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Sea monsters, by François de Belleforest.


Les monstres marins, et terrestres, lesquels on trouve en beaucoup de lieux es parties septentrionales., 1575.

€2400  ($2592 / £1992)
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Item Number:  27282  new
Category:  Antique maps > Curiosities
References: Vairo - Annex 1, Cumming-Skelton-Quinn - p.44 ill.40

Old antique print of sea monsters inhabiting the north Atlantic and of animals found in northern lands, by François de Belleforest.

After Sebastian Münster (different wood block).

Date of the first edition: 1550 (S. Münster)
Date of the first Belleforest edition: 1575
Date of this map: 1575

Size (not including margins): 26.5 x 34.5cm (10.3 x 13.5 inches)
Verso text: Latin
Condition: Sharp impression, excellent.
Condition Rating: A+
References: Cumming-Skelton-Quinn, illustr. p.44; Vairo, Annex 1.

From: La Cosmographie Universelle de tout le Monde. Paris, Nicolas Chesneau - Michel Sonnius, 1575. (= French edition of Münster's Cosmographia)..

In the early days of the era of discoveries, many ships would depart to never be seen again. Sailors that managed to return used to speak of encounters with large fish that expelled water. These were included with a long series of sea monsters that were blamed for the missing vessels and sailors. This plate shows some of these monsters. They are based on the accounts of mariners and the draftsmen's imagination. Every letter corresponds to a description, and the danger entailed, and is explained in the chart of sea monsters published in the Cosmographia. We can see a scene depicting a caravel from which barrels with food are thrown while trumpets are blown in an attempt to calm down a monster (whale). We can also see serpents that, according to mariners' beliefs of the time, could overturn ships. At the top we find the terrestrial world with known animals such as bears and deer, among others.

Most of the monsters shown here are found in Olaus Magnus' map of northern Europe and adjacent waters, published in 1539; Münsters's popular cosmography, however, was probably the immediate source of the sea monsters that decorate and enliven the charts of many European mapmakers in the latter half of the sixteenth century.