Now thru Sep. 12: Early hand colored maps, atlases and more at Old World Auctions

- by Thomas C. McKinney

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Highlights from Old World Auctions' ongoing sale

Old World Auctions, the online-only auction house specializing in maps and cartography since 1977, is currently hosting its 169thauction comprising 823 lots of antique maps, plans, charts, globes, prints, engravings, manuscripts, atlases, and books. The sale is currently active and ends September 12. Though offerings range from the 15thto the 20thcenturies, much of the most valuable material airs on the earlier side. The following highlight lots show off a nice diversity of subjects, including the world (modern and ancient), Italy, the United States, Sri Lanka, and the Pacific. All are hand colored.

 

Though there are many to choose from, I’ve chosen three world maps from the 16thand 17thcentury maps to include here. Lot 17 is Ortelius’ third world map (not to be confused with a map of the Third World) and dated 1587. An oval world map, Ortelius’ work is a simplified version of Mercator’s map of 1569 and is estimated $6,000 to $7,500. Five lots later, we have lot 22, or John Speed’s “A New and Accurat Map of the World Drawne According to ye Truest Descriptions Latest Discoveries & Best Observations yt Have Beene Made by English or Strangers.” This one is dated 1651 but is known to have been published in 1662 by Roger Rea. It is one of the earliest published maps in English and is famous for being the first atlas map to show California as an island. Speed’s map is estimated $14,000 to $16,000. Our last world map highlight is of the ancient world as it was known in the Roman Empire: lot 47, Ortelius’ scarce Peutinger Table. Though the landmasses are distorted by the map’s format (four plates, each with two strip maps), the maps depict the imperial roads, posts, as well as the three most important cities—Rome, Constantinople, and Antioch—within the Empire stretching from Europe to North Africa to Asia as far as Sri Lanka. The Peutinger Table is estimated $5,000 to $6,000.

 

Representing the selection being offered of maps of the United States, lot 159 is Guillaume Delisle’s “Carte de la Louisiane et du Cours du Mississipi Dressee sur un Grand Nombre de Memoires Entrautres sur ceux de Mr. le Maire,” which is the first detailed map of the Gulf region and the Mississippi and also bears recognition for including the first appearance in print of the name Texas. Lot 159 is estimated $6,000 to $7,500.

 

One of the most decorative maps of Italy is also included in the sale, being Hondius or Jansson’s “Tabulae Italiae, Corsicae, Sardiniae, et Adjacentium Regnorum. Nova et Accurata Delineatio” from 1659. On all four sides, the map is surrounded by engravings of cities such Rome, Naples, Venice, and Flornce, of people both common and noble, of coats of arms, and of the volcanos Solfatara and Grotto del Cane. Old World Auctions states that the Hondius and Jansson editions of the map are very similar, and it is unclear which this is. The lot is unambiguously estimated $5,000 to $6,500.

 

The earliest item in this sale preview is lot 703, Ptolemy’s "Duodecima Asie Tabula," a map of Sri Lanka dated 1486. Ptolemy lived in the 2ndcentury AD, so his work over the centuries was edited and improved—this one by a Benedictine monk named Donnnus Nicolaus Germanus who served as the editor of the 1482 and 1486 editions of Cosmographia, the atlas from which this map came from. Lot 703 is estimated $5,500 to $7,000.

 

Our final preview item is also the last chronologically in the sale: lot 749. This is an Ortelian map of the Pacific Ocean dubbed "Maris Pacifici, (quod Vulgo Mar del Zur) cum Regionibus Circumiacentibus, Insulisque in Eodem Passim Sparsis, Novissima Descriptio" and dated 1589. Ortelius’ work has the distinction of being the first map ever printed devoted to the Pacific, and the second to label the Americas separately as North and South after Mercator’s 1538 world map. One of the higher priced items in the sale, it is estimated $8,000 to $10,000.

 

Old World Auctions’ sale 169 is currently ongoing online and ends September 12. The entire catalog is viewable here and bidding is conducted from the catalog. Registering and logging in prior to bidding is required.