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The Kraus Map Collection


Kraus 3, Nova totius terrarum orbis tabula (1648)

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Title   Nova totius terrarum orbis tabula
Alternate Title   Nova totivs terrarvm orbis tabvla
Cartographer   Blaeu, Joan (1596 - 1673)
Subject   World maps
Publisher   Blaeu, Joan (1596 - 1673)
Repository   Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Place of publication
     or creation
Date(s)   1648
Format   Printed map
Kraus catalog no.   3
Dimensions in mm.   2043 x 2995 mm.
Rights   No known U.S. copyright restrictions. Please cite the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, as the image source.


Engraved map, with contemporary, probably original, with hand coloring. On 21 large folio sheets, joined together and laid down on linen. Contemporary silk tapes sewn to the lateral edges. The map measures 2043 x 2995 mm. (including text which measures 360 x 299 mm.)

Despite the fact that it exists in two quite distinct states, only two complete copies of the map, with the accompanying text, are known to exist; the present one, in the first state, and the one in the Amsterdam Scheepvaarts Museum, which is in the second state. A copy in the Royal Geographical Society, London, does not have the text, and is of the second state. A copy which has been cut down to just the two large hemispheres, and which therefore lacks the text, the eight subsidiary marginal maps and astronomical figures, and the decorative engraving, is in the giant Charles II Atlas in the British Museum. A similar cut-down pair of hemispheres (of the second state) is, or was, in a similar big volume in Berlin - it also is of august provenance, being a volume presented by Johann Mauritius of Nassau-Siegen to the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, c. 1661. The BM volume was a present from the merchants of Amsterdam to the exiled King Charles II during Commonwealth days.


The map is dominated by the two world-hemispheres (1440 mm. diameter); in the upper corners are the northern and southern celestial hemispheres; upper center, a representation of the Copernican world-system. In the lower corners are displayed the northern and southern polar regions, the latter a blank except for the southern tip of South America. This abandonment of the "Terra Australis Incognita" represents a remarkable advance in geographical knowledge. In the lower center is a map of the world as it was known in Europe in the year 1490, just before the era of oceanic voyaging, showing the Mediterranean world of the ancients plus the discoveries of the African shores southwards and the Atlantic islands, made in the late Middle Ages. This is flanked by representations of the Ptolemaic and Tychonian world systems. Above the "1490" map is the dedication to Gaspar de Brancamonte y Guzman, Count of PeƱaranda, Spanish Ambassador to the peace conference of Muenster in Westphalia. Wieder infers from the wording of this dedication that the map was issued in 1648, the year of the peace treaty of Westphalia. In the lower corners are figures of a salamander, a whale, a mole, and an eagle, symbolizing the four elements. The text below the map is, according to Wieder, "a simple and useful explanation of the fundamentals of geography as it was understood in those days." It is in Latin and French.


The map is important not only for its extraordinary size and beauty, but as a first recording of important geographical discoveries. Abel Jansz Tasman, the great Dutch navigator, carried out in 1642-1644 two voyages of exploration which are among the most notable ever made. Another notable Dutch explorer whose discoveries first appear on this map is Maerten Gerritsz Vries.


In 1920, Mr. Edward Heawood made a detailed comparison of the Royal Geographical Society and the British Museum examples of the map. He discovered that the portion depicting China existed in two states. While the differences in detail are very numerous, the first issue may be recognized at a glance by the fact that the Shantung Peninsula is entirely absent. The second state must have appeared years later than the first; while the first came out probably in 1648, the second is based upon the cartography of the Jesuit M. Martini, who returned to Europe from China only in 1654, and whose general geography of China was published by Blaeu only in 1659. The second issue is therefore at least 6-10 years after the first, and perhaps even later.