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Scarce map of America, featuring a number of the most famous myths and inaccuracies that appeared on contemporary maps of the period.

California is shown as an island following the second Sanson model, including over 30 place names. The Mississippi River is shown flowing into the Gulf of Mexico near modern-day Galveston Bay, based upon La Salle's erroneous reports, which De L'Isle was just correcting in his mapping of North America around 1700.

The map also includes the mythical Terra Esonis, a massive land bridge running virtually the entire distance between North America and Asia. This landmass probably had some connection to early knowledge of the Aleutian Archipelago and pre-dates Vitus Bering's and Aleksei Chirikov's exploration of the region in 1741. The Fretum Aniani (Straits of Anian) are curiously configured, with no definite Northwest Passage but the interior of now-western Canada is left to the viewers' imagination.

The map includes some early western Indian tribal names. Most interesting are the Apaches de Novajo, north even of the Apaches de Xila, both of which are considerably north of the areas inhabited by the Apache and Navajo Indians. The projection of Florida is stumped, and the Straits of Florida are exaggerated.

The elaborate cartouche depicts a number of Indians and a westerner in military costume smoking a peace pipe.

California as an island

The popular misconception of California as an island can be found on European maps from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. From its first portrayal on a printed map by Diego Gutiérrez, in 1562, California was shown as part of North America by mapmakers, including Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius. In the 1620s, however, it began to appear as an island in several sources. While most of these show the equivalent of the modern state of California separated from the continent, others, like a manuscript chart by Joao Teixeira Albernaz I (ca. 1632) now in the collection of the National Library of Brasil shows the entire western half of North Americas as an island. 

The myth of California as an island was most likely the result of the travel account of Sebastian Vizcaino, who had been sent north up the shore of California in 1602. A Carmelite friar, Fray Antonio de la Ascensión, accompanied him. Ascension described the land as an island and around 1620 sketched maps to that effect. Normally, this information would have been reviewed and locked in the Spanish repository, the Casa de la Contratación. However, the manuscript maps were intercepted in the Atlantic by the Dutch, who took them to Amsterdam where they began to circulate. Ascensión also published descriptions of the insular geography in Juan Torquemada’s Monarquia Indiana (1613) (with the island details curtailed somewhat) and in his own Relación breve of ca. 1620.

The first known maps to show California as an island were on the title pages of Antonio de Herrera’s Descripción de las Indias Occidentales (1622) and Jacob le Maire's Spieghel Der Australische Navigatie (1622). Two early examples of larger maps are those by Abraham Goos (1624) and another by Henry Briggs, which was included in Samuel Purchas’ Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). In addition to Briggs and Goos, prominent practitioners like Jan Jansson and Nicolas Sanson adopted the new island and the practice became commonplace. John Speed’s map (1626-7), based on Briggs’ work, is well known for being one of the first to depict an insular California.

The island of California became a fixture on mid- and late-seventeenth century maps. The island suggested possible links to the Northwest Passage, with rivers in the North American interior supposedly connecting to the sea between California and the mainland. Furthermore, Francis Drake had landed in northern California on his circumnavigation (1577-80) and an insular California suggested that Spanish power in the area could be questioned.

Not everyone was convinced, however. Father Eusebio Kino, after extensive travels in what is now California, Arizona, and northern Mexico concluded that the island was actually a peninsula and published a map refuting the claim (Paris, 1705). Another skeptic was Guillaume De L’Isle. In 1700, De L’Isle discussed “whether California is an Island or a part of the continent” with J. D. Cassini; the letter was published in 1715. After reviewing all the literature available to him in Paris, De L’Isle concluded that the evidence supporting an insular California was not trustworthy. He also cited more recent explorations by the Jesuits (including Kino) that disproved the island theory. Later, in his map of 1722 (Carte d’Amerique dressee pour l’usage du Roy), De L’Isle would abandon the island theory entirely.

Despite Kino’s and De L’Isle’s work, California as an island remained common on maps until the mid-eighteenth century. De L’Isle’s son-in-law, Philippe Buache, for example, remained an adherent of the island depiction for some time. Another believer was Herman Moll, who reported that California was unequivocally an island, for he had had sailors in his offices that claimed to have circumnavigated it. In the face of such skepticism, the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, had to issue a decree in 1747 proclaiming California to be a peninsula connected to North America; the geographic chimera, no matter how appealing, was not to be suffered any longer, although a few final maps were printed with the lingering island.

McLaughlin, G. 204; Tooley, R.V. (Amer) p.126, #90; Leighly, J. 158.
Johann Christoph Weigel Biography

Johann Christoph Weigel (1654-1725), sometimes known as Christop Weigel the Elder, was a notable German engraver, art dealer, and publisher, renowned for his contributions to the fields of cartography and illustration during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Born in 1654 in the city of Redwitz, in the Margraviate of Bayreuth, Weigel embarked on a career that would place him among the prominent figures in the world of European printmaking.

Weigel's early life and training are somewhat obscure, but it is known that he was active in Nuremberg, a city renowned for its vibrant artistic and cultural scene. Nuremberg was a hub for artists, craftsmen, and publishers, and it was here that Weigel honed his skills and established his reputation. He married the daughter of the prominent engraver and publisher Johann Christoph Lochner, which further integrated him into the thriving artistic community of Nuremberg.

His work encompassed various subjects, including maps, historical scenes, portraits, and scientific illustrations. Weigel's maps are particularly notable for their detail and accuracy, reflecting the growing interest in geography and exploration during his time. His cartographic works often combined practical utility with artistic embellishment, making them valuable for both navigational purposes and as works of art.

One of Weigel's significant contributions was his involvement in the production of the Atlas scholasticus et itinerarius, a comprehensive world atlas that was widely used in educational settings. This work demonstrated his skill in synthesizing geographical information into accessible and informative maps.

In addition to his cartographic endeavors, Weigel produced a vast array of illustrations for books on various subjects, ranging from history to natural science. His illustrations were known for their clarity and detail, contributing to the dissemination of knowledge in an era when visual representations were crucial for understanding complex ideas.

Weigel's legacy is that of a versatile and skilled engraver and publisher who contributed significantly to the visual culture of his time. His works provided practical information and reflected the late Baroque period's intellectual and artistic currents. Christoph Weigel passed away in 1725, leaving behind a body of work that continues to be appreciated for its artistic merit and historical value.