. March 11, 2008

(Sedona, Ariz.) – A rare and extremely important re-strike of a map of the Great Lakes, originally created by the Jesuit priest Francesco Bressani in 1657 and recreated around 1900, sold for $5,040 in an online sale (#123) held by Old World Auctions. Only two examples of the original map exist today. The original map was printed on two sheets and covered the St. Lawrence River in addition to the Great Lakes; the 1900 copy represents just the left (or western) sheet.

francesco-bressani.jpg “This wasn’t the top lot of the sale, but it was by far the most interesting,” said Diane Kelly, Map Specialist for Old World Auctions. “First, there is the story of Bressani, who served in Quebec in the 1640s, was captured and tortured by the Iroquois, then survived and returned to Italy, where he created the map. Then there is the mysterious lady in Italy who found the copper plate behind a painting and re-struck the map in 1900 using 19th century paper.”

That plate – for the western sheet – has again been lost to time, further adding to the map’s fascination and allure. In 1653, Bressani published an account of his missionary work that was to have included a map. But it was four years later when the map finally was published – loose and unprotected, not bound in a book. Its very existence was unknown until an example was found in the D’Anville collection in Paris. Only one other complete example is known.

Bressani, who lost three fingers on his right hand during his captivity and torture, compiled the map drawing on Jesuit sources and the probable influence of another mapmaker of the time, Nicolas Sanson. It is a highly accurate map of the eastern Great Lakes and Ottowa River regions. In it, Georgian Bay is described in great detail. Lake Erie is placed at a higher latitude than on the map of the same region created by Sanson. Father Bressani embellished his work with several drawings (remarkable considering his missing fingers); these included depictions of the Indians, one showing a converted family praying.

Many of the maps in this auction had been previewed for potential buyers at the 15th annual Miami Map Fair in Miami, Fla., known as “the Super Bowl of mapdom.” The event was held February 2-3 at the History Museum of Southern Florida. Old World Auctions has exhibited at the Miami Map Fair since 2001.

“There’s no doubt being at the Fair was a great help in generating interest in Auction #123,” Ms. Kelly said. “We were online a week longer than usual for the event (which ended February 20). We saw a lot of clients. As for the sale itself, there was a sharp increase in international bidding, up by about 25% from the previous sale. Much of the new activity came out of Europe, with its strong euro.”

Additional highlights from the sale follow. Prices quoted include a 12% buyer’s premium.

The top lot was a rare and accurate two-sheet map of North and South Carolina, with their Indian frontiers, created in 1775 by Henry Mouzon and published by Sayer and Bennett. The map became one of the foundation documents of the Carolinas and was used by both American and British forces in the American Revolution. The map had a high estimate of $16,000 and realized $22,960.


Two-sheet map of North and South Carolina by Henry Mouzon

A first-edition chart of Amelia Harbor and Barr in East Florida, surveyed in 1775 by Jacob Blamey and published the following year by Sayer and Bennett, saw a top bid of $4,200. The map charts the waterways surrounding portions of Amelia Island, Cumberland Island, Martin’s Island and Tiger’s Island. It shows anchorages, soundings and hazards, and the ruins of Ft. William are noted.

franz-ritter.jpg An uncommon and extremely unusual map of the world – projected from the North Pole as if it were the table of a sundial — achieved $3,640. The landmasses are drawn to scale in proportion to their distance from the North Pole. The result is a distorted, albeit mathematically correct, projection. Ten horological diagrams surround the central map. Franz Ritter created the map in 1607.

A first-edition map of Texas as a Republic just prior to its annexation into the Union, created in 1845 by C.S. Williams, crossed the block at $2,576.

c-s-williams.jpgThe map portrays the early counties, towns and villages of Texas, and the state in its entirety. The panhandle is depicted in an inset, titled “Texas North of the Red River.” The map was included in the 1845 edition of Tanner’s New Universal Atlas.

There was strong interest in several scarce atlases including a 1730 edition of Mercator’s Ptolemaic atlas, a fine example of Edward Wells’ “A New Sett of Maps,” and Johnson’s “New Illustrated Family Atlas.” Maps of both American and international interest were well represented. In all, 899 total lots were offered in the sale, with over 80 percent of them changing hands.

Old World Auctions’ next online sale (#124) will begin April 21st and close May 7th. The firm specializes in cartography and conducts five sales each year. The auctions are always held online; the firm has no floor auction. In addition to Internet bidding, phone, fax and mail bids are accepted. Last year, Old World Auctions celebrated its 30th year of offering top-quality cartographic material.

To learn more about Old World Auctions, and to view some of the maps that will be featured in the next sale, you may visit them online: www.OldWorldAuctions.com. The firm is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign a historical map or a collection, you may call them, at (928) 282-3944, or (800) 664-7757. The e-mail address is info@OldWorldAuctions.com.

Category: Auction News

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