[Greneland/Spitzbergen and Edgesland]
Published 1626, London
Size: 13" X 12"
A rare and stunningly beautiful map with delightful colour of Greneland, or more commonly known by its dutch name, Spitzbergen.
The map first appeared in Samuel Purchas’ highly influential Purchas His Pilgrimes that is considered by Church as “one of the fullest and most important collections of voyages and travels in the English language.”
The map is adorned by nine insets with annotations that depict whaling and hunting scenes in the Northern region near Spitzbergen and Edgeslland. In fact, it is argued that the map is in reference to the whaling voyages of the Muscovy Company that began in 1611 as well as those voyages associated with Thomas Edge, William Baffin and Robert Fotherby.
This map is thus of interest in that it demonstrates the initial interest that the English whalers, and in particular, the Muscovy Company had in the region following the Moscovy Company’s charter to exploit the islands in 1612, before embarking on their Westward explorations of the North Sea due to competing Dutch interests in the area. Whaling was of major commercial interest in that the industry provided a source of highly valuable commodities such as oil, meat and bones. It has been argued that the Dutch were successful in prying Spitzbergen away from the English by the late 1620’s because they, unlike their English counterparts, were not operating under the monopolistic trading company, but rather, were working under competitive free enterprise.
As such, although efforts by the English to find a polar route to Asia, initially included exploration of the possibility of a Northeast passage, they would eventually focus exclusively on the Northwest passage.
(Source: Sanger, C.W., The Origins of British Whaling…)