Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of America by Visscher

Stock number: 18658

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Nicolaes Visscher I (biography)


Totius Americae Descriptio

First Published

Amsterdam, 1658

This edition



43.3 x 54.2 cms




This Item is Sold


Nicolaes Visser's legendary and important map of America, with California depicted as an island.


This example in pristine collector's condition. Thick paper, with wide margins all around. No restorations or imperfections. Paper color off-white/ivory with no discoloration. An early strong and even impression of the copperplate, from the 1677 edition.

"Various dates have been attributed to this map from 1658 to 1680. The earliest date derives from its presence in the third volume of Joannes Janssonius' Novus Atlas, dated 1658. However, it is not present in all examples, and other maps in them have borne dates as late as the 1680s. The heirs of Joannes Janssonius, who died in 1664, appear to have issued the volumes with old title pages on a continuous basis. Therefore, no firm date can be derived from its use here. Upon the death of Nicolaas' father in 1652, the family were still using the old van den Keere continental plates of 1614. The sixth and last recorded state of these is, in fact, dated 1652. It would seem logical to assume that Visscher would feel the need for a new set of plates of the continents and world. The latter bears features in China introduced in 1655, so the set probably followed thereafter, with a date of c.1658 being quite probable.

Although the map did not provide much in the way of cartographic advances, it had a large influence. future cartographers drawing upon either its geography or the distinctive cartouches. One of its most recognisable features is the large open lake in the place of the western Great Lakes. The single lake to its east most probably represents that of Ontario, but is named Lac contenant. This like much of the map is derived from Joan Blaeu's averaging around 100 maps. Visscher's privilege was renewed in 1697. In 1702 he died and the business was continued with some considerable vigour by his widow Elizabeth, who maintained the Atlas Minor. One atlas survives with the title of Atlas Major. With her death in 1726 the famous firm begun by Claes Jansz. Visscher sometime before 1608, passed out of the family and into the hands of Andries de Leth. Many of the plates were disposed of to Petrus Schenk II, at a date that is unknown, possibly before the death of Elizabeth, but anter the death of Schenk's father c.1718/19. The map appears in examples of his Atlas Contractus, which is similarly undated and composite in nature, until c.1740. The map has also been located in examples of atlases by Frederick de Wit, the heirs of Janssonius, Abraham Wolfgang, Carol Allard and the Ottens family."


"California with nearly flat northern coast, much like the Briggs type. Straet Anian and Anian too far north. Partial coastline of Zelandia Nova too far southwest. Dedicated to D. Cornelio Witsen, whose arms are shown on a shield supported by angels (upper left). Title is on a stone block with two snakes above and figures of natives on either side. A chief is under an umbrella to right of title (lower left)."


"A map of importance ... it became the standard representation of North America for a number of years, [that was] copied by other Dutch and English publishers."


"The same map, and probably plate, was used by de Wit and others"


"It was the first of a most popular series of maps of the Americas of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. With dubious guile, the publishers of succeeding issues of the map would rearrange the figures in the cartouches as well as the cartouches themselves, presumably to avert accusations of plagiarism. The map shows one of the Great Lakes as a large, square-shaped lake open at its western end. The island of California is delineated in the less common Briggs shape marked by the flattened northern coast."

(Martayan Lan).

Claes Janszoon Visscher 1587-1652
Nicolaes Visscher I (son) 1618-1679
Nicolaes Visscher II (grandson) 1649-1702
Elisabeth Visscher (widow of N. Visscher II)

"For nearly a century the members of the Visscher family were important art dealers and map publishers in Amsterdam. The founder of the business, Claes Janszoon Visscher, had premises near to those of Pieter van den Keere and Jodocus Hondius whose pupil he may have been.

From about 1620 he designed a number of individual maps, including one of the British Isles, but his first atlas consisted of maps printed from plates bought from van den Keere and issued as they stood with some additions of his own, including historical scenes of battles and sieges for which he had a high reputation.

Some maps bear the latinized form of the family name: Piscator. After Visscher's death his son and grandson, both of the same name, issued a considerable number of atlases, constantly revised and brought up to date but most of them lacking an index and with varying contents.

The widow of Nicholaes Visscher II carried on the business until it finally passed into the hands of Pieter Schenk."

(Moreland & Bannister).