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An Iconic Sea Chart Showing California as an Island

Fine example of Pieter Goos' highly coveted map of California as an island, with its contiguous regions. This highly-detailed map is one of the best illustrations of the island of California and one of only a couple of large format maps to focus on the feature. It is also one of the first sea charts of the island. For these reasons, Goos' map is one of the most sought after of all maps of California as an island.

Tooley referred to the map as, "Perhaps the most attractive and certainly the most definite representation of California as an island. California is the centre and 'raison d'etre' of the map" (map 22, plate 37). Burden agrees, calling it “one of the most desirable of all California as an island maps” (map 391). It is featured on the cover of McLaughlin and Mayo's authoritative The Mapping of California as an Island checklist and is probably the most recognizable map of the genre.

The chart is half filled with the Pacific Ocean, which is criss-crossed with rhumb lines and dotted with a compass rose and two ships in full sail. In the lower left is the scale which is framed by two putti holding dividers and a cross staff. In the upper right corner is the title cartouche, with three putti and floral garlands surrounding the ornate frame.

California is shown on the second Sanson model, otherwise known as the Fox form. To the north is a large island with an open border to the west, perhaps denoting that it could be a continent. It is labeled as “Terra Incognita”, with the Dutch equivalent, “Onbekendt Landt”, below. Separating this unknown land from the North American mainland is the Strait of Anian.

Anian derives from Ania, a Chinese province on a large gulf mentioned in Marco Polo’s travels (ch. 5, book 3). The gulf Polo described was actually the Gulf of Tonkin, but the province’s description was transposed from Vietnam to the northwest coast of North America. The first map to do so was Giacomo Gastaldi’s world map of 1562, followed by Zaltieri and Mercator in 1567. The Strait then became shorthand for a passage to China, i.e. a Northwest Passage. It appeared on maps until the mid-eighteenth century.

Goos chooses to call the mainland New Granada, as opposed to New Spain. California contains several recognizable toponyms, including San Diego (“P. de S. Diego”), and Drake's Bay (“P S. Francisco Draco”). However, all are placed incorrectly relative to their actual positions.

The map first appeared in 1666 in Goos’ De Zee Atlas ofte Water-Weereld (Amsterdam). The Zee Atlas was re-issued in 1668, 1669, 1670, 1672, 1675, and 1676. It was also published in a French edition in 1679 and 1697, with an English edition in 1668 and a Spanish in 1669.

The island of California

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 Nicolas Sanson 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.

An essential map for California collectors.

Condition Description
Old color, recently retouched
McLaughlin with Mayo, The Mapping of California as an Island: An Illustrated Checklist, map 36; Tooley, America, map 22, p.117; Burden, The Mapping of North America, map 391; Goss, Mapping of North America, map 37, pp. 86-7; Leighly California as an Island: An Illustrated Essay, map 47, pl. 10.
Dora Beale Polk, The Island of California: The History of a Myth, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
Ernest J. Burus, S. J., Kino and the Cartography of Northwestern New Spain, Tuscon: Arizona Pioneers’ Historical Society, 1965.
Pieter Goos Biography

Pieter Goos (ca. 1616-1675) was a Dutch map and chart maker, whose father, Abraham Goos (approx. 1590-1643), had already published numerous globes, land and sea maps together with Jodocus Hondius and Johannes Janssonius in Antwerp. Pieter gained recognition due to the publication of sea charts. He bought the copperplates of the famous guide book for sailors, De Lichtende Columne ofte Zeespiegel (Amsterdam 1644, 1649, 1650), from Anthonie Jacobsz. Goos published his own editions of this work in various languages, while adding his own maps. In 1666, he published his De Zee-Atlas ofte Water-Wereld, which is considered one of the best sea atlases of its time. Goos' sea charts came to dominate the Dutch market until the 1670s, when the Van Keulen family came to prominence.