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Willem & Jan Blaeu: Extrema Americae Versus Boream ubi Terra Nova Nova Francia

Map: CAN2763
Cartographer: Willem & Jan Blaeu
Title: Extrema Americae Versus Boream ubi Terra Nova Nova Francia
Date: 1662
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 23 inches / 59 cm
Height: 18 inches / 46 cm
Map ref: CAN2763
Blaeu’s map of modern north eastern Canada, Newfoundland and southern Greenland is the only new map of the Americas introduced into the “Atlas Major”.

Geographically, the map is based on a combination of sources. The most important being Samuel de Champlain’s French map issued in 1632. Other sources include the charts of the Dutch East India Company by Hessel Gerritz, the map of the east coast produced by Henricus Hondius in 1636 and the maps of Johannes de Laet, director of the Dutch West India Company and author of an extremely important account of the discovery of the New World. Blaeu has integrated these diverse sources to make what is arguably the most important and up to date late 17th century map of the east coast of Canada.

Central to the map is the Island of Newfoundland, here entitled “Terra Nova”. This island’s importance to Europe stems back centuries with annual fishing voyages being made from northern European countries in search of the rich cod laps. The grand banks are clearly marked east of the island and the cartouche references these voyages with images of two fishermen and a row of drying fish.

A curious geographical feature is the lack of any English influence on the map. The region is entitled “Nova Francia”, there are two small flags noting settlements around Quebec and a large cross on a hill on the other side of the St. Lawrence. This is despite the English naming Nova Scotia as “New Scotland” and James I of England selling aristocratic titles associated with the region. The Alexander map of the area was published in 1625 and gave an English perspective to the geography but there is no indication that Blaeu used this as a source.

The coastline is remarkably accurate for the time, with multiple names taken from the sources stated above. However, three of the most prominent names of the map are sourced from much earlier records. In the north “Terra de Labrador” is named after a voyage by a Portuguese explorer, Joao Fernandes Lavrador, who is considered to be the first recorded European to explore the northeast coast Canada in 1498. It is believed that he was a farmer before he became an explorer, thus his designation as “Lavrador”. The name still exists today as the region of Newfoundland and Labrador. Another prominent name is “Terra de Corterealis”; this is a much more nebulous name, which refers to another voyage made by the Portuguese from the Azores. The explorers in question were the Corte de Real brothers, Gaspar and Miguel, again reported to have reached north east America in 1501-2. Both of them disappeared on further expeditions but the land they were believed to have discovered was named after them and “Regio Corterealis” and “Terra Corterealis” began appearing on maps in one form or another in the very early 16th century. The final prominent name is “Norumbega” either a legendary region or settlement which first made its appearance on a manuscript map by the explorer, Giovanni Verrazzano in 1529 and from then on multiple early maps of the northeast. Its existence was further supported with written descriptions from navigators such Jean Allefonsce in 1542 and in 1562 by David Ingram. These descriptions were embellished and fanciful, no doubt inspired by other legendary lands and settlements such as Cibola, Quivira and El Dorado but the name was remarkably persistent and even made it onto this map which was perceived as the most detailed of the region in the late 17th century.

Our example of the map is the 1662 edition in original hand colour. Latin text on verso. [CAN2763] (BC)