Rare map of the world, published to illustrate a Dutch description the circumnavigation of the world by Olivier Van Noort.
California is shown as an island, with incomplete renditions of New Zealand and Australia, representing the knowledge of the region at the end of the 17th Century, as none of these cartographic features would have been known to Van Noort in 1599.
Olivier van Noort (1558-1627) was the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the world. Van Noort left Rotterdam on July 2, 1598 with four ships and a plan to attack Spanish possessions in the Pacific and to trade with China and the Spice Islands. He initially landed at Rio Janeiro, Brazil, but was driven back, and along the coast suffered many losses by the attacks of the Indians. He resolved to winter in the deserted island of Santa Clara, then set sail again on June 2, 1599.
On June 29, 1599, he discovered an island near the coast of Patagonia, and stopped there to repair damages. On November 23, 1599, he entered the Strait of Magellan, and landed on the northern coast, where he was attacked by the Indians and again suffered many losses. Soon afterward he anchored among the Penguin islands, and subsequently he discovered the bays of Olivier, Mauritius, and Henry, but could not explore the latter on account of the ice.
On February, 1600, Van Noort and the remaining crew left the Strait of Magellan, and, entering the South sea, sailed along the Chilian and Peruvian coasts, pillaging and burning as he went, and capturing several Spanish ships. The viceroy, Luis Velasco, sent a fleet to capture him, but Noort had already set sail across the Pacific in the direction of the Ladrone Islands. He pillaged the Philippines, visited Java and Borneo, and, sailing round the Cape of Good Hope, arrived back in Rotterdam in August 26, 1601.
Van Noort returned to Rotterdam with only his last ship, the Mauritius, and 45 of his original crew of 248 men. The venture barely broke even, but was the inspiration for more such expeditions. The United Dutch East India Company (VOC) was formed a few months later.
While Van der Aa was quite prolific making maps showing famed voyages from from prior centuries, this particular map is apparently scarce on the marrket. This is the first example we have seen.
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.
Pieter van der Aa (1659-1733) was a Dutch mapmaker and publisher who printed pirated editions of foreign bestsellers and illustrated books, but is best known for his voluminous output of maps and atlases. Van der Aa was born to a German stonecutter from Holstein. Interestingly, all three van der Aa sons came to be involved in the printing business. Hildebrand was a copper engraver and Boudewyn was a printer.