Poli Arctici et Circumiacentium Terrarum Descriptio Novissima.
Published 1636 (1676), Amsterdam
Size: 20" X 17"
A beautiful and highly important map of the North Pole by one of the pre-eminent Dutch cartographers of the 17th Century. The Hondius map was a new drawing of the polar region following Mercators’ famous 1595 map of the North Pole. This new depiction made use of the latest information from polar explorations undertaken since the publishing of Mercator’s map. Much of the northwest coast of North America is left entirely open as this region was still vastly unexplored. This first state of Hondius’ map also makes use of exquisite drawings of Northern fishing settlements and sailing ships that provides a beautiful context.
It should be noted that Forbisher’s Strait that appeared in other maps of the era is incorrectly drawn. This resulted from the erroneous rendering of Martin Forbisher’s expeditions between 1576-78, possibly to suppress the location of “Meta Incognita" and the possible entry to the Northwest passage. The mistaken strait, located in the Southern part of GroenLandia, would eventually be corrected following Charles Francis Hall’s exploration to the region in 1861.
It is worth noting that this map limits the possibility of a Northwest passage. This resulted,most likely, from information stemming from Captain Jame’s exploration of Hudson’s bay in 1631-32 and later published by him in The Strange and Dangerous Voyage of Captaine Thomas James, London, 1633, in which Jame’s argues against the existence of this passage. As such, Groenland and the lands north of Hudson’s bay are drawn as being joined thus leaving little hope for Northwest passage.
It is also of interest to note the predominance that “Nova Britania” plays in the depiction of the area from Hudson’s Bay to the Gulf of the St-Lawrence. In fact, no mention is made of New France other than to the minor reference to Canada as a depiction for the French colony. This depiction of “Nova Britania” emphasizes Britain’s ongoing exploration of the region in search of the the Northwest passage.
This is the very rare fifth state which is differentiated by the missing Janssonius imprint that was removed when the plate was sold to Frederik De Wit in 1676.
(Sources:Tooley 729, Kershaw 103, Burden 246. Cartography During and after Voyages, Canadian Museum of History)