Fries world map with “America”


Laurent Fries.  “Orbis Typus Universalis Iuxta Hydrographorum Traditionem Exactissime Depicta. 1522. L.F.”  With a line of offset type along the top, “Tabula orbis cum descriptione ventorum.”  Vienne, [1522]-1541.  Woodblock.  11 1/4 x 17 1/4 (neat lines) plus decorative borders and margins.  Centerfold as issued and two sets of contiguous small wormholes at edges, well away from image.  Ref.: Shirley, 48. Nordenskiold, Facsimile Atlas, XXXIX.


A fine example of the first generally obtainable world map to include the name “America,” preceded only by the Waldseemüller world map of 1507—of which only one complete copy is known, and the 1520 Petrus Apianus map—which is extremely rare.  This map was issued in Fries’ edition of the Ptolemaic atlas.  Many of the maps in Fries’ atlas were reduced versions of maps by Martin Waldseemuller in 1513, but this map is based on different sources, as indicated by the initials “L.F.” at the end of the title.  In this map, Fries continues to show the New World as America, even though in the same atlas he issued a copy of Waldseemuller’s map of the region in which he protested that that name should not be applied.

This map is a wonderful example of the attempts by cartographers in the early sixteenth century to incorporate a whole “New World” into the old world view.  The western hemisphere is squeezed into the left side of the map.  Fries shows the South American continent with some correctness and also a couple islands in the West Indies, though he did not have the benefit of the information brought back upon the return of Magellan’s expedition after this map was first issued.  Nothing of North America is indicated, though Greenland is shown correctly as an island, though much closer to Scandinavia than to America!

In terms of the Eastern Hemisphere, Fries tried to show the most up-to-date information he could, but he made a number of mistakes which he could have avoided.  For instance, he shows England and Scotland as separate islands and confuses the Indian subcontinent as two peninsulas instead of one.    Decoratively, the map is very attractive with copious rhumb lines and an ornamental rope border that is intertwined with labels giving the names of the various winds.  The same woodblock was used in Strassburg in 1522 and 1525, in Lyons in 1535, and this printing in 1541.  Prior to the last printing a crack developed in the wood block that is evident in the central part of south Asia.