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Rare pair of eastern and western hemispheric maps, published by Melchior Tavernier.

Tavernier's map provides a fine blend of contemporary cartographic information with unique details in the concentric circles outside of the geographical hemisphere.

In the outermost circle, Tavernier names the 32 compass point directions in French. In the center circle, are the names of the 12 Classical Winds described by Timosthenes of Rhodes (circa 282 BC) in both Latin and the original Greek spellings (see below). In the innermost circle, the 8 Winds of the Mediterranean (the modern compass points) are named (Tramontane, Greco (Grecale), Levante, Sirocco, Austral (Ostro or Mezzogiorno), Sebaca (Libeccio or Garbino), Ponent (Ponente) and Maestral (Mistral or Maestro).

Cartographically, the map is a marvelous blend of information and conjecture. Tavernier treats the massive northwestern landmass to the north of California as conjecture, employing a lighter coastal outline to signify that the lands depicted are not known with certainty. California is shown as a curiously shaped island, not consistent with either the Briggs or Sanson models. A single Great Lake is depicted.

In the Arctic regions, a notation describes Thomas Button's search for a Northwest Passage. In South America, there is a small Lake Parime in Guiana, and both the Amazon and Rio de la Plata flow from the large interior Lago de los Xarayes.

The 12 Classical Winds of Timothenes of Rhodes

In the Geographia of the Greek-Roman physician Agathemerus, eight principal winds are named. However, Agathemerus notes that nearly five hundred years earlier, the navigator Timosthenes of Rhodes had developed a system of 12 winds by adding four winds to the eight.

Timosthenes's list (according to Agathemerus) was Aparctias (N), Boreas (not Meses, NNE), Caecias (NE), Apeliotes (E), Eurus (SE), "Phoenicias is also called Euronotos" (SSE), Notos (S), "Leuconotos alias Libonotos" (first mention, SSW), Lips (SW), Zephyrus (W), Argestes (NW) and "Thrascias alias Circius" (NNW).

In many ways, Timosthenes marks a significant step in the evolution of the compass rose. Depending on how Ventorum Situs is dated, Timosthenes can be credited with turning Aristotle's asymmetric ten-wind compass into to a symmetric twelve-wind compass, by introducing the SSW wind (Leuconotos/Libonotos) omitted by Aristotle and Theophrastus, and assigning the compound "Euronotos" (already alluded to by Aristotle, no mention of Theophrastus's Orthonotos here) in place of the local Phoenicias (SSE). His highlighting of the Italian "Circius" as a major variant of Thrascias (NNW) could be the first indication of the notorious Mistral wind of the west Mediterranean. Another major change in Timoesthenes is that he moves Boreas out of the North position and into NNE (replacing Meses) - which will become customary in later authors.

Timosthenes is also significant for being perhaps the first Greek to go beyond treating these "winds" merely as meteorological phenomena and to begin viewing them properly as points of geographic direction. Timosthenes (through Agathemerus) assigns each of the 12 winds to geographical locations and peoples (relative to Rhodes):

  • Aparctias (N) are the "Scythians above Thrace"
  • Boreas (NNE) are "Pontus, Maeotis and the Sarmatians"
  • Caecias (NE) is "the Caspian Sea and the Sakas"
  • Apeliotes (E) are "the Bactrians"
  • Eurus (SE) are "the Indians"
  • Phoenicias/Euronotos (SSE) is "the Red Sea and "Aethiopia" (prob.Axum)
  • Notos (S) are the " "Aethiopians beyond Egypt" (Nubia)
  • Leuconotos/Libonotos (SSW) are "the Garamantes beyond Syrtes"
  • Lips (SW) are "the Ethiopians in the west beyond the Mauroi" (Numidia, Mauri people)
  • Zephyrus (W) lie "the Pillars of Hercules and the beginning of Africa and Europe"
  • Argestes (NW) is "Iberia or Hispania"
  • Thrascias/Circius (NNW) are "the Celts".

Modern scholars suggest that Timosthenes, in his lost periplus, might have made ample use of these winds for sailing directions (which may help explain Agathemerus's eagerness to credit Timosthenes for "inventing" the twelve winds).

California as an island

The popular misconception of California as an island can be found on European maps from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. 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 Abraham Ortelius. In the 1620s, however, it began to appear as an island in several sources. While most of these show the equivalent of the modern state of California separated from the continent, others, like a manuscript chart by Joao Teixeira Albernaz I (ca. 1632) now in the collection of the National Library of Brasil shows the entire western half of North Americas as an island. 

The myth of California as an island was most likely the result of the travel account of Sebastian Vizcaino, who had been sent north up the shore of California in 1602. A Carmelite friar, Fray Antonio de la Ascensión, accompanied him. Ascension described the land as an island and around 1620 sketched maps to that effect. Normally, this information would have been reviewed and locked in the Spanish repository, the Casa de la Contratación. However, the manuscript maps were intercepted in the Atlantic by the Dutch, who took them to Amsterdam where they began to circulate. Ascensión also published descriptions of the insular geography in Juan Torquemada’s Monarquia Indiana (1613) (with the island details curtailed somewhat) and in his own Relación breve of ca. 1620.

The first known maps to show California as an island were on the title pages of Antonio de Herrera’s Descripción de las Indias Occidentales (1622) and Jacob le Maire's Spieghel Der Australische Navigatie (1622). Two early examples of larger maps are those by Abraham Goos (1624) and another by Henry Briggs, which was included in Samuel Purchas’ Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). In addition to Briggs and Goos, prominent practitioners like Jan Jansson and Nicolas Sanson adopted the new island and the practice became commonplace. John Speed’s map (1626-7), based on Briggs’ work, is well known for being one of the first to depict an insular California.

The island of California became a fixture on mid- and late-seventeenth century maps. The island suggested possible links to the Northwest Passage, with rivers in the North American interior supposedly connecting to the sea between California and the mainland. Furthermore, Francis Drake had landed in northern California on his circumnavigation (1577-80) and an insular California suggested that Spanish power in the area could be questioned.

Not everyone was convinced, however. Father Eusebio Kino, after extensive travels in what is now California, Arizona, and northern Mexico concluded that the island was actually a peninsula and published a map refuting the claim (Paris, 1705). Another skeptic was Guillaume De L’Isle. In 1700, De L’Isle discussed “whether California is an Island or a part of the continent” with J. D. Cassini; the letter was published in 1715. After reviewing all the literature available to him in Paris, De L’Isle concluded that the evidence supporting an insular California was not trustworthy. He also cited more recent explorations by the Jesuits (including Kino) that disproved the island theory. Later, in his map of 1722 (Carte d’Amerique dressee pour l’usage du Roy), De L’Isle would abandon the island theory entirely.

Despite Kino’s and De L’Isle’s work, California as an island remained common on maps until the mid-eighteenth century. De L’Isle’s son-in-law, Philippe Buache, for example, remained an adherent of the island depiction for some time. Another believer was Herman Moll, who reported that California was unequivocally an island, for he had had sailors in his offices that claimed to have circumnavigated it. In the face of such skepticism, the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, had to issue a decree in 1747 proclaiming California to be a peninsula connected to North America; the geographic chimera, no matter how appealing, was not to be suffered any longer, although a few final maps were printed with the lingering island.

Shirley, R.W. (World) #349 (1st ed.); Burden, P.D. #255.
Melchior Tavernier Biography

Melchior Tavernier was a member of a large family involved in the publishing trade in Paris in the early years of the seventeenth century. Early in his career, he apparently collaborated with Henricus Hondius, as at least one of his early maps references Tavernier as the seller of a map engraved in Amsterdam, by Hondius. He is probably best known for his publication of a map of the Post Roads of France, which was copied many times until the end of the century. He also issued an atlas under the same title as J. le Clerc's Theatre Geographique, using many of Le Clerc's maps, but incorporating others from different sources. He published composite atlases and also published works for other cartographers, including N. Sanson, N. Tassin, and P. Bertius. He is not to be confused with his nephew of the same name (1594-1665), who also engraved maps for Nicolas Sanson.