Early photographic facsimile of the renowned Sebastian Cabot world map of 1544. The original, held by the BNF and obtained from a Bavarian source in 1844, is the only known surviving example of this map showing the world, displaying important information on Spanish New World possessions.
The text blocks on the map state that this map was made by Sebastian Cabot in 1544, at which time he was working for Emperor Charles V as Pilot-Major. The son of John Cabot, discoverer of North America, he had access to many private documents which were critical in the mapping of the New World.
The mapping shown is critical and cutting edge. California is drawn following the famous Castillo map of 1541. The Canadian coastline is well-developed, showing the river and bay of Lawrence. Newfoundland is shown as a group of islands. Japan appears, and the Maritime Continent starts to take shape.
The map has a long and storied history. Published in Antwerp, as the Spanish government prohibited any proprietary dissemination of information regarding their New World, this map enjoyed great prestige in the first few years of its life. Several late 16th-century references to the map exist, one of which, by the scholar Nathan Kochhaff at Oxford, refers to a 1549 Latin edition. Ortelius refers to the map in his Theatrum, and Queen Elizabeth had an example made for her, which would have been one of the earliest examples of English map engraving (see Hakluyt quoted by Sir Raymond Beazley). Subsequently, the map disappeared for over two and half centuries, only to resurface in a Bavarian castle.
Edward Luther Stevenson was among the most important scholars of early cartography active at the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. He was responsible for numerous cartobibliographic books, including the first translation of Ptolemy to English, as well as a series of impressive facsimile maps produced while he was at the Hispanic Society of New York. Dr. Stevenson viewed facsimiles as integral to the study of early cartography, and he committed himself to building an unparalleled collection of photographs of early maps and globes. Much of his collection was donated to Yale University after his death (click on the title link above for about that), but the present item comes from a large collection of photos, manuscripts, and related material that were part of Stevenson's library, but were not donated to Yale. It is truly an impressive collection and many of the items, though reproductions, have serious antiquarian merit. As Alexander O. Vietor said about Stevenson collection that went to Yale "this is the stuff of which great libraries are made."
John and Sebastian Cabot: the discovery of North America (Sir Raymond Beazley, 1898)