Fine example of De Fer's decorative map of Malta.
The map includes a tremendous amount of topographcal detail, along with approximately 75 coats of arms of the Grand Masters of the Order of the Knights of St. John, dating back to the founding of the Order in 1050.
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta SMOM), is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature It is the world's oldest surviving order of chivalry. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is headquartered in Rome, Italy, and is widely considered a sovereign subject of international law.
SMOM is the modern continuation of the original medieval order of Saint John of Jerusalem, known as the Knights Hospitaller, a group founded in Jerusalem about 1050 as an Amalfitan hospital to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, it became a military order under its own charter. Following the loss of Christian held territories of the Holy Land to Muslims, the Order operated from Rhodes (1310-1523), and later from Malta (1530-1798), over which it was sovereign.
Although this state came to an end with the ejection of the Order from Malta by Napoleon, the Order as such survived. It retains its claims of sovereignty under international law and has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations.
Nicholas de Fer (1646-1720) was the son of a map seller, Antoine de Fer, and grew to be one of the most well-known mapmakers in France in the seventeenth century. He was apprenticed at twelve years old to Louis Spirinx, an engraver. When his father died in 1673, Nicholas helped his mother run the business until 1687, when he became the sole proprietor.
His earliest known work is a map of the Canal of Languedoc in 1669, while some of his earliest engravings are in the revised edition of Methode pour Apprendre Facilement la Geographie (1685). In 1697, he published his first world atlas. Perhaps his most famous map is his wall map of America, published in 1698, with its celebrated beaver scene (engraved by Hendrick van Loon, designed by Nicolas Guerard). After his death in 1720, the business passed to his sons-in-law, Guillaume Danet and Jacques-Francois Benard.