The Second Printed Map of the West Coast of North America, including the Northwest Passage
This is a fine example of Wytfliet's map of the West Coast of North America, the second printed map to focus on the region which would become Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
The map is important in that it is devoted to the West Coast and the Northwest Passage, and is from the first atlas devoted solely to America. The atlas was intended as an addition to Ptolemy, entitled Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum. It was later reprinted in French under the title Histoire Universelle Des Indes Occidentales.
The map shows the coast from Southern California to a mythical Northwest Passage in the Arctic Circle, based upon Mercator's large world map of 1569. It shows an area similar to De Jode's Quivirae Regnu of 1593, the first printed map to focus on the area. The nomenclature is from Plancius' World map of 1592.
Certain of the place names are based in history. For example, Quivira Regnum refers to the Seven Cities of Gold sought by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1541. In 1539, Coronado wandered over what today is Arizona and New Mexico, eventually heading to what is now Kansas to find the supposedly rich city of Quivira. Although he never found the cities or the gold, the name stuck on maps of southwest North America, wandering from east to west.
Cape Mendocino, also labeled on the map, is a point named by another Spanish explorer, Andres de Urdaneta, in 1565. The point was important to the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade, as the westerly winds pushed the galleons toward this part of the coast, from where they would turn south toward Acapulco.
The majority of the place names and geography north of Cape Mendocino, however, are pure conjecture, as no European would reach this area of the coastline for another 180 years. A number of ambiguous place names, like the River of the Straits and the inlet marked "Great Currents", embellish this largely mythical map.
Although mythical, perhaps the most recognizable place name on the map is Anian. Anian derives from Ania, a Chinese province on a large gulf mentioned in Marco Polo's travels (ch. 5, book 3). The gulf Polo described was actually the Gulf of Tonkin, but the province's description was transposed from Vietnam to the northwest coast of North America. The first map to do was Giacomo Gastaldi's world map in 1562, followed by Zaltieri and Mercator in 1567. The Strait then became shorthand for a passage to China, i.e. a Northwest Passage. It appeared on maps until the mid-eighteenth century.
Cornelius de Wytfliet (ca.1550-ca. 1597) was a Flemish cartographer most famous for his Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum. The work was published in Louvain, Belgium, and had nineteen maps of the Americas. This is the most famous map in the atlas. It is a rare map and would be a cornerstone in any Northwest Coast map collection.
Cornelius de Wytfliet (ca.1550-ca. 1597) was a Flemish cartographer most famous for his Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum. The work was published in Louvain, Belgium, and had nineteen maps of the Americas.