John Speed, America. London, 1626.
Steel-engraved, hand-colored print.
Speed's steel-engraved, hand-colored view of "America" shows the post-Columbian "New World." It includes attractive cultural border decorations, but perpetuates the Spanish myth of "California as an Island." Photograph by Paul Mutino.

Laurent Fries
Diefert Situs Orbis Hydrographorum…

Strassburg, 1522
This version of Waldseemüller's famed 1513 "Admiral's Map," honors Columbus with a hint of later New World discoveries. Europe and Africa are well shaped; kings of Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Taprobana, and Mursuli are added, as is an elephant off Greenland. In 1520 Fries also adapted the Waldseemüller 1507 world map, the first to apply the name "America." Photograph by Paul Mutino.

Abraham Ortelius

Amsterdam, 1584
Ortelius's Azores map has three cartouches and a ribbon title, turning a document of relatively little information into an artwork. Columbus, returning from his first voyage, visited Insula S. Maria (lower right). Photograph by Paul Mutino.

Sebastian Münster
Marine and Land Monsters

Basel, 1552
Renaissance mapmakers always enhanced their product by adding decorative elements, making it more attractive to buyers. Münster outdid them all by cataloguing the many invented monsters he used. Photograph by Paul Mutino.

Johannes Van Keulen
West Indies

Amsterdam, 1684
Van Keulen, one of the great Dutch sea-chart makers, represents the Caribbean Sea and surroundings with North to the right, and includes angular rhumb lines, all for the convenience of the navigator. Photograph by Paul Mutino.

(Re)Discovering the “New World”: Maps & Sea Charts from the Age of Exploration

February 7, 2015 - June 3, 2015

Featuring more than 30 European-made maps and sea charts inspired by New World exploration, and published between 1511 and 1757, this exhibition presents a fascinating study in geographic and human progress, as well as a feast for the eyes. Many of the woodcuts and metal plate engravings have original hand-applied color, as color printing was not yet available.

“These ancient maps represent Renaissance-period attempts by European ateliers to edify their clientele by revealing our ‘new’ hemisphere and its approaches, as discoveries and claims came ashore from those daring enough to pack their sea bags and head for the unknown,” says Jack A. Somer, who owns the collection. Somer has organized the show at the Bruce Museum along with Anne von Stuelpnagel, the Museum’s director of exhibitions.

“More than five hundred years ago, two European empires began daringly and competitively seeking the most efficient seaborne routes to the riches of Arabia and The Orient—Spain sailing west, Portugal sailing east,” Somer explains. “Mapmakers back home—nearly all landlubbers happy to sit by the fire— scrambled to gather the latest explorers’ reports so they could draw up-to-date maps and sell them to the wealthy as bound atlases. Keep in mind that these atlases were massive compendia that glorified leather-filled libraries and enriched cultural reputations. Maps weren’t always just an app on your iPhone.”

The exhibition is generously supported by The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund.

This exhibition is on display in the Bantle Lecture Gallery. Please note that occasionally this gallery is closed for programming during Museum hours. Please call ahead (203-869-0376) to make sure the gallery will be open during your visit.













Gerard Mercator. America sive India Nova. Amsterdam (Duisburg), 1595

Known for the ingenious “Isogonic Cylindrical [Mercator's] Projection,” Mercator revolutionized navigation and is deemed the greatest 16th-century cartographer. His son Michael published this map, a year after Mercator's death, with its circular detail insets, decorative surrounding strapwork, and an early revelation of the long-sought but illusory “Northwest Passage.” Photograph by Paul Mutino