Rare map of the region from the Caspian Sea to Camchick, showing the first 2 part of Anthony Jenkinson and Richard Johnson's expedition from Russia, in search of a passable land route to China in 1558 (the date in the map title is erroneous). During the middle ages, European merchants traded in Eurasia and even reached Cathay (China) thanks to the so-called Pax Mongolica. When the Mongol Empire collapsed, the traditional overland trade routes increasingly dangerous and often impassable. In 1553, a group of English entrepreneurs financed an exploratory mission under the command of Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor to find the Northeast Passage to China. Chancellor managed to pilot his ship into the White Sea, thus "discovering" the northern Russian port of St. Nicholas and a direct sea route to Russia. Chancellor returned to England in 1554, after receiving promising words from Ivan IV that English merchants would be accommodated if they desired to trade in Russia. By 1555 the English financiers received a royal charter making them an official company, generally known as the Russia or Muscovy Company. With the Company established, the English carried on a regular and direct trade with Russia via the northern route to the White Sea throughout the following decades. In 1557, the company sent Anthony Jenkinson to Moscow with instructions to seek passage to explore routes to Central Asia, Persia, and ultimately China. After being granted a license and receiving letters from Ivan IV addressed to foreign kings asking for his safe-conduct, Jenkinson, a Tartar interpreter, and two other company employees, Richard and Robert Johnson, departed Moscow eastward in April 1558. In Astrakhan, they joined a group of merchants, crossed the Caspian and traveled east overland with the ultimate goal of reaching China. By December they reached Bukhara, but were forced to turn back after learning that the routes to the east would lead them into warring regions.
Pierre Duval (1618-1683) was a French geographer, cartographer, and publisher who worked in Abbeville and Paris during the seventeenth century. He was born in the former city, in northeast France, before moving to Paris. Duval was the nephew of the famous cartographer Nicolas Sanson, from whom he learned the mapmaker's art and skills. Both men worked at the royal court, having followed the royal request for artists to relocate to Paris. In addition to numerous maps and atlases, Du Val's opus also includes geography texts. He held the title of geographe ordinaire du roi from 1650 and died in 1683, when his wife and daughters took over his business.