Maps of The Americas
Maps of The Americas in our collection include American state maps, maps of Canada, North America, South America and North American town and city plans. Also included in Maps of The Americas are the West Indies and the Caribbean, with some maps dating back to the 16th century.
Most of the early Maps of The Americas were manuscript such as that by Juan de la Cosa (c.1500), who sailed with Columbus on his first and second voyages. This is the earliest surviving world map to show the New World and the Caribbean. The Portuguese 'Cantino' map of 1502 reflects the rivalry between the European maritime nations over 'the wealth of the Indies'.
Maps of The Americas
Giovanni Matteo Contarini
The first printed map to show contemporary discoveries in America is by Italian map-maker Giovanni Matteo Contarini, engraved by Franco Rosselli (1506). The map shows the Caribbean prominently but the land mass shown just to the west is not America but Asia!
Another famous map is by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. This was published in 1513 in his edition of Claudius Ptolemy's Geographia. It was the first printed map to show a part of the New World and shows the Caribbean as its centre point.
Commencing with Giacomo Gastaldi (1548) printed maps began to show two or more islands grouped together, and by 1580 the Dutch had become world leaders in mapping, and Ortelius had included a map of the islands in his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. By 1606 Jodocus Hondius had 5 separate maps on one plate in Mercator's atlas showing Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico and Margarita.
The 17th century was the period of the great Dutch sea atlases by such chart makers as the Van Keulens, Pieter Goos, Hendrik Doncker etc. but these rarely give much land detail being designed for navigators. During this century the islands underwent many changes in ownership and individual maps of them began to reflect this.
As British imperialism spread in the 18th century the map-making industry improved, and many large scale maps of British possessions were produced such as Barbados by William Mayo (1722), Antigua by Robert Baker (1748-49) and Jamaica by Patrick Browne (1755). These show, for example, sugar plantations and property ownership.
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