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Mapping the Coasts, 1492 to 1874
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A series of reproduced historical maps. The first maps, from Stephanius to Zaltieri, illustrate the emergence of the concept of a new continent of America. Behaim's globe indicates the general belief that Europe and Asia were separated principally by water. Ruysch's map is one of the earliest that shows the discoveries of Columbus, Cabot, the Corte Reals and Vespucci. Waldseemüller's map and the Agnese map of 1540 depicts a new continent. The Ptolemy map of 1548 shows that to many people there was still the possibility that America and Asia were joined in the north. The next maps from La Cosa to Velasco, show how the northeast coast took form. These maps show the early doubts as to whether the new discoveries were part of a continuous coast or merely islands in the Atlantic and the eventual resolution of these doubts. Desceliers showed that by 1550 the St. Lawrence estuary was known and that Newfoundland existed as an island. By 1610, the Gulf of St. Lawrence region was even more accurately defined and a great inland lake appeared on the Valasco map. The next five maps show how the Arctic coasts gradually became revealed, partly as a result of the search for the Northwest Passage hypothetically indicated by Mercator in 1595. By 1823 some of the water passages had been discovered and by 1835 the northern continental coastline of America established. The map of 1874 shows the extension of mapping further poleward into the Queen Elizabeth Islands. The final four maps indicate the development of the knowledge of the west coast. De Laet, in 1630, showed the Spanish Empire reaching northward along the Pacific coast; the 1758 map shows Russian activities extending south along the same coast. Cook added further detail which Vancouver supplemented with more precise coastal surveys as shown on the Arrowsmith map of 1822.


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Date modified: 2005-01-27 Top of Page Important Notices