Maps from Early America up for Auction

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December 6, 2015

A New York auction will feature several maps representing a few hundreds years’ worth of cartography from the early years of British settlement in America.

The oldest item on offer at Manhattan’s Swann Auction Galleries’ “Mapping of America” event will be a German map from the mid-16th Century that is the earliest surviving map to show both North America and South America and to name the Pacific Ocean. The map, which is expected to go for as much $5,000, shows the world’s largest ocean labeled as Mare pacificum, the Latin name.

Expected to fetch 10 times that amount of money is an atlas published during the Revolutionary War by William Faden, Great Britain’s royal geographer. The atlas contains several maps, including one showing a 1777 plan of New York City that highlights the population centered at the southern tip of the island and the rest as farmland. Of more interest to the person who eventually buys the atlas might be the series of maps of British military campaigns. Auction officials have set the estimated sale price at between $300,000 and $500,000.

Other maps up for auction are interesting to many cartographers and historians for the fact that the maps show such geographical oddities as California’s being an island. Geographers of the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries didn’t always have the latest technological tools to hand when they were creating their maps.

Among the other offerings are these:

  • a map showing the route that Lewis and Clark took to the Pacific
  • the first planted plan of Washington, D.C.

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