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Friday, July 6, 2012

Moll’s Map of Africa with extraordinary original color

“Africa: With all the European settlements, and federal remarks.  Dedicated to the Earl of Peterborow.”
from The World described; or a New and Correct Sett of Maps...
Engraving with original hand color
Sheet size: 25” x 40 1/2”
[London, 1719]

Insets: Cape Coast Castle on gold coast of Guinea, James Fort on island of St. Helena, Fort of Good Hope, Cape of Good Hope.

This maps bears an elaborate cartouche with wild animals and natives hunting and riding crocodiles. Elephant and ostrich roam in the background.  The east coast of South America is shown at the left margin.

Herman Moll’s seminal atlas The World Described included significant cartographic examples heralding the dawn of the British Empire. A Map of the West Indies and several others in the set presented to the public a British picture of a major colonial theater of current European conflicts, such as the War of the Spanish Succession (Queen Anne's War) of 1702-1714, which pitted Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, and Holland against France and Spain over the Bourbon ascendancy to the Spanish throne. The map shows the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and their envrions. The atlas, of exceptional design and resplendent with Moll's fine engraving and lettering, also contains many messages to the user. Thus, Moll indicated with dash lines across these bodies of waters five tracks of the fabled treasure fleets, moving from Panama, Mexico, Cuba, and Florida to Spain. Mexico City and the harbors of "Porta Bella," Havana, Vera Cruz, and St. Augustine, whence the riches departed, are inset on the map. These additions helped to make Moll's map a "buccaneer map" not only for such British privateers as Dampier and Rogers, but also, and perhaps more importantly, for its users in the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe.

In 1717, two years after The World Described first appeared, Moll advertised a new edition, which like the earlier atlas contained maps in “two sheets, all composed and done according to ye newest and exact Observations....” His advertisement blasted his competition, for a struggle for “territory” also existed in the mapmaking industry. “Since ye beginning of this new Set of Maps, now completely finish’d several ignorant Pretenders have started up, and with great Shew and Noise frequently advertised their trifling Performances; calling them Cheap, curious, useful and correct: As to ye first Epithet, they are really dear at any Price, in ye second Place every body may see they are Confusedly and Poorly engraven; as for their usefulness, it tends only to lead people into Errors and Dangers; Lastly they are so far from being Correct, that the fundamental or Projection of their Principal maps is Notoriously False.”

Herman Moll came to London in 1678 from Germany or Holland and worked as an engraver for Moses Pitt. He possessed a talent for making interesting friends and provided maps for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. He also associated with explorer/buccaneer William Dampier and the chemist Robert Boyle. From 1689, he operated his own London shop. Maps of a uniquely Moll character, including his beautiful signature lettering, began to appear during Queen Anne's reign, and his individual style of mapmaking grew increasingly more distinct as his career progressed. Herman Moll was one of the most significant and distinctive European cartographers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. He enjoyed a lengthy and productive career that spanned almost six decades and yielded more than two dozen geographies, atlases, and histories, as well as myriad separate maps, charts and globes spanning the known world. He possessed a strong and tasteful design sense that, when combined with his engraving talents, led to the creation of unique and aesthetically pleasing maps, many of which are considered graphic masterpieces. Moll and his maps also flourished during the fascinating and dynamic era of the British Enlightenment and the early, heady days of empire.

The cartographer eventually became part of a number of impressive circles that gathered regularly at London coffeehouses and which included, among others, the scientist Robert Hooke, the writers Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe) and Jonathan Swift (Gullivers Travels), the buccaneers William Dampier and Woodes Rogers, and the field archeologist and antiquarian Rev. Dr. William Stukeley. Over the years these men and others came together in loosely knit and shifting groups and developed an intellectual and commercial interdependence around the themes of geography, cartography, literature and empire.  

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