Munster’s map of New World is one of the most important and influential maps of the 16th Century, as it is the earliest to show all of North and South America in a true continental form. This impression is a rare second state of the map, from Munster’s “Cosmography”. In this second state, published c.1544, the title was changed from “Novae Insulae XVII. . .” to “Novae Insulae XXVI . . .” and appeared in only one edition, making it very scarce.
Geographically, North America is oddly shaped and depicts one of the great geographic misconceptions. In 1523, Giovanni di Verrazano, a Florentine explorer sailing for King Francis I of France, passed by the outer banks of the Carolinas. He mistook Pamlico Sound for an Oriental Sea that would lead to the Spice Islands, believing that the Barrier Islands were all that constituted North America at the point of the Carolinas. Munster recorded and included Verrazano’s accounts in the greatly successful “Cosmography,” which propagated the myth for many years.
This early map is filled with interesting cartographic details.
- The flags of Spain (on Puerto Rico) and Portugal (shown in the South Atlantic) depict their respective spheres of influence in the New World.
- The Yucatan Peninsula is shown as an Island.
- This is the first map to name the Pacific Ocean (Mare Pacificum).
- South America is depicted with a large bulge in the northwest and notes that cannibals inhabit parts of it.
- It is also the first map to show Japan (Zipangri), based entirely upon the accounts of Marco Polo and other early travelers.
- Shown in the Pacific Ocean is Magellan’s ship, Victoria.
Overall, this map is as interesting as it is cartographically significant, and would make an impressive addition to any map collection. Come see it in person at our Georgetown gallery, which is open every Tuesday- Saturday.