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  Heinrich Scherer. “Delineatio Nova et Vera Partis Australis Novi Mexici...”, 1703-1710.  
Scherer, New Mexico

Scherer, New Mexico detail
Heinrich Scherer. “Delineatio Nova et Vera Partis Australis Novi Mexici, cum Australis Parte Insulae Californiae Saeculo Priori ab Hispanis Detectae” (Munich, 1703–1710). Published in Atlas Novus, Pars II: Geographia hierarchica. Copperplate engraving, black and white as issued. 9 x 14" at neat line. Sheet size: 10 3/4 x 14 1/2". Impressive title cartouche in u. l., featuring two New World natives holding a crucifix. Large, attractive compass rose at bottom right. Sea monsters and sailing ships embellish the map. A fine dark impression in mint condition.
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German cartographer Heinrich Scherer’s handsome eighteenth-century map of the southern tip of California and a portion of northwest Mexico is considered to be the first detailed depiction of the interior of today’s Baja. Scherer’s labeling of “Mar Vermijio o de las California,” the body of water to the east of the Baja, gives indication of California being an island, a myth that would soon be discredited by Scherer’s fellow Jesuit, the famous missionary Father Eusebio Kino. According to Burrus, Scherer’s map is actually based on a 1685 manuscript sent to him by Kino documenting the missionary’s exploratory expedition across the entire southern portion of lower California in 1684–1685.

Scherer took Kino’s map and redrew it according to the style he had adopted for his important Atlas Novus, first published in Munich between 1702 and 1710, in which the Baja map appeared. The atlas formed an unusual, almost revolutionary work in terms of the development of European mapmaking at the beginning of the eighteenth century as it comprised seven separate volumes organized according to themes. The second volume, Geographia hierarchica, contained the map offered here.

What make Scherer’s maps so unusual is their highly decorative Catholic iconography and thematic nature. Many of the maps draw heavily from the history and development of the Jesuits since the early sixteenth century when St. Ignatius of Loyola established the order during the Counter Reformation. The maps chart the revival and spread of Catholicism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries principally through the efforts of the Jesuit missionaries around the globe and especially in North and South America and the Far East. On the present map, the missionary goals of the Jesuits in North America are represented in the symbolism of the title cartouche in which two natives of the New World hold a Catholic crucifix between them.

Besides his thematic approach to mapmaking, Scherer introduced the revolutionary concept for the period of showing mountains and forests in physical relief with all major waterways and river systems clearly indicated, as can be seen in the map offered here. For this approach, he may have drawn in part on the earlier influence of another seventeenth-century Jesuit scholar, Athenasius Kircher, who published one of the earliest thematic maps showing the ocean currents, mountain ranges, and active volcanoes of the world in his book Mundus Subterraneus in 1665. In this respect, Scherer’s atlas forms an important milestone in the development of scientific and thematic cartography, providing an alternative vision of the world by showing its major physical and topographical features rather than just its political boundaries.

Scherer’s map of Baja California, besides being a fine example of his innovative approach to mapmaking, is a superb document of the European debate over the insularity of California. It also provides a fascinating record of Jesuit settlement in Lower California and western Mexico in the early eighteenth century.

Refs.: Burrus, Kino and the Cartography of Northwestern New Spain, p. 17, illustrated between pp. 36 and 37; Joppen, “Heinrich Scherer,” from Dictionary of Mapmakers at; McLaughlin, The Mapping of California as an Island, no. 158.

Copyright 2003, William R. Talbot