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Fine Example of Jaillot’s Double Hemisphere World Map

Striking double hemisphere world map by Alexis-Hubert Jaillot featuring the latest geographic discoveries and hypotheses. The hand-colored map also features beautiful embellishments, including a highly decorative dedicatory cartouche.

The hemispheres are contained within a relatively simple frame. Running across the top is a long-form title revealing this map to have originally been created by Nicolas Sanson, the renowned French cartographer. Jaillot worked with Sanson’s sons and reworked and re-released many of the elder Sanson’s maps.

At the juncture of the two hemispheres, the decorative elements of the map shine. At bottom, two large mermen keep a flower-framed cartouche from falling into the sea. The fleur-de-lis, an important symbol in French culture, adorns the top of the frame. Above the hemispheres, cherubs ride dolphins and hold the coat of arms of the Dauphin. The map is dedicated to the Dauphin, Louis de France, who was to inherit the throne when his father, Louis XIV, died. However, Louis died of smallpox in 1711, four years before his father succumbed to a gangrenous infection. Therefore, he never became King; instead, his grandson was crowned Louis XV.

The eastern hemisphere includes a remarkably complete western portion of Australia, based on Dutch encounters with the continent dating from the early years of the seventeenth century. To the south is an immense coastline left unfinished as it meanders to the east. This is the great Southern Continent, assumed to exist to counterbalance the northern continental landmasses but in 1691 still a mere idea.

The large continent is called Terre Australe et Inconnue dite Magellanique.  The final part of this name stemmed from the older geographic conjecture that the land south of the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego, was the tip of the Southern Continent. However, as the western hemisphere shows here, this theory had been disproved and Tierra del Fuego shown to be an island. This happened when news of the 1615-1617 circumnavigation of Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten reached Europe. The Dutch navigators had sailed round Cape Horn via a new Strait, the Strait of Le Maire, providing another route in the Pacific for merchants.

North America is divided to show the various imperial powers then vying for control of the continent. Spain controlled what is labeled here as California (an island), New Mexico, New Spain, and Florida. To the north is the vast forested expanse of New France, while the tiny English colonies cling to the Eastern seaboard. The northwest coast is left blank, a massive unknown said to house the outlet of a Northwest Passage to China. Searches for this passage have helped to fill in the northeast of the continent, although Greenland is connected to Canada and the precise extent of Baffin’s Bay and Hudson’s Bay remain unknown. This map also provides an early delineation of the Great Lakes.

New Guinea is shown as a large island. In a conservative move, Carpentaria is not clearly connected to either Australia or New Guinea, revealing uncertainty about the geography of the area. To the east is the Terre de Quir, a reference to Pedro Ferdinand de Quiros, a Portuguese explorer in the employ of Spain at the turn of the sixteenth century. The land shown here is a reference to Austrialia del Espiritu Santo, as Quiros called it. He described it as paradisiacal when he landed there and tried to begin a colony in 1606. His crew forced him to leave, however, and the island was then shifted on maps by subsequent geographers to serve various cartographic hypotheses.

To the south, the partial outline of Van Diemen’s Land floats alone, a reference to land sighted by Abel Tasman in the 1640s. Tasman’s encounter with New Zealand is also marked here, with another ghostly coastline between Terre de Diemens and more of the possible outline of the Southern Continent. Two other geographic features shown on this map deserve more in-depth coverage: California as an Island and the chimeras of Yesso and Compagnies Land.

The island of California

This map prominently shows California to be an island; indeed, its original author, Nicolas Sanson, popularized the idea in many of his maps. 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 Ortelius. In the 1620s, however, it began to appear as an island in several sources, including Samuel Purchas’ Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625).

This was most likely the result of a reading of the travel account of Sebastian Vizcaino, who had been sent north up the shore of California in 1602. A Carmelite friar who accompanied him described the land as an island and sketched maps to that effect. Normally, this information would have been reviewed and locked in the Spanish repository, the Casa de la Contractación, but the ship carrying the map and other Vizcaino documents was captured by the Dutch. Prominent practitioners like John Speed, Jans Jansson, and of course Nicolas Sanson, as seen here, adopted the new island and the practice became commonplace.

Even after Father Eusebio Kino published a map based on his travels refuting the claim (Paris, 1705), the island remained a fixture until the mid-eighteenth century. This was due in part to the fact that Francis Drake, during his sixteenth-century circumnavigation, had made landfall in California. Although the Spanish long knew California was actually a peninsula, it behooved them to politically accept the island myth, as it preempted an English claim to the North American mainland. However, by the mid-eighteenth century the Spanish could no longer maintain this charade and, in 1747, King Ferdinand VI officially declared that California was not an island.

Yesso and Compagnie’s Land

Another example of received wisdom and the perpetuation of myths on this map is east of Japan, where a large landmass is labeled as Terra de Iesso ou Ie Co and Terre de la Compagnie. This island is on many seventeenth and eighteenth-century maps. Historically, Eso (Yedso, Yesso) refers to the island of Hokkaido. It varies from a small island to a near-continent sized mass that stretches from Asia to Alaska. Here it is elided with another North Pacific chimera, Compagnies or Company’s Land.

Juan, the grandson of Vasco de Gama, was a Portuguese navigator who was accused of illegal trading with the Spanish in the East Indies. De Gama fled and sailed from Macau to Japan in the later sixteenth century. He then struck out east, across the Pacific, and supposedly saw lands in the North Pacific. These lands were initially shown as small islands on Portuguese charts but they ballooned into a continent-sized landmass in later representations. Several voyagers sought out de Gama’s lands, including the Dutchmen Matthijs Hendrickszoon Quast in 1639 and Maarten Gerritszoon Vries in 1643. In the century after this map’s publication, Vitus Bering, a Danish explorer in Russian employ, and James Cook would both check the area and find nothing, finally putting to rest the myth of these land bridge islands.

Compagnies Land was one of two islands supposedly sighted by Vries on his 1643 voyage. He named one island for the Dutch States General (Staten Land) and another for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) (Compagnies, or Company’s Land). In reality, he had re-discovered two of the Kuril Islands. However, other mapmakers latched onto Compagnies Land in particular, enlarging and merging it with Yesso, as has happened here. It is clear Sanson and Jaillot had Vries and his voyage in mind, as a strait to the east of Yesso is named Detroit de Vries

States of this map

As previously stated, this is an enlarged scale version of a previous map by Nicolas Sanson. This is the third state of the fourth plate of the Jaillot double hemisphere world map. According to Shirley, Plate I included the signature of Cordier, the engraver, and went through four states: 1674, 1679, 1681, and 1684. From 1681, the map was incorporated into Jaillot’s Atlas Nouveau.

Plate II substitutes “v” for “u” and is dated 1674, although it may predate Plate I. Plate III has no signature and is from 1687. Plate IV also has no signature and first appeared in 1691, newly engraved for the Atlas Nouveau of that year. There is also a state 2, dated 1696, and an undated state 3.

Shirley, 550; Edward Brooke-Hitching, The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps (London: Simon and Schuster, 2016).
Alexis-Hubert Jaillot Biography

Alexis-Hubert Jaillot (ca. 1632-1712) was one of the most important French cartographers of the seventeenth century. Jaillot traveled to Paris with his brother, Simon, in 1657, hoping to take advantage of Louis XIV's call to the artists and scientists of France to settle and work in Paris. Originally a sculptor, he married the daughter of Nicholas Berey, Jeanne Berey, in 1664, and went into partnership with Nicholas Sanson's sons. Beginning in 1669, he re-engraved and often enlarged many of Sanson's maps, filling in the gap left by the destruction of the Blaeu's printing establishment in 1672.