This is a reproduction of an authentic antique map of the Straits of Magellan and Terra del Fuego. The original map was published in Gerard Mercator’s “Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes…” out of Amsterdam in 1613.
Centered on an exquisite compass rose, this map bears a southern projection with North pointing towards the bottom of the map. While the Strait of Magellan is the focus of the map, one must note the southern land titled Terra Del Fuogo is mapped with a mountainous and well defined coastline extending into the unknown southern continent. This map predates the discovery of the route around Cape Horn by Schouten and LeMarie in 1616 that ultimately proved that Terra del Fuego was an island.
Not only is this map the first map of the Strait of Magellan to appear in a commercial atlas, it’s one of a few sea charts produced by Mercator. From end to end, the strait is loaded with various soundings and about 17 place names. The lower left portion of the map features a view of the entrance to the Strait, likely derived from earlier Dutch books. Several sailing ships, a large sea monster and a sea lion family embellish the map. The title cartouche is that of early baroque style and is flanked by two penguins. Another distance scale cartouche fills the lore right.
This is a great piece for anyone with an interest in early exploration. For over 100 years, the Strait of Magellan was believed to be the only sure way to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Not much changed when Cape Horn was circumnavigated in 1616. As countless attempts to find a Northwest Passage proved unsuccessful for hundreds of years, the Strait of Magellan continued to be used extensively until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.
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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