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Beautiful, detailed map of the Pacific and the Americas showing colonial activity in the eighteenth century

Fine example of the De Leth's handsome, rare map. Andries de Leth and his son, Hendrik, took over the business of Nicholas Visscher and shortly thereafter produced this magnificent two-sheet map. The map was not published in any of the de Leths' atlases, which accounts for its rarity. As a large, separately issued map, subject to the fate of any document unprotected by a binding, it is seldom found in excellent condition.

The map is derivative of at least two progenitors, Nicholas De Fer's famous wall map (the beaver map) of 1713 and the Chatelain map of 1719 (itself an offshoot of De Fer's). De Leth follows French models and the English American colonies are confined to the Atlantic coast of North America-one of the only mentions of Britain as an imperial power on the map. The Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico on the Texas coast. The Great Lakes are well formed and California is shown as an island.

The map centers on America and shows the tracks of famous navigators like Magellan and Schouten, who both discovered a western entrance into the Pacific Ocean. The map also shows the trade route from Europe to Southeast Asia, via Mexico and the west coast of North America. These additions serve to incorporate the Pacific into the global trade networks of Spain, the Netherlands, and, judging by the use of French and Dutch on the map, France.

The effect is heightened by detailed insets which highlight ports and cities central to trade. The beautifully engraved vignettes include a spectacular view of a Dutch trading port at the Cape of Good Hope, set within an elaborate border decorated with monkeys and wild cats and crowned with a plan of the fort. A plan of Mexico City is surrounded by scenes of native life and the Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs, as well as images of the Temple of the Sun and an underground mining operation. A third vignette features images of sugar production as practiced on slave plantations in French colonies, an addition not found in De Fer or Chatelain. Other insets includes plans of Havana, the Bay of Rio de Janeiro, Vera Cruz, Porto Bello, and the Isthmus of Panama.

Although it is a map of the Mer du Sud, the South Sea, the world's largest body of water is crowded with non-geographic features. This was a way for the De Leths to conveniently skirt certain controversial choices, like how to portray the land between Japan and North America (although the mythical island of Jesso is included), or whether and how to show a southern continent. They do choose to show the Strait of Anian, a nod to the Northwest Passage, but do not include a phantom coastline of Terre d'Anian or Terre de la Compagnie as Chatelain and De Fer did.

The map survives in several states, including:

  • A proof state, pre-dating the inclusion of the text box below the Mexico City vignettes and with insets shows (added in the second state) and without the inset city plans of Rio De Janeiro, Havana and Vera Cruz (which replaced a vignette of a waterfall on the Mississippi River) and the publisher's imprint in the second line of the title. Also, one of the inset maps includes the Straits of Magellan.
  • The second state adds the text box beginning with Messieurs. . . . and adds plans of Vera-Cruz, the Rio Janeiro Harbor and Havana, to the west of California. Second state also adds an inset at the top right (showing the Straits of Gibraltar) and the daily tracks of the route along the west coast of Africa.
  • In the third state the insets at the bottom are replaced and now show Porto Bello and the Isthmus of Panama.

The present example is state 3, with fine wide margins and a nice dark impression.

Condition Description
Old color, recently refreshed.
McLaughlin #220; Leighly #169; Tooley, Mapping of America, #94, p.133; Norwich 320.