Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cartographic Discovery

I love stories of ancient treasures found in dusty estates. A rare map from 1699 depicting eastern Canada was found in a Scottish home covered in dust in the attic beside some water tanks.

The 312 year old map sold for $318,000, nearly triple the expected high-end price of $125,000. The bidding war was between potential buyers in Canada and Britain.

The signed, hand-drawn depiction was created by English mapmaker John Thornton, one of Europe's leading cartographers at the time. It depicts in detail the eastern seaboard of New Found Land, New Scotland (Nova Scotia), New France (Quebec), Nova Britania, and the fledgling colonies of New England. There is particular detail provided of the fishing areas.

The 68 by 80 centimetre vellum map, drawn on sheepskin, is remarkably well preserved.

The auctioneer said, "Manuscript maps that relate to Canada and North America at the end of the 17th century are very rare indeed." Curators discovered the map while evaluating items for an estate sale. This map is as good as buried treasure.

Reading about this wonderful discovery brings back memories of the grade school lessons of the first Canadian explorers like John Cabot (1450-1499) who discovered Newfoundland in 1497 and the extensive explorations of Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635).