10 Maps That Changed the World

Launch Slideshow

The upcoming Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History sale in London on the 14 November will present some of the most historically significant maps from around the globe. Charting new discoveries, religious records and developments in world exploration, endeavour and empire, the sale offers examples of innovative advances in the conception and publishing of these rare documents. Maps by cartographers such as Giacomo Gastaldi and Qianren Huang will demonstrate the fine craftsmanship of these important historic records. Click through to explore ten maps that shaped the way we picture the world today. 

Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History
14 November 2017 | London

10 Maps That Changed the World

  • Bernard Sylvanus [Claudius Ptolemaeus], Untitled World Map, 1511. A very rare copy printed on vellum.
    Estimate: £40,000—60,000.
    The first and only edition of this cordiform (heart-shaped) modern world map — the earliest of its kind, published in the first Venetian edition of Ptolemy. This map shows a very early example of two-colour printing in cartography, with the regional names printed in red, others in black, using type inset in the woodblock. The editor, Bernard Sylvanus, demonstrates some acquaintance with recent discoveries, notably those made in the Corte-Real and Vespucci voyages. 

  • Al Idrisi, [Tabula Rogeriana], The Book of Pleasant Journeys into Faraway Lands. 1154 [printed 1928].
    Estimate: £10,000—15,000.
    Al-Idrisi's map was one of the most advanced ancient world maps, based on the Ptolemaic model, but also using information gathered from Islamic merchants and explorers. It was made at the court of Roger II of Sicily, where Al-Idrisi was resident for eighteen years. The map is oriented with south at the top and shows the world from Spain to Korea. 

  • Jean Baptiste Nolin, Le Globe terrestre representé en deux plans-hemispheres, 1775.
    Estimate: £18,000—20,000.
    One of the finest large-scale maps ever produced, illustrating the artistic and geographical skill of eighteenth-century French cartography. This engraved twin-hemispherical wall-map in four sheets comprises sixteen pictorial vignettes depicting in contemporary terms events from history. 

  • Giacomo Gastaldi, Totius orbis description, circa1570. An extremely rare state of this large world map.
    Estimate: £100,000—150,000.
    The "Lafreri-school" of mapmakers is the umbrella term frequently applied to group of Italian cartographers, mapmakers, engravers and publishers working in Venice and Rome from about 1540 to about 1580 (with some of their printing plates being used well into the seventeenth century). Giacomo Gastaldi was the leading figure of this school, and one of the greatest cartographers of the sixteenth century.

  • Qianren Huang, Da Qing Wan Nian Yi Tong Tian Xia Quan Tu [Complete Map of All-Under-Heaven of the Unified Everlasting Qing Empire], China, 1814.
    Estimate: £100,000—120,000.
    An extraordinarily rare map, based on research originally presented to the Qianlong emperor by Huang Qianren (fl. 1760-70) in 1767. The title of the map is as much a political programme of the Qing as it is a geographical record. It shows China at the height of the Qing empire. 

  • Anonymous [Jodocus Hondius], A set of four continents, 1659. Estimate: £15,000—20,000.
    A rare set of panelled maps from Pierre D'Avity's Les Estats, Empires, Royaumes et Principautez du Monde. The geographical work first appeared in 1614. It was later expanded and continued to be published after D'Avity's death in 1635. The map of America is one of the few printed maps of that continent from the period with decorative borders. 

  • Anonymous [Jodocus Hondius], A set of four continents, 1659. Estimate: £15,000—20,000.
     A map of Asia, stretching from the Caspian Sea in the West to Japan, Philippines and East Indies in the East. The panelled sides include 10 peoples of the region in their various national costumes. The cities across the top include Hormus, Aden, Jerusalem, Damascus, Famagusta and Rhodes. China is shown with many cities and provinces named and several mythical lakes. The Great Wall is prominently displayed. Korea is shown as a peninsular. Several ships and sea monsters are seen. 

  • Anonymous [Jodocus Hondius], A set of four continents, 1659. Estimate: £15,000—20,000.
    A map of Africa with many native animals displayed. Several ships and sea monsters scattered throughout the ocean. The panelled sides include 10 peoples of the region in their various national costumes.The cities across the top include Alcair, Alexandria, Algiers, Tunis, Tangiers and Ceuta. 

  • Anonymous [Jodocus Hondius], A set of four continents, 1659. Estimate: £15,000—20,000.
    The map of Europe includes a massive Greenland, detailed Iceland and the mythical island of Frislandt, complete with named towns and bays. Brown bears are shown playing in northern Russia. The panelled sides include 10 peoples of the region in their various national costumes. The views include Lisbon, Toledo, London, Paris, Rome and Venice. A number of sailing ships and sea monsters are also shown. 

  • Zuda Rōkashi [Sōshun or Hōtan], Detailed map of all the countries in Jambūdv̄pa world, 1710, [Hoēi 7, Year of the Tiger].
    Estimate: £10,000—15,000.
    The first Japanese printed map of the Buddhist World, this non-surveyed map shows the world through a Buddhist cosmographical perspective. India, China and Japan are overly prominent, while Europe, America and Africa are negligible. 


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