Tel 44 (0)20 7589 4325
Fax 44 (0)20 7589 4325
Email:[email protected]



Nicolas & Guillaume Sanson: Audience de Guadalajara, Nouveau Mexique, Californie & c

Map: USA9090
Cartographer: Nicolas & Guillaume Sanson
Title: Audience de Guadalajara, Nouveau Mexique, Californie & c
Date: 1700
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 9 inches / 23 cm
Height: 8 inches / 21 cm
Map ref: USA9090
Sanson's small and decorative map of the American Southwest showing California as an island. Dutch F. Halma edition. Vibrant original hand-colour.

In the early 17th century, a Dutch privateer captured a Spanish ship on its return leg from the New World and one of the items looted from its cabins was a map showing California completely separated from the west coast of North America. Thus began a geographical fallacy that fascinates to this day. It caused a furore among geographical circles in Europe and map makers scrambled to adjust their perceptions to this new “discovery”.

Although the great cartographic houses in Holland were generally perceived as being the most skilled and accurate map makers of the time, Nicholas Sanson d’Abbeville, Geographer to the King of France and geographical tutor to both Louis XIII and Louis XIV was considered an authority for the mapping of North America. This was due to his access to documents and accounts by the Catholic missionary orders such as the Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans, all of whom were very active in the continent. In fact, although these orders had permission to proselytise from the Spanish Crown, many of them were financially supported by the French crown.

Sanson not only embraced the “discovery” of the island of California wholeheartedly but also developed upon it. This map of the west coast focuses exclusively on the island and develops certain aspects of its geography for the first time. The most famous is the depiction of two large bays on the northern shore, named R. de Estiete and Tolaago, together with the strange peninsula just above the island, named Agubela de Cato. Most of the names on the west coast of the island are based on those of the Dutch map maker Willem Blaeu who included them on his map of the western hemisphere, as well as an earlier map published by Sanson himself the previous year, which stretched from Florida to California. The mainland shows a multitude of Native American names; these would have been gleaned from the records of the religious orders; a mythical lake in the interior acts as a source for the “Rio del Norte” or Rio Grande, shown incorrectly flowing south west.

Sanson’s map was highly influential, going through several editions and updates into the early 18th century; it was its detail, perceived accuracy and the cartographer’s own authority that served to propagate the myth of an insular California even after further controversy erupted over its status in the very early 18th century.

[Burden (P): 'The Mapping of North America' 327] [USA9090]