Northeast Canada and Greenland

by Cornelius van Wytfliet


Date of first edition: 1597

Date of this map: ca. 1597

Dimensions of the map (not including margins):  23,5 x 29,3 cm

Dimensions (including margins): 27,7 x 35,5 cm

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

Condition rating: A+

Verso: blank

Map reference: Van der Krogt 2, 9110:371:1, page 19 (top right)

From: Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum; Van der Krogt 371:01-13




Item number:
The Americas
North America
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Estotilandia et Labradoris Terra by Wytfliet

This map is part of Cornelius van Wytfliet’s Atlas, the first regional atlas of the entire American continent. The name Terra de Laborador goes back to the Portuguese navigator João Fernandes Lavrador who is said to have spotted this enormous peninsula in 1500. The map is especially important because it depicts the travels and discoveries of Martin Frobisher (1535-1594) and John Davis (1550-1605). The knowledge about these three journeys originally comes from Richard Hakluyt’s The Principall Navigations (1589). Older maps of this region already existed, such as two maps by James Beare (from 1578) and a map by Michael Lok (patron of Frobisher’s first voyage from 1576). These earlier maps were so rudimentary that they had no idea where Frobisher had been. Wytfliet draws the Forbisseri Angvstiaeals as a street south of Greenland.

Frobisher also landed on the current Resolution Island. It was some years later with the travels of John Davis (1585-1587) that a more accurate knowledge of the area was gained. John Davis is the namesake for Davis Street (street between Baffin Island and Greenland). On the map, Wytfliet attempts to refer to this as the Fretum Joan Davis. But this is probably the Hudsonstraat (street between Labrador and Baffin). It is now thought that A furious fall should be Hudson Bay. Also note the imaginary Frysland that was depicted on almost all maps of this region between 1550 and 1650. The island was first depicted by Nicolo Zeno (1515-1565) in his map of 1558. He relied on forged letters and a map of his ancestors Antonie and Nicolai Zeno (alleged explorers in that area) around 1400, who thus claimed the Venetian claims to discoveries and thus on territory in North America for the Doge Republic against France and Spain. When Mercator showed this island on his world map, it was unfortunately followed slavishly for a long time.

Original title: Estotilandia et Labradoris Terra

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.