Our next post features a beautiful world map from cartographer Gerard Valck, entitled Mappe-Monde Geo-Hydrographique ou Description Generale du Globe Terrestre et Aquatique en Deux-Plans-Hemispheres. A double hemispherical map, the Mappe-Monde shows typical cartographic detail for the time period in which it was made, circa 1651. Valck, a Dutch mezzotint engraver and publisher, incorporated four striking scenes into the corners of the map, each scene representing one of the four seasons. In rich colorful detail, we see engravings of a joyous spring, a productive summer, a pastoral autumn, and an icy winter personified and accompanied by cherubs. He also included two circular insets, one of the northern polar region, and the other of the southern polar region.
This map was most likely based off of a similar double-hemisphere world map by Alexis Hubert Jalliot, a French cartographer and publisher known for elaborate cartouches and decorative detail. Both maps use the Sanson-Flamstead Projection, meaning they are an equal area map projection, showing parallels and the equator as straight lines, and other meridians as curved. Maps using this projection were used to map tropical latitudes.
Valck’s map offers a unique view into the way the world was seen from the 17th century. Fascinating details can be found, if one looks close enough. To start, California is depicted as an island. Insular California first appeared as a work of fiction in Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo’s 1510 romance novel. In 1533, California was discovered by Fortun Ximenez, and later claimed by Hernan Cortez as the Island of California for the King of Spain. Although ample evidence was amassed that denied the insular theory, political factors kept California from being recognized as a peninsula. England had already claimed New Albion, now present day Washington and Vancouver, as their own, forcing Spain to continue to promote insular theory so as to preempt English claims on the rest of western coast of America. It was not until Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary, traveled overland from Mexico to California, did maps stop featuring California as an island.
Both South America and Africa have fantastic detail to their coastlines, however the area beyond the shores can become quite speculative and minimalist. In contrast, due to trading routes and persistent travel, Valck’s map offers significant detail of Asia and India. Featured on the map is the Lake of Chiamay, in what is today Assam, India. This fictional lake was thought be the source of four important Southeast Asian river systems–the Irrawaddy, the Dharla, the Chao Phraya and the Brahmaputra. The lake appeared in maps dated as early as the 16th century and persisted well into the mid 18th century. Many believed it to be associated with Indian mythology, which proposed a sacred lake, linking several holy subcontinent rivers systems. There are even records of the King of Siam leading an invasion to take control of the lake in the 16th century. Thought to originate from the geography works of Portuguese scholar Jao de Barros, the lake was ultimately disproved and removed from maps in 1760.
Shifting our focus to the southern hemispheres, the region of Australia is mapped as Nouelle Hollande, with almost complete delineation of coastlines. This is a vast improvement from earlier world maps by Jaillot, who left the majority of the eastern shoreline and interior territory blank. Tasmania is also on the map, following its discovery in 1642 by Able Taman. Nearby, New Zealand exists only as a western coastline, and is not yet indicative of two islands.
Massing at the base of the map is a southern continent, Terre Australe et. Inconnue. Truly speculation, the land mass supposedly capping the South Pole was hypothesized by many European geographers in the 16th and 17th century. It was thought that the globe was a place of balances, and thus geographers assumed that the bulk of Eurasia was counterbalanced by a similar landmass in the Southern Hemisphere, just as they argued that the Americas counterbalanced Africa and Europe. Many explorers, including Drake, Quiros, and Cook, sought the Great Southern Continent, but it was not discovered until 1820 when Edward Bransfield and William Smith sighted the Antarctic Peninsula.
An engraver and artist, Gerald Valck studied under artist Bloteling, later marrying his daughter. Working in both London and Amsterdam, Valck became associated with Petrus Schenk and Jacob Robyn, both noted cartographers. Together, they issued a number or maps and atlases. Valck did not issue his own atlas until 1702. In 1710, Valck’s son, Leonardus, married Maria Schenk, and the two families kept the cartographic business alive well into the 18th century. Valck’s map is a fantastic representation of the world projection during the Age of Exploration.
To see more of Valck’s maps, stop by our gallery in Georgetown. You can check out other world maps at our website here.