The Great Southern Continent
By TEIXEIRA, Luis, 1604
Magna Orbis Terrarum Nova universalis et accurata tabula Geographica ac Hydrographica deli nata in hauc ajcrem formam manu celeberrimi regiae Majesatis cosmographi Ludovici Texeirae.
Dedication: Serenissimae Isabellae Clarae Eugeniae Hispan. Infanti. Belg. Principi, Sereniss. Alberti Archid Austriae Ducis Burgindiae Brae. &c. Coniugi Charissime. Joannes Baptista Vrints Antwerpia nus, hanc Ludovici Tesseirae Cosmographi Hispaniarum Regum Longi Peritissimi Mappam Generalem D.D. Anno a Christo Nato 1604.
- Author: TEIXEIRA, Luis
- Publication place: Antwerpiae
- Publisher: apud Joannem Baptistam Vrient
- Publication date: 1604.
- Physical description: Engraved map, printed on twelve sheets, above four sheet letterpress description annotated with several woodcut animals, with fine CONTEMPORARY HAND-COLOUR HEIGHTENED GOLD, trimmed to neat lines, laid on linen, extensive areas of restoration. A full conservation report is available on request.
- Dimensions: 1670 by 2970mm. (65.75 by 117 inches).
- Inventory reference: 11396
The present map draws on the cartography of Luis Teixeira (fl.1564–1613) — whose name appears in the large pasted title — a Portuguese cartographer from a famous mapmaking dynasty. He worked in Lisbon and the Portuguese colonies, but was also a friend of and collaborator with Dutch cartographers, contributing a map of Japan to Abraham Ortelius’ atlas. Ortelius and Cornelis Claesz published five of his maps between them, and all were specifically advertised as based on his work, indicating that he was highly respected in Amsterdam.
The map is based upon a simple cylindrical projection and follows very closely the 1592 wall map drawn by Petrus Plancius, “a milestone in the emergence of Dutch cartography [and] the first large wall map of the world to be published in the north” (Schilder). The work was engraved by Baptista and Jan van Doetecum and is known only in a single extant example: that in the Colegio del Corpus Cristi in Valencia, Spain. Plancius drew heavily on Mercator’s 1569 world map, as well as contemporary manuscript maps by the Portuguese cartographers Pedro de Lemos and Bartolomeo de Lasso. The present Teixeira map shows a number of significant improvements over Plancius’ prototype: the redrawing of Guiana following Sir Walter Raleigh’s exploration of 1595; the insertion of the Davis Strait, Novaya Zemblya, and the tributaries of the Congo; and amendments to the southern parts of South America and Africa. This updated geographical information was derived from accounts of voyages collected by Linschoten, De Bry, Hulsius, Claesz and others.
The map is noteworthy for its portrayal of a vast southern continent, and its depiction of the Southern Pacific at the dawn of Dutch exploration of southeast Asia and Australasia. The true form of the island of New Guinea had not yet been ascertained, and so, bizarrely, it appears twice: once as an island on the left hand side of the map, and again as part of the mythical continent of Magellanica on the right. The Gulf of Carpentaria is tantalizingly hinted at in the sweeping bay in Magellanica at the far right of the map.
The myth of the Great Southern Continent was propagated by the belief that, in order to balance the earth, there must be a landmass in the southern hemisphere of a size commensurate with that in the north. It was, in part, this erroneous assumption that spurred Dutch exploration of Australia in the seventeenth century, and Captain Cook’s voyages over 100 years later. It was not until the twentieth century, and the explorations of Captain Scott and Roald Amundsen, that the lands of the southern hemisphere were finally charted with any degree of accuracy.
Towards the lower corners of the map are representations of the northern and southern hemispheres, and along the bottom of the map are ten small panels containing detailed maps of Magellan’s Strait (according to Drake in 1579, Noort in 1599, and De Weert, also in 1599); of Rio de la Plata; Northern Europe; Novaya Zemlya (according to Barentsz in 1598), and the straits of Sona (off Java); Anian; Manilla; and Gibraltar. Below the map, printed on separate strips, are long engraved panels presenting the four continents, each personified by a woman riding a symbolic mount. Background scenes show the typical architecture or dwellings of each region, indigenous animals, and the local peoples engaged in battle. These scenes relate to the text panels beneath the map, which are printed in letterpress interspersed with depictions of local flora and fauna. This text is trimmed from the only other known example of this map, making the present example a unique survival of the map in its original form.
The existence of an extremely large wall map of the world by Luis Texeira, sold by Jean Baptiste Vrients and Cornelis Claesz, is recorded by Schilder in ‘Wall Maps of the World published in Amsterdam before 1619’ (MCN, vol. III, p. 39 No. 5), and Shirley in ‘Mapping the World’ (248). Although neither Schilder nor Shirley record any extant examples, the evidence for its production comes from two contemporary sources; first in the archives of the publishing house of Plantin-Moretus:
“On 14 December 1604 the Antwerp publisher and map dealer Joan Baptista Vrients delivered to Balthasar Moretus several maps of the world, among which were the maps of Teixeira: ‘Adi 14e Decembre , 2 Groote Mappa Texerae 6 fl., 2 Cleyn Mappa Texeirae 3 fl. 10’ ” (Schilder)
And second in a catalogue by Cornelis Claesz:
“A much more detailed description of Teixeira’s world maps is provided by Cornelis Claesz in his catalogue of 1609. As was mentioned in the description of map no. 1 [i.e. Plancius’ world map of 1592], this is not a stock list, but a catalogue comprising only of the engravings and maps that were printed from copper plates owned by Cornelis Claesz. In the section ‘All kinds of large maps’ two maps of the world by Teixeira of different sizes were offered for sale, whilst the customers could choose the language in which he wanted the accompanying description. ‘Mappa Mundi Lodovici Tessairae, 22. large folios in Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, English, Dutch and German.” (Schilder)
Although neither of the sources refers to a date of publication, the Spanish writer Leon Pinelo referred in 1629 to two Teixeira maps dated 1598 and 1604 respectively. Whether or not they were two unique maps, or simply different editions of the same work, is unclear.
As well as bearing the names of Teixeira and Vrients, the present map also carries the name of the engraver Joshua van den Ende. Both Shirley (243) and Schilder (MCN III, p.45 No. 6), record a large wall map on 12 sheets engraved by van den Ende, and dated circa 1604. The sole institutional copy referenced by both Shirley and Schilder – in the Bibliothéque Nationale in Paris — is undated, untitled, and unsigned by any author or publisher. Only van den Ende’s name, as the engraver, appears on the sheets. After consultation of the BNF map, it is clearly printed from the same plates as the present example. The discovery of the present work therefore allows us to confirm Schilder’s date of 1604, and to add both Vrients as vendor and Teixeira as the work’s cartographer. It also allows us to correct the map’s erroneous attribution to Willem Blaeu. The editors of the ‘History of Cartography’, Destombes (in his monograph on the BNF’s van den Ende map) and Schilder all suggest that Willem Blaeu may have published the map, for three reasons. First, neither Hondius nor Claesz in his 1609 catalogue mention such a map; second, van den Ende is known to have engraved much of Blaeu’s earliest published work; third, in 1604 Claesz and Plancius’ privilege for their 1592 wall map ended, thus allowing Blaeu (or any other publisher) to reproduce the map.
However, with the discovery of the present work, we can conclude that it was in fact Vrients, in association with Claesz, who decided to publish the new map in 1604, updating the hugely successful Plancius map of 1592 with the latest developments from Teixeira.
Dutch world wall maps from this era are incredibly rare. Due to the rapid rate of discovery at the beginning of the seventeenth century “many maps soon lost their value; the owners replacing the obsolete maps with new ones. This development is one of the causes of the great percentage of losses which wall maps of the world suffered; they are extremely rare nowadays” (Shirley).
The present work is only the second surviving complete example of the Teixeira/Vrient map of 1604. The example in the BNF lacks the accompanying text and title. Schilder records five examples prior to the present map in his census of Dutch world wall maps published in Amsterdam before 1619 (MCN III, p. 19–102):
1. PLANCIUS, Petrus. Nova et Exacta Terrarum Orbis Tabula Geographica ac Hydrographica. Amsterdam, 1592. Map on 19 sheets. One recorded example, Collegio del Corpus Cristi in Valencia.
2. LANGREN, Hendrik van. Nova et Accurata, Totius Orbis Terrarum Geographica et Hydrographica. [Amsterdam, c.1600]. Map on (?)20 sheets. One recorded example Stadtbibliothek of Breslau, now lost due to military action during World War II.
3. CLAESZ, Cornelis. [No Title] [Amsterdam, Cornelis Claesz., c.1602]. Map on four sheets. No known extant example of the first edition.
4. HONDIUS, Jodocus. Nova et Exacta Totius Orbis Terrarum Descriptio Geographica et Hydrographica. [Amsterdam, Cornelius Claesz, 1603]. Map on four sheets. No known extant example of the first edition.
5. TEIXEIRA, Luis. [No Title] [Amsterdam, Joan Baptist Vrients, (?) 1604]. Map on nine sheets. No known extant example of the first edition.
As the list shows, the present work is only the second surviving example from the first 12 years of world wall map publication in Amsterdam. In fact, of the seven further maps that Schilder goes on to list as published before 1619, only four are known to exist in their first edition.
- Shirley, Rodney, ‘The Mapping of the World’, No. 183 (Plancius 1592), No. 243 (van den Ende/BNF), No. 248 (Teixeira)
- Shirley, Rodney. (1987). The mapping of the world. London: Holland Press.