by Cornelius van Wytfliet


Date of first edition: 1597

Date of this map: ca. 1597

Dimensions of the map (not including margins):  23,4 x 29,2 cm

Dimensions (including margins): 30,8 x 38 cm

Condition: Excellent. Centre fold as published. Wide margins.

Condition rating: A+

Verso: blank

Map reference: Van der Krogt 2, 9530:371, page 13 (top right); Burden 106

From: Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum; Van der Krogt 371:01-13 (top right 13)




Item number:
The Americas
North America
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Granata Nova Et California by Wytfliet

This map is interesting for the cartography of the American west coast and is one of the most important maps in the atlas. This is the second map of California and Northwest America. The oldest map is by the Jode from 1592. Wytfliet follows the region from the southern tip of Baja California to Los Farallones in the north and also shows the Colorado River. Wytfliet is not free from some misconceptions. For example, he lets the Rio Grande flow from an imaginary lake to the Gulf of California (instead of to the Gulf of Mexico). This lake is surrounded by the legendary Septem civitatum Patria (the seven cities of Cibola), a mythical idea that originated in self-fulfilling wishful thinking. The origins of the myth date back to the conquest of Portugal by the Moors in the early eighth century. Seven bishops and their followers are said to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 714 to land in Antille (hence the name of the archipelago). Since these islands produced too little silver and gold, they were forced to seek their fortune in the Far West. The seven cities of El Dorado were born. It was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who had been shipwrecked off the Florida coast in 1528, who moved into the mainland towards Texas and Northern Mexico. On his return, he first reported on the alleged existence of these cities. Brother Marcos de Niza, on an expedition to Zuniland in 1539, added to the legend.  So there could be no more doubt about the cities and their stocks of precious metal. A subsequent expedition in 1540-1542 under conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado (1510-1554) was sent out specifically to collect a lot of gold there. Unfortunately, only a few poor little pueblo villages were found. This expedition did explore the southern Rocky Mountains and the Rio Grande and Grand Canyon walks.

Other cartographers including Mercator (world map 1569), Plancius (world map 1592) and Ortelius (in his maps of America and Tartaria both from 1570) drew the California peninsula. The image of the Gulf of California is related to the expeditions at the time. On the map, this inlet was referred to as Mar Vermeio, because of the red color of the water, so reflected by the surrounding landscape, as it was reminiscent of that other Red Sea known to the Spaniards.  The Gulf was explored by Francisco de Ulloa in 1539 on the orders of Cortés. Ulloa did give rise to the sixteenth-century misunderstanding that California was an island. However, an expedition soon followed under Hernando de Alarcon with Domingo del Castillo as pilot. He first drew a map of Baja California as a peninsula. However, this map from 1541 has been lost. Baja California would be presented as such for eighty years. Still, the already existing misconception persisted. Unfortunately Abraham Goos conjured an island on his map of the northern part of America in 1624. Even more acclaim was the English mathematician Henry Briggs who in his 1625 work Purchas his Pilgrims, vol iii depicted a huge island of California off the west coast of America. The myth would live on for decades. The controversy was deep as King Ferdinand VII of Spain was forced to issue a decree in 1747 that Baja California was indeed a peninsula.

This map also shows:

• an unnamed river running from the north, probably the Colorado River;
• on the west coast of the peninsula the island of Y. de los Cedros, too far to the north. This island was the northernmost point of the 1539 expedition from Ulloa on the west side;
• in the far north Los Farallones: the only topographical name still used today refers to the Farallon Islands, located just outside San Francisco Bay. Would that wide waterway represent the bay?



Cornelius Wytfliet (? – 1597)

Cornelius Wytfliet was a geographer from Leuven. After graduating Licentiate in Laws from the University of Leuven, Wytfliet moved to Brussels and became secretary to the Council of Brabant.
In 1597 he published the first atlas of America: the Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum (Augmentation to Ptolemy’s description). He named his work an augmentation to Ptolemy’s Geography because it covers the Americas, a part of the world unknown to Ptolemy. However, there is no other connection between the works of Ptolemy and Van Wytfliet. Dedicated to Philip III of Spain it is a history of the New World to date, recording its discovery, natural history, etc. It provides a history of exploration and the voyages of Christopher Columbus (1492-1502), John Cabot (1497-98), Sebastian Cabot (1526-28), Francisco Pizarro (1527-35), Giovanni de Verazzano (1524), Jacques Cartier (1540-42), and Martin Frobisher (1576-78). Most of Van Wytfliet’s maps are the first or among the earliest of specific regions of North and South America.

For the book, Wytfliet had engraved nineteen maps, one of the world and eighteen regional maps of the Americas. The book was an immediate success and ran to several editions.
Two editions of the Descriptionis Ptolemaicae were published et Leuven in 1597 and 1598. In 1603 appeared the first Douai edition with later editions with French text. The last edition was published in Arnhem in 1615.