This magnificent sea chart of the western Atlantic Ocean shows the trade route to coastlines of North America from Cape Charles, Maryland to Newfoundland, and the West Indies to the northern coast of Brazil. Oriented east by its two compass roses, the chart includes the Azores and Cape Verde Islands at the top.
Of especial interest in this chart is the portrayal of a naval battle scene occurring near northeast North America. De Wit may well have been depicting the state of war that existed between France and the Dutch Republic in what is commonly known as the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-1678, or to the Third Anglo-Dutch War of 1672-1674 in which England briefly became a French ally against the Netherlands. Another vessel near the center of the chart is appears to be a merchant ship no doubt en route to do trade with one or more of the New World colonies.
De Wit graces the chart with two beautiful cartouches, one in Latin and the other in Dutch. The cartouches could be interpreted as allegorical with the Latin cartouche depicting a native American sitting on an alligator offering gold to Mercury, the Roman god of commerce and trade, whilst Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, is examining a chart beside a sea monster. The Dutch cartouche, on the other hand, depicts a scene with a llama heavily laden with trade goods surrounded by native Americans, and European soldiers and traders are surrounded by figures of explorers, natives, sea monsters and exotic animals. In the sea in addition to the ships, are depicted a raging sea battle, rhumb lines and compass roses. Dangerous shoals are also indicated.
What can be referred to as modern cartography has been around for over 550 years. Throughout that time an enormous amount of new land was discovered, cities were founded while others perished. International trade and travel became the norm, political borders were ever-changing, and numerous wars were waged. With all that being said, hundreds of thousands of maps were created that show such events and episodes in time.
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