$10 million map of New York Harbour to be offered at TEFAF New York

NEW YORK, NY.- Daniel Crouch Rare Books will exhibit the most expensive map ever offered on the open market at TEFAF New York (21-26 October 2016).

The 1531 map of the world by Vesconte Maggiolo is the earliest extant depiction of New York Harbour, and is priced at $10 million.

The map depicts Giovanni de Verrazzano’s epic first voyage to the new world when he became the first European mariner to anchor in New York harbour. Verrazzano named the area ‘Angouleme’ in honour of his patron Francis I of France, who was known as ‘Francis of Angouleme’ before becoming king. Here he met and reported enthusiastically on the local indigenous people who were Algonquian-speakers. In letters to Francis I he describes the beauty and abundance of the land.

The voyage was rife with challenges, from losing half the fleet to terrible storms, as well as many men succumbing to malnutrition and scurvy. However, having sailed from Dieppe in the autumn of 1523, Verrazzano successfully reached “a new land never before seen by anyone” on 1 March 1524. The position of landfall was given as 34 degrees, but was probably close to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Verrazzano and La Dauphine then sailed north to New York and on to Narragansett Bay.

Whilst sailing the northeastern seaboard Verrazzano made one crucial error that is recorded on the map – he sighted Pamlico Sound and mistook it for “el Mare Orientale” – the Pacific Ocean. This cartographic misconception became known as “The Sea of Verrazzano” and it took nearly a century before mapmakers stopped depicting North America as a thin, north-south extension of land with Asia just to the west. This mistake is amusingly depicted on the chart by the appearance of a be-turbaned oriental gentleman waving from the stern of one of three ships sailing in Verrazzano’s mythical sea.

A further voyage, also under royal auspices was planned in 1526 and in the spring of 1528 Verrazzano set sale for Florida, the Bahamas and Antilles. On an island probably near Guadeloupe, Verrazzano’s habit of anchoring away from shore proved fatal. Giovanni landed with a party to greet the natives, wading the last part while his boat with his brother on board remained at sea. Unfortunately, the tribe with whom he had ambitions to trade were cannibals and Verrazzano was killed and eaten whilst fresh, and within sight, but not firing range, of his crew.

Early 16th century portolan charts (navigational maps based on compass directions and estimated distances observed by the pilots at sea) rarely come onto the market. The last to do so was in 1923, which was also created by the map maker Vesconte Maggiolo (c.1476-c1551) and was sold to the Huntington Library, California.

Vesconte Maggiolo (c.1476-c.1551) was one of the best known Italian map and chart-makers of the first half of the sixteenth century. His life spans one of the most exciting periods of history. His first clearly dated chart was made in 1511, less than twenty years after Columbus’ first voyage to America.

Maggiolo’s map was apparently unknown until 1983, and remained undocumented until 1996. There are 21 extant recorded earlier manuscript maps showing the relationship between the old and new world, none of which is in private hands, and only four of which are in the United States.