Nicolas Sanson's 1657 double-page engraved historical map of the world, in two hemispheres.
While styled as an ancient map, Sanson's world map of 1657 provides a fine depiction of the most up to date cartographic information as of the middle of the 17th Century. California is shown as an island. A massive unknown southern continent is still shown, with only the earliest hints of the outlines of Australia. A large land bridge extends from Japan to the Northwest Coast of America. While Sanson is relatively conservative in omitting information along the Northwest Coast of America, the prospect of a watercourse across the top of North America is still quite plausible. The depiction of the Great Lakes is based upon Sanson's map of North America, the first printed map to depict the Great Lakes. The North Polar information is also very accurate for the period.
A curious and oft-overlooked feature of this map is the second potential northwest passage, which is shown in the upper left corner of the Western Hemisphere, above Japan, which would in fact ultimately be a more accurate reflection of the location and geography of the Bering Straits than most other models of the period.
The map was first issued separately in 1657 and thereafter in Sanson's atlases for the next 20 years.
Nicholas Sanson (1600-1667) is considered the father of French cartography in its golden age from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth. Over the course of his career he produced over 300 maps; they are known for their clean style and extensive research. Sanson was largely responsible for beginning the shift of cartographic production and excellence from Amsterdam to Paris in the later-seventeenth century.
Sanson was born in Abbeville in Picardy. He made his first map at age twenty, a wall map of ancient Gaul. Upon moving to Paris, he gained the attention of Cardinal Richelieu, who made an introduction of Sanson to King Louis XIII. This led to Sanson's tutoring of the king and the granting of the title ingenieur-geographe du roi.
His success can be chalked up to his geographic and research skills, but also to his partnership with Pierre Mariette. Early in his career, Sanson worked primarily with the publisher Melchior Tavernier. Mariette purchased Tavernier’s business in 1644. Sanson worked with Mariette until 1657, when the latter died. Mariette’s son, also Pierre, helped to publish the Cartes générales de toutes les parties du monde (1658), Sanson' atlas and the first French world atlas.