico." Amsterdam: Joan & Cornelius Blaeu, 1642. State 1, without dedication. 16 1/8 x 20 7/8. Engraving. Original hand color. Very good condition. Dutch text on verso.

A superb map of the Arctic regions by Willem (Guilielmo) Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638), one of the leading cartographers of the early seventeenth century and the progenitor of the famous Blaeu cartographic firm of Amsterdam. Blaeu studied astronomy and sciences with Tycho Brahe, and in 1599 established a globe and instrument making business which soon expanded to include cartographic and geographic publishing. This firm was to go on to become the largest and most important cartographic publishing firms in the world, run by his sons Cornelis (until his death in 1642) and Joan. The maps issued by the Blaeu firm are known for their fine engraving, coloring and design, and have been called "the highest expression of Dutch cartographical art." This map of the North Pole is a very close copy by Blaeu of Jansson's map (cf. above), though with Blaeu's altered decorative motifs. Rhumb lines, compass roses-here highlighted with gold leaf, ship vignettes, and decorative cartouches grace all parts of the map, a decorative and historical gem. $1,600

Bowen North Pole
Emanuel Bowen. "A Correct Draught of the North Pole." From John Harris' Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels. London, 1748. Ca. 15 1/2 x 17 1/2. Engraving. Narrow margins and folds as issued. Overall, fine condition.

A detailed map of the Northern Hemisphere by Emanuel Bowen, engraver to Louis XV and Geographer to George II. The map focuses on the Northwest and Northeast Passages to the Orient. The English were particularly concerned with these long-sought-for passages because of their northern location and the control of the southern routes by other nations. It was primarily English explorers who made voyages to the north of Europe and North America, and Bowen shows many of their routes on the map. In the bottom corners of the page, Bowen includes a long discussion of the Northwest Passage, which he considered likely to exist. He mentions the report of Admiral De Fontes, and the "present Attempt 1746" led by Arthur Dobbs, from which "the publick is in great Expectation of New Discoveries..." Hudson's Bay is quite well mapped, with a considerable number of open-ended waterways along its western coast. It was here that the English were concentrating their search for the passage to the Pacific, and Bowen detailed all the possibilities.

One of the earliest of the English to search for the Northwest Passage was Martin Frobisher, who made three attempts to find the passage beginning in 1576 when he discovered Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island. Frobisher made two mistaken assumptions about his discovery. First, he thought that he had discovered a passage, when it was in fact a bay. Secondly, because of the confused geography of the Northern Atlantic, Frobisher thought he was exploring around Greenland instead of Baffin Island. These two mistakes led to the geographic delusion that there was a passage through the tip of Greenland (this later became two passages), and thus it is shown on this map, where "Forbishers Str." appears between Greenland and the two islands located off its tip. This is an excellent picture of the English search for the passages to the Orient. $550

Mathew Carey. "A Map of the Countries situate about the North Pole as far as the 50th Degree of North Latitude." Philadelphia: M. Carey, 1814. Circular projection, ca. 9 1/2" diameter. Engraving. Original outline color. Light staining at bottom. Otherwise, very good condition.

An early map of the North Pole, one of the first by an American cartographer. It was issued by Mathew Carey, one of the seminal figures in early American cartography. Carey, an Irish immigrant, established the first specialized cartographic publishing firm. He set up an elaborate system of craftsmen for engraving, printing, coloring and distributing his maps, and so was important not only for the excellent maps he produced, but also for his setting the pattern for early American map publishing. The geography is quite up-to-date, and shows information from the late eighteenth century explorations in the Canadian north by Hearne and Mackenzie. An excellent American document. $185

Colton: Northern Regions
J.H. Colton. "Northern Regions." New York: G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co., 1855+. 15 7/8 x 13. Lithograph. Original hand color. Tears at edges just into image, all archivally repaired. Else, very good condition.

A lovely map of the North Pole, issued around mid-century by the Colton cartographic firm of New York. A finely detailed document showing the extent of knowledge at the time up to and within the Arctic Circle. $95


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