Historical Map of the Americas - 1650

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Noviffima et Accuatiffima totius Americæ Descriptio per Jacobum Meursium

Little is known about Dutch cartographer Jacob Meurs, born about 1619. He was a map publisher, engraver, and bookseller in Arnhem, and later in Amsterdam. After his death, his wife, known simply as the Widow Meurs, continued his business.

This map, claiming to be the “most recent and most accurate description” of the Americas, closely follows Nicolas Sanson’s contemporary map of the New World, also published in 1650, including Sanson’s “mistakes”: California is drawn as an island, and the Great Lakes are distorted in comparison to later, more accurate maps.

The mid-17th century represents a transition from the aesthetic and symbolic sensibility of Dutch mapmakers to the emphasis on scientific accuracy stressed by French cartographers. Both Sanson and Meurs owed their charting of North America to the explorations of Samuel de Champlain in the first decades of the 1600's.

In this Meurs map, unlike Sanson’s more narrowly scientific rendering, the uncharted regions of Arctic America are bordered by an ornamental design that underscores its unknown character. Mythical creatures, including a Poseidon-like figure, rise from the waters and suggest the limits of human knowledge.

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