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An essential map for Canada collectors: the first sea chart of Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, leaving open the possibility of a Northwest Passage.

Place/Date: Florence / (1647) 1661
$12,000.
Title: Carta particolare dello istreto e Mare iscoperto da Hen:º Hudson Ingilese nel. 1611…
Technique
Cyanotype
Dimensions
48.3 x 71 cm (19 x 28 in)
Identifier
NL-00828
Coloring
Uncolored
Condition Rating
VG+

Description

Fine example of Robert Dudley’s chart of Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, the earliest sea chart of the region and the first printed map to focus on Hudson Bay. It is the westernmost sea chart in Dudley’s efforts to track the known waters pointing toward the Northwest Passage, with the northwestern extremities of the map embracing the prospect of open waters to the west, in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.

It is considered a cartographic landmark and would be the foundation for any Canada collection. The chart is derived from Hessel Gerritz’s 1612 map of the region and from the information on Henry Hudson’s 1611 explorations.

Throughout the late 16th and 17th centuries, explorers sought northern routes through Arctic seas—the Northeast Passage, north of Russia and the great Asian Steppes, and the Northwest Passage, across the north of the Americas. Sea ice made these routes impracticable for sailing ships, but that was not known until these routes were explored.

Perhaps the most famous of these explorers was Henry Hudson, who at different times sought both the Northwest and Northeast passages. In 1609, working for the Dutch East India Company, Hudson explored the great river that reaches the ocean at what is now New York City—a river he explored in the hope that it might prove to be the elusive passage west—in doing so, he played a crucial role in the foundation of New Netherland and New Amsterdam.

But most of his journeys were farther north. In 1611, sailing westward, to the north of the Labrador Peninsula, he passed through the difficult waters at the entry of what is now named the Hudson Strait—waters perilous enough that English explorer Martin Frobisher had called it the “Furious Overfall”—and into the vast bay that now bears his name.

Trapped by ice in the southern extension of Hudson Bay—now known as James Bay, for a later English explorer—Hudson and his crew were forced to overwinter. Although he survived the hard winter, when he wished to sail west again as the ice thawed, his crew mutinied and Hudson, along with his son and a few others of the crew, was sent away from the ship in a small boat—and nothing more is known of Hudson’s fate.

Dudley’s chart is of great historical importance. Burden notes:

“This is the first printed sea chart of Hudson Bay and Hudson Strait, an area not covered in the general charts, and one of the most important maps of the region ever produced. Using Mercator’s projection for the first time, it is also the earliest to indicate prevailing winds and currents. Beautifully engraved by Antonio Francesco Lucini, it records magnetic deviations of the compass.

The outline of the chart appears to be partly derived from Hessel Gerritsz, 1612, although the nomenclature appears to be largely the work of Dudley. Many of the placenames are descriptive of a particular coastal feature. It has been postulated by earlier authorities that Dudley had access to some original Henry Hudson material, and that his is derived from it. Dudley was personally acquainted with many of England’s explorers, Thomas Cavendish was even his brother-in-law. . . . His manuscript atlas provides some fascinating material for further research. The charts of the whole region bear many alterations.”

This is the second state of the map, distinguished by Lº6º in the title.

This map is co-owned with BLR maps.

Cartographer(s)

Sir Robert Dudley

Sir Robert Dudley’s Dell’Arcano del Mare is the earliest printed sea atlas to cover the entire world, the first made by an Englishman, and the first to use the Mercator projection. It was first published in Italian at Florence in 1645, then again in 1646 in a three volume folio. It is remarkable for its inclusion of a proposal for the construction of a navy which Dudley designed and described. It was reprinted in Florence in a two volume folio in 1661 without the charts of the first edition.

Dudley’s father, the Earl of Leicester, was a financial backer of Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of 1577-81. As such, it has been suggested that Dudley had access to information only available to Queen Elizabeth and her inner circle, although whether this special access is reflected on Dudley’s charts is unclear. Dudley consulted the journals of his brother-in-law was the famous Thomas Cavendish, the third person to circumnavigate the globe after Magellan and Drake.

The distinctive Baroque style of Dudley’s charts is attributable to the elegant engraving of Antonio Francesco Lucini. The six-volume work covered navigation, shipbuilding and astronomy, with 130 maps in two volumes. Unlike the vast majority of his contemporaries, Dudley’s maps are all his own and were not copied from other mapmakers. They have an instantly recognizable style: closer to the pre-17th century manuscript portolan charts than the richly decorated maps of Mercator, Hondius and Blaeu.

Later map-makers chose not to copy Dudley’s style and so it remains unique in the annals of cartography. The engraving by Antonio Francesco Lucini, who stated that he spent 12 years and used 5,000 pounds of copper to produce the plates, is of exceptional quality, as is the calligraphy.

Today parts of Dell’Arcano del Mare are on display at the Museo Galileo in Florence.

Condition Description

Sharp impression on very strong paper. There is a little toning on the paper joint and a couple of minor printer's creases.

References

Burden #276; Kershaw #92; Shirley (BL Atlases) M.DUD-1b.

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