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2009 Catalog > 8. Schenk, “America Septentrionalis Novissima / America Meridionalis accuratissima.”

A Beautiful Map of the Americas with California as an Island

8. Petrus [Pieter/Petrum] Schenk. “America Septentrionalis Novissima / America Meridionalis accuratissima” (Amsterdam: 1695). Copperplate engraving with beautiful handcolor. 18 3/4 x 22 1/8" at neat line. Folio sheet: 20 x 24." Two decorative title cartouches, uncolored as issued. Very clean and bright example. Excellent condition.


Petrus Schenk’s map of the Americas is based primarily on the Hondius and Jansson map of 1636, which widely disseminated the idea of California as an island. The earlier map presents California according to the cartography of Henry Briggs, with a flat northern coast. The Schenk map displays California with a crescent shaped northern coast, a form that appears as early as 1640 and was perpetuated mainly in French maps.

The present map is one of the last of its kind in depicting California as an island. By 1700, Valk and Schenk would replace this map with one drawn from the more advanced geography of Guillaume Delisle. Another characteristic feature of the present map is the use of a splayed form for Hudson Bay, apparently an adoption from the French map maker Sanson. Overall, the incomplete mapping of North America gives a very graphic sense of the terra incognita remaining in this period. The colored areas reveal vast regions claimed by colonial powers, which include unknown territories as well as those where settlements have been established.

Two extraordinary cartouches depict allegorical and even fanciful references to the American continents. The North America cartouche shows explorers in heroic postures, while two allegorical figures reap and smelt gold. The South America cartouche is also concerned with gold, and its “native” figures and beast (somewhat resembling a llama) are rendered with a high level of conjecture.

Petrus Schenk and Gerard Valk began working together in Amsterdam around 1680 in the publication of books and art prints, which included portraits, views, and historical tableaus. After Schenk acquired the copperplates to the Hondius and Jansson Atlas Major in 1694, the company began to issue maps, atlases, and globes. As both a historical document and a work of art, the present map is a significant example from the Golden Age of Dutch Cartography.

Refs.: Philip Burden, The Mapping of North America, p. 309-11; John Leighly, California as an Island (1972), no. 102; Glen McLaughlin, The Mapping of California as an Island (1995), no. 120; Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers, pp. 118, 307; Tooley, The Mapping of America (1980), no. 56.

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