Michael Mercator.  “America sive India Nova.”  Amsterdam: Jodocus Hondius, [1609].  14 3/4 x 18 1/4.  Engraving.  Full original hand-coloring.  Reinforced centerfold.  Very good condition.

One of the finest maps of North and South America, an enlarged stereographic projection of the Americas adapted by Michael Mercator from his grandfather, Gerard Mercator’s, great world map of 1569.  That 1569 map, one of the most famous and important of all time, not only first introduced the Mercator projection, but was a compilation of the most up-to-date cartographic information available.  Michael Mercator’s version of this map, from the Mercator Atlas, then, shows us the world as it was understood in Europe at the dawn of modern cartography.

Information included in this map of the Western World shows the North Pole with Mercator’s famous depiction of the four islands surrounding the pole, where the world’s oceans are shown to flow into the interior of the globe.  In the northeast, a fine representation of Cartier’s information is given, with the St. Lawrence flowing into the interior, though with no Great Lakes at its head.  There is an echo of the Great Lakes included, however, for the “Mare Dulce” in the north is thought to represent word of the Great Lakes which the Indians gave to Cartier, making this a later version of the very first depiction of the Great Lakes, that of Mercator’s 1569 map upon which it is based.  The east-west mountain range across North America’s girth is shown, as is the famous bulge on the southwestern part of South America.  Three roundels depict the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, and Haiti.  The mannerist decoration around the map and the rich original color, combine to make this not only an important cartographic treasure, but also a masterpiece of the Dutch renaissance.

“Mercator was not only a cartographer, but a student of geography and history as well… He was an adherent of the conception of the insularity of America… His views of geography of the New World were imposed on several generations…”  (Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America to the Year 1800, p.69)  This wonderful ‘mother map’ is a cornerstone for any American collection.