Rare, important atlas of China will headline Old World online sale, Sept. 10-24

SEDONA, Ariz. – An important atlas of China with 42 maps, executed in Paris in 1737 by the renowned French cartographer Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville, is anticipated to be the top lot of an online auction (#125) planned for Sept. 10-24 by Old World Auctions. The atlas constitutes the first scientific mapping of China, for the Emperor Kang-Shi. It is expected to bring $14,000-$18,000.

The atlas – just one of hundreds of important maps, atlases and other items slated to change hands in the sale – was the principal cartographical authority on China for the rest of the 18th century. It provides the first accurate depiction of the Pacific coastline and features the first map of Korea by a European cartographer. It also has detailed coverage of China and the first serious study of Tibet.

“The weekend before the auction’s close, we will be exhibiting and previewing selected lots at the Rocky Mountain Map Fair in Denver,” said Curt Griggs of Old World Auctions. “The event will be Sept. 19-20 at the Denver Public Library. We will have on hand approximately one hundred of the better maps and atlases.” For more details on the map fair, you may log on to www.rmmaps.com.

A Revolutionary War-era plan of Boston, depicting the famous Battle of Bunker Hill (J. Murray, London, 1778), is expected to pique the interest of map enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The plan shows the city of Boston with a key below. It also provides a dramatic depiction of the iconic 1775 battle, with the American and British forces separated by the now-famous rail fence (estimate $600-$750).

An incredible, large-scale chart of the West Indies, spanning from Tampa Bay in the Gulf of Mexico through the Bahamas and Caribbean islands as far south as Antigua (William Heather, London, 1757), will also be sold. The chart is filled with excellent detail, particularly in the Florida Keys and Bahamas. It is printed on three joined sheets, as issued. It is expected to hammer for $5,500-$7,500.

An ambitious atlas of the world, but concentrating mainly on the American continent (Samuel Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia, 1854), is sure to intrigue atlas collectors. It is an unusually fine copy of a highly sought after atlas, complete with 75 hand-colored maps of the world, North America and other continents, Oceania, the U.S. and its territories, and numerous city plans (estimate $6,000-$8,000).

The first separately printed map devoted to the Arctic (Gerard Mercator, Amsterdam, 1628) will also come up for bid. The North Pole is shown according to legend, as a large rock in a giant whirlpool, surrounded by four islands separated by rivers. One of the islands is noted as being inhabited by pygmies. In North America, there is an early reference, by name, to California (estimate $2,500-$3,250).

Certain to draw attention because it is so unusual and rare is an early Korean wood-block map in heavy back ink, created by an anonymous artisan around 1850. The map was made in Korea, with the toponyms and explanatory text written in Chinese (typical of early Korean cartography during this period). It details the province of Hamgyong-do (estimate $400-$600).

Rounding out the list of top lots are a star chart of the constellations Aquarius and Scorpio, executed in London in 1749 by Dr. John Bevis (1695-1771). Bevis was a successful physician whose interest in optics and lenses turned into an occupation. He also loved the stars, and was the original discoverer of the Crab Nebula. He began compiling his star atlas in 1746, but it was never completed and his celestial charts are exceedingly rare (estimate $1,000-$1,500).

Old World Auctions’ previous sale (#124) closed on May 7, with over 800 lots changing hands. Following are top lots from the sale. All prices quoted include a 15% buyer’s premium.

A graphic Democratic Party campaign poster, produced during the contentious presidential election of 1884 between Grover Cleveland (Democrat) and former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine (Republican) topped out at $748. The Democrats used exaggeration and deception in the poster to suggest Blaine was in the pockets of the railroad companies. It evidently worked: Cleveland won.

A superb map of the province of Peking, China (Blaeu, from Novus Atlas Sinensis, Amsterdam, circa 1655), reached $4,600 on an estimate of $1,100-$1,300. The map is the most ornate of the fifteen provincial maps in this landmark atlas of China compiled by Father Martino Martini, an Italian Jesuit priest.

An uncommon and detailed sea chart of the North Sea (Van Keulen, Amsterdam, circa 1740) hammered for $3,163. The map shows the eastern coastlines of England and Scotland to the Shetland Islands, and from Scandinavia to Flanders, with soundings and coastal detail. It is decorated with a fabulous cartouche that incorporates the scale of miles and two coats of arms. A lone ship sails the sea.

One of the most decorative 18th-century world maps (Homann, Nuremberg, circa 1730) soared to $4,313. The two hemispheres are surrounded by vivid engravings of water spouts, a rainbow, earthquakes and a volcano. The map shows a typical geographic view of the period, with an incorrect northwest coastline for North America (“Terra Esonis”), and most of the Pacific incompletely mapped.

A small French map depicting the fledgling settlement of Santa Barbara, Calif. (circa 1844), rose to $431. The mission, gardens and pueblo are located and the Presidio and battery are noted to be in ruins.

Several other maps also exceeded their estimates. An uncommon and detailed sea chart of the North Sea by Van Keulen (Amsterdam, circa 1740) hammered for $3,163, despite its less-than-stellar condition. An interesting set of maps showing Union and Confederate Army troop buildups over three days (July 1-3, 1863) in Gettysburg, Pa., climbed to $489, against a high estimate of $250. A handsome strip-style English road map published in John Ogilby’s Britannia (circa 1675) sold for $633, against a $350-$425 estimate.

Old World Auctions has been based in Sedona, Ariz., since 1993. The firm specializes in cartography and conducts five sales each year. The auctions are always held online; the firm has no floor auction. In addition to Internet bidding, phone, fax and mail bids are accepted. Last year, Old World Auctions celebrated its 30th year of offering quality cartographic material to clients worldwide.

To learn more about Old World Auctions, and to view the lots that will be featured in Auction #125 (on-line Sept. 10), click on www.OldWorldAuctions.com.

The firm is accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign a historical map or a collection, you may call them at 928-282-3944, or toll-free, 800-664-7757. You can also e-mail them at Marti@OldWorldAuctions.com.

COMMENT