Catalog Archive
Auction 194, Lot 380

Important Whaling Map of Spitsbergen

"[Greneland]", Purchas, Samuel

Subject: Spitsbergen

Period: 1704 (published)

Publication: A Collection of Voyages and Travels

Color: Black & White

12.8 x 11.4 inches
32.5 x 29 cm
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This map highlights the importance of the whaling industry to the English in the early 17th century. Expeditions by Willem Barentsz in 1596 and Henry Hudson in 1607 explored portions of Spitsbergen and noted the abundance of whales in the surrounding waters. Both the Dutch and English took note and began sending voyages to the island to hunt whales, walruses and polar bears. The Muscovy Company, who had been granted a monopoly charter on whaling in Spitsbergen by Queen Elizabeth I, sent a number of expeditions to the region, including those headed by Jonas Poole, Thomas Edge, and William Baffin. Letters and journals from these explorers found their way to Samuel Purchas, who incorporated their records in his Purchas his Pilgrimes, including a map of the known parts of Spitsbergen. Awnsham Churchill had the map re-engraved to use in his A Collection of Voyages and Travels, which first appeared in 1704. This example is the re-engraved map, which is a close copy of the original with small changes to the typography and decorative elements.

On the map, Spitsbergen is erroneously named Greneland due to the English belief at the time that the land was connected to Greenland further north. Numerous English-based place names fill the map, some of which reflect explorers in the area, such as Edges Iland, Mount Edge, Sr Thomas Smyths Inlett, Charles Iland, and Hackluits Headland. Surrounding the map are eleven vignettes recording the manner of hunting and killing whales, walruses and polar bears. The term "seamorse" was used to denote walruses.

The Dutch, who were competing with the English for whaling rights in the region, were simultaneously publishing maps of Spitsbergen with Dutch toponyms. It wasn't until the whaling industry became of greater importance to the English and Dutch that maps focusing on Spitsbergen began to appear on the market. However, by the end of the 17th century, whaling interests had moved further west and individual maps of Spitsbergen were generally no longer included in atlases. As such, maps of Spitsbergen are relatively uncommon.

References: Pool (IMCoS Journal #121) pp. 35-42.

Condition: A

A crisp impression, issued folding on a bright sheet with a jester watermark, minor offsetting, and a very narrow top margin.

Estimate: $950 - $1,200

Sold for: $650

Closed on 9/13/2023