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Description

A very fine example of Jean Baptiste Nolin's rare and decorative wall map of the World.

The quality of the engraving and the artistic virtuosity of the composition are especially fine. The world is displayed in double hemispheres amidst a pageant of Baroque allegory. Four atlas figures, representing the four seasons, lift the earthly hemispheres into the heavens. In the space below the intersection of the hemispheres, is an allegorical depiction of the Ptolemaic conception of the universe, while above the radiant Sun at the center of the Copernican system appears in finely engraved splendor. The panel above the map contains roundels depicting seminal Biblical scenes, located on either side of the fine title cartouche.

Geographically, the map beautifully reflects contemporary conventions, featuring both the knowledge gained from recent discoveries, as well as prevailing cartographic misconceptions. With respect to the depiction of North America the eastern regions represent the best knowledge of French and English cartographers, including the delineation of the Mississippi and its tributaries based on the discoveries of the Sieur de La Salle and Louis Joliet.

The portrayal of the American West is fascinating. California is no longer shown to be an island, having recently been proven to be a peninsula, following the 1701 expedition of Padre Eusebio Kino. However, the map features a splendid depiction of the mythical Strait of Anian that was though to run from the Pacific Northwest to the top of Hudson Bay, so connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Moreover, the 'Mare de l'Ouest', or Great Western Sea, located in northern California is shown to be connected to a river system whose headwaters have proximity to the Mississippi basin, so holding out the promise of another navigable transcontinental route. It would be almost another century before these misconceptions were definitely disproved. The Pacific Ocean is traversed by the tracks of the great circumnavigators, including Ferdinand Magellan and Olivier van Noort.

The depiction of Asia is generally quite progressive, although one will notice that the Caspian Sea still appears the ovoid form it assumed until the 1730s. In East Asia, Korea is shown to be a peninsula, while in Japan the area of Hokkaido is shown to be part of mainland Siberia.

In Oceania, the western half of Australia is well delineated, while the eastern regions are shown to be an almost complete enigma, and erroneously connected to New Guinea. Abel Tasman's isolated discoveries in southern Tasmania and New Zealand from his voyage of 1642-3 are depicted, although the latter is shown to be connected to the mysterious 'Terres Australes', the rumored great southern continent.

The present map is an especially fine example of the grand genre of wall, or parlor, maps that enjoyed an iconic place in 17th and early 18th-century Europe. Large, highly decorative and expensive productions, they were considered to be the ultimate signs of wealth and intellectual sophistication. In this vein, such wall maps appeared prominently in works of fine art, most notably the paintings of Johannes Vermeer. Displayed in the salons of leading merchants and noblemen, the maps were especially prone to damage and their survival rate is extremely low. The present map is truly exceptional, for it is preserved in remarkably fine condition.

Jean Baptiste Nolin (c.1657-1708) was the leading French cartographer of the late sixteenth-century. Fulfilling various royal commissions for Louis XIV, Nolin had privileged access to official French geographical sources. He notably maintained a close and highly lucrative association with the great Venetian cartographer Vincenzo Maria Coronelli. Nolin's wall maps of the World and the continents are all exceedingly rare, and are considered to be his finest achievements.

The present example represents the second state of the map, issued in 1708, and is the only edition to exclude the lower text panels, which appeared in state 1 of the map (published 1700) and which were added back with new text panels in state 3.

Reference
Shirley, Mapping of The World, 605.