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The first separate, printed map of the Arctic and northern Canada in rich color of the period. One of the most intriguing early maps, it combines theoretical, medieval geographic concepts with some of the most advanced cartography of its day. It displays the 14th -century conception of the polar region, in which the oceans of the world flowed into a polar sea through in drawing streams between four huge islands. Although this was essentially fantasy, its notion of an open polar sea was accidentally correct. On the other hand, the map shows an awareness of recent discoveries of the day, namely those of Frobisher and Davis. Like the progressive men of his age, Mercator was intensely interested in the possibility of a northern sea passage through or over America to Asia, and this map clearly shows he thought such existed. His ideas especially influenced English proponents of exploratory voyages to the northern regions of America, since the English stood to gain the most if a Northwest Passage was found. The engraving is strikingly designed; the map set off by roundels in the corners and framed by a border of interlocking acanthus. Printed area 375 x 395mm. ***First issued in 1595, this was the first map centred on the North Pole, showing it as a rocky island in the middle of a lake with four rivers branching out through the surrounding land mass. It also includes the fictional island of Frisland, which confused travellers and mapmakers for a century or so after its first appearance on Niccolo Zeno's map of 1558, charting the spurious travels of his ancestors, in a bid to claim discovery of America for Venice.
A, COLOR. Central vertical fold, very good condition.
Gerard Mercator/ Henricus Hondius