Limes Occidentis Quiuira et Anian.
Published 1597 (1607), Louvain
Size: 9" X 11"
A fascinating map of the Pacific Northwest of America depicting a possible early conception of the Northwest Passage. The map was originally published in Cornelius Wytfliet’s landmark work, Descriptions Ptolemaicae augmentum, the first Atlas to focus exclusively on the Americas. Wytfliet’s Descriptions Ptolemaicae was published as an adjunct to the Ptolemic world view, which was, until the discovery of the new world, limited to Asia, Europe and Africa.
Wytfliet’s depiction of the Pacific Northwest is commonly considered to derive from Gerard Mercator’s world map of 1569 and resembles in shape, but not necessarily in size, to present day Alaska. Furthermore, Wytfliet’s map along with Cornelis de Jode’s Quivirae Regnū of 1593, are the only examples, other than those found on world maps, to focus exclusively on this region.
Although the Pacific Northwest had yet to be fully explored beyond Cape Mendocino at this juncture by European explorers, the region was extremely important cartographically. At issue were two world views of the newly discovered North American continent. One is defined as the “continentalist” where North America joins the Asian mainland, and the other is “insular” on a continental scale and is separated by a Strait that Giacomo Gastaldi in his 1561 world map named the Strait of Anian.
This Strait, as depicted in Wytfliet’s map as possibly being located in region of the the Anian Regnum, along with the mythical cities of Cibola, Quivira and the Seven Cities, enticed and fuelled much of the future exploration of the Pacific coast. Of particular interest in the Pacific Northwest was the search to find the coveted Northwest passage that would allow access for European interests to reach Asia. This was of special concern to Spanish interests in the Americas following Sir Francis Drake’s travels to this region in 1577. Not only did Drake’s travel and subsequent attacks on Spanish interest demonstrate the vulnerability of New Spain, but it was believed, to a certain extent, that Drake had discovered the Strait of Anian. Explorations to find this Strait by Spain thus ensued for strategic and defensive purposes. Although the search for the Strait tended to be concentrated in the Gulf of California or overland, the search for the Strait remained an ongoing concern and was re-ignited following the claims of its discovery attributed to Juan de Fuca in 1592.
It would finally take the exploration by Thomas Cook in the later part of the 18th Century to finally put the concept of a navigable strait through the continent to rest. However, a Northwest Passage through a polar route via the Bering Strait, as first conceived as the Strait of Anian, is no longer relegated to mythology, but has become fact.
The current example is the second state which can be differentiated from the first by the omission of the date in the cartouche.
(Sources; Burden 107, Polk, D.B., The Island of California)