Monthly Archives: April 2018

Oceania after James Cook voyages

old map of the pacific ocean, Oceania

Map of the Pacific Ocean, 1803

North-West of America is also included. This chart is part of a set of six square maps of the world.

The Pacific islands had been a target of exploratory voyages by the Europeans from the 16th century onwards. The Portuguese and Spanish came first in search of new sources for spices and other exotic goods followed by the Dutch and their VOC fleet. However, it was the voyages of Captain James Cook in the second half of the 18th century that changed Oceania for good. His three voyages significantly contributed to the exploration and mapping of the area and prepared the ground for the colonisation of the Pacific islands from the 1830s onwards. James Cook was killed in Hawaii during his third voyage in 1779, just 24 years before this map was printed. Hawaii is named as the Sandwich Islands on this map, which was the name given to the archipelago by Cook himself during his third voyage.

Toledo: El Greco’s new home

old map of spanish regions, cadiz, carpetania, cantabria

Three Antique Maps of Carpetania, Cantabria and the Bay of Cadiz, 1584

This is a set of three maps showing three regions of Spain: Cadiz Bay, an important harbour in the 16th century, a region covering the eastern coast of the Bay of Biscay in the far north of Spain and the ancient region of Carpetania (an area approximately south of Madrid, in the middle of the Taugus river basin). The city of Toledo is also included in the bottom-left corner of the Carpetania map. At the time this map was first printed, Toledo was home to the famous Greek painter, sculptor and architect Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known in the art world as El Greco. Originally from Crete (part of the Venetian Republic at that time), he had lived in Rome and Venice before settling down in Toledo, where he spent half of his life and created most of his fine art works. “El Greco” by D. Davies, J.H. Elliott, X. Bray and K. Christiansen is a fantastic introduction into both his artwork and his personal life.

The Black Sea – the hub of the Ottoman navy

black sea old map

Map of the Black Sea and the Surrounding Areas, 1590

The map covers the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the adjoinng regions in Europe and Asia. Latin term “Pontus Euxinus” (=Hospitable Sea) is used for Black Sea.

At the end of the 16th century, the Black Sea (referred to in the map as Pontus Euximus – a hospitable sea) was fully under the control of the Ottoman Navy at the main access points, i.e. the Straits of Bospohorus and Dardanelles while the mouth of the Danube River was seized by the Turks.

Despite its supremacy, these were not easy times for the Ottoman Empire. In 1571, the Ottoman navy was defeated in the Battle of Lepanto (near what is today Patras, Greece) by the European coalition, which slowed down the Turkish invasion of the west. At that time, the Battle of Lepanto was one of the largest navy battles in history, involving over 400 vessels. Most of the Ottoman fleet was destroyed, which resulted in a large shipbuilding boom; however, the positions of Ottoman Navy in the Black Sea had been weakened as a consequence. In addition, since the second half of the 16th century, the Cossacks from the region of today’s Ukraine and Russia were organising raids against the Turks and attacked several Ottoman ports on the Black Sea coast.

Caroline Finkel’s “Osman’s Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire” is a great reading for anyone interested in the Ottoman Empire.

The Spanish American Wars of Independence

america vintage map posterMap of America, 1803.

The early 19th century was a time of change in Latin America as the Spanish American wars of independence (1809-1826) completely reshaped the region. The political instability in Spain caused by Napoleon’s invasion gave rise to conflicts in the Spanish colonies in Southern America. The American Revolution (1771-1781) and the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) were the other two key factors that inspired the process of Latin American decolonization. During the wars, the Americans of Spanish Ancestry and the Mestizos gradually took over the administration originally controlled by Spanish-born officers. The Spanish resistance in America, especially in the regions of what are today Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina created self-governing juntas and fought against the royalists. The conflicts resulted in the creation of the independent states that make up Latin America today.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.

Brittany – the Hub for French Corsairs

antique map reproduction bretagne

Map of the Brittany / Bretagne, 1706.

This map of Brittany shows the beginning of the 18th century when Brittany flourished as a strategic base for the French Navy and seaborne trade. The seaports of Saint-Malo, Lorient and Brest underwent a rapid development. At the time this map was released, the port of Saint-Malo was also an important hub for the French corsairs. One of the most famous corsairs was René Duguay-Trouin who was a native of Saint Malo. Duguay-Trouin led a very adventurous life, capturing hundreds of merchant ships and warships.

His adventures also included being imprisoned in Plymouth, Devon, and later capturing Rio de Janeiro. Benerson Little’s “The Sea Rover’s Practice: Pirate Tactics and Techniques, 1630–1730” is a must-read for everyone interested in 17th and 18th century pioneering and corsairing. Duguay-Trouin’s tactics are also described in this book.

Buy restored reproduction of this map printed on a high quality handmade paper here.