Size: 18" X 14"
Condition: Narrow margins. Very slight tear at the upper right neat line but not affecting image.
A very rare and beautiful woodcut of Asia published in La cosmographie universelle d'Andre Thévet, cosmographe du roy: illustree de diverses figures des choses plus remarquables veues par l'auteur, & incogneues de noz anciens & modernes. Thévet’s La cosmographie was published as a two volume set that described Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe with their accompanying maps. It has been considered one of the first European encyclopedia.
As Cosmographer Royal under Henri II and chaplain to his Queen Catherine de Medici, Thévet had a privileged access to information from one of the 16th Century’s leading European powers. That being said, the map of Asia would most likely have been drawn using information gathered by the Portuguese, as they more or less controlled and monopolized the maritime trade routes to and from the region.
However, the map’s depiction of the straight of Anian in the “Partie du continent des terres neufves” is indicative of European aspirations to unlocking the Portuguese monopoly of Asia by a route from the West. In fact, it would only be two years after Thévet’s map that Francis Drake in 1577, sailing under the English flag, attempted to find the Straight first mentioned in a map by Giacomo Gastaldi in 1562 and thus offer a route to Asia via North America.
That being said, although Thévet’s works are sometimes characterized with first hand information gathered from his vast travels, he was unable to completely escape the medieval mind-frame. His maps for example are filled with imaginary creatures and sea monsters. That being said, what Thévet might have lost through scientific objectivity, the modern eye gains a valuable artistic depiction of early explorations to lands previously unknown.
(Sources: Encyclopédie Larousse en ligne. BLR item#38244, Vignaud, H. , An Old Unknown Map of America…Washington Historical Quarterly.)