2010/11 Winter Catalogue, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints Home

2010/11 Winter Catalogue > 11. De FER’s LANDMARK MAP of CALIFORINIA as an ISLAND


Nicolas de Fer. “Cette Carte de Californie et du Nouveau Mexique . . . / par N. de Fer Geographe de Monseigneur le Dauphin/ Avec privilege de Roy./1700” [Map of California and New Mexico . . . ], (Paris: 1705). Published in Atlas Curieux. Copperplate engraving. 8 3/4 x 13 3/8" at neat line, full margins. Sheet: 11 x 15 3/4." Very minor marginal spotting. Overall fine.

Price: SOLD.

This landmark map is truly a pivotal document in the cartographic history of California and the Southwest, especially regarding the popular notion in the seventeenth century that California was an island. Almost simultaneously with de Fer’s publication of the map in his Atlas Curieux of 1700, Father Kino developed a radically different theory about the geography of the Baja region, publishing the new data in his 1701 map of the area—the first to scientifically disprove the myth of California as an island.

De Fer’s Carte de Californie has been called the “first pirated copy” of Father Kino’s earlier (1695–1696) map of New Mexico and the Southwest, which included the western coast of Mexico and Southern California. De Fer used the Teatro de los Trabajos Apostolicos de la Camp[ani] a de Jesus en la America Septrional as a source of important new information about missionary and native settlements, as well as current geographical knowledge about the area regarding the Southwestern river systems and southern Californian mountain ranges. This was de Fer’s earliest published version of Kino’s findings, and later it provided the model for his larger and more comprehensive La Californie ou Nouvelle Caroline of 1720.

On the present map, California appears with an indented northern coast and is labeled “Californias Carolinas.” Aside from the popular misconstruction of California’s geography, the de Fer map is surprisingly accurate. New Mexico is shown covered with engraved numbers from 1 to 314 which correspond to an engraved key in the top right third of the map. The key identifies the names of 314 settlements, including Santa Fe, Taos, Pecos, El Paso, and all New Mexican pueblos. Twenty-three place names on the map make their first appearance. Northern New Mexican place names and Native American pueblos are true to Pere Kino’s original and reflect his minor misplacement of the northern villages.

De Fer’s Carte de Californie is a fascinating historical document for its mapping of California as an island, and its detailed and accurate picture of the early settlement of New Mexico and southern Arizona.

Refs.: Leighly, California as an Island, no. 110; McLaughlin and Mayo, The Mapping of California as an Island, no. 134; Tooley, Map Collector’s Circle, No. 81: California as an Island, no. 62; Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America, no. 462; Wheat, Mapping of the Transmississippi West, no. 78.

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