August 11, 2011

This Chart was Compiled on the Siberian Expedition under the Command of Navy Captain Bering from Tobolsk to the Chukotkan Corner

Vitus Jonassen Bering (1681–1741) was born in Denmark but spent most of his adult life in the Russian navy. In 1725, Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great) instructed Bering to undertake an expedition to find the point at which Siberia connected to America. In what became known as the First Kamchatka Expedition (1725–30), Bering traveled overland from St. Petersburg via Tobolsk to the Kamchatka Peninsula, where he had a ship, the Saint Gabriel, constructed. In 1728 he sailed north along the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula. In August of that year he passed between the two continents through the strait that would later bear his name, but he never spotted the Alaskan coast and was unable to determine whether Asia and North America were connected or separated by water. Upon his return to St. Petersburg, Bering presented to Empress Anna (reigned 1730–40) the maps prepared during the expedition. Unlike other maps of the expedition, this hand-drawn map contains ethnographic drawings, some of the first images of the inhabitants of Siberia. Peoples represented on the map include the Yakuts, Koriaks, Chukchi, Evenks (formerly known as the Tungus or Tunguz), Kamchadal (or Itelmen), and the Ainu people of the Kuril Islands. The Second Kamchatka Expedition of 1733–43, also led by Bering, finally resulted in the European discovery of Alaska and confirmation that Siberia and Alaska were indeed separated by water.

The Garden of the Virgin Mary

The 1510 manuscript Jungfru Marie örtagård (The Garden of the Virgin Mary) is the work of an anonymous nun at the Brigittine monastery at Vadstena in eastern Götaland, Sweden, and is the sole surviving source for the Swedish psalms, collects and lessons, hymns, and commentaries used in daily office by the nuns at the monastery. From the late 14th century to about 1530, the Vadstena monastery contributed significantly to the development of a nascent Swedish cultural identity, largely through the language that developed and was taught there. Most of the nuns had little knowledge of Latin, so suitable divine literature had to be translated or originally composed in Swedish. A few of the nuns were skilled scribes who used a characteristic sloped cursive script with a broad-nibbed pen and strong perpendicular strokes. The major part of this manuscript is undecorated, but it includes finely decorated borders and initial capitals, and several richly adorned miniatures, some showing images to be venerated and others scenes of monastic life. The monastery, which initially had a section of monks as well as one of nuns, eventually fell victim to the effects of the Protestant Reformation and royal edicts and closed in the late 16th century.

Geographic Chart of the Kingdom of Chile

This map by the Chilean Jesuit priest Alonso de Ovalle (1601–51) appears in his book Histórica Relación del Reyno de Chile (Historical narration about the kingdom of Chile), considered the first history of the country. The map is the result of a major descriptive effort begun during Ovalle’s first trip to Europe, as “Procurator” of Chile, in 1641. At the time, the Jesuits needed support for their missionary work in the south of Chile, and Ovalle was commissioned to recruit help and raise money. Answering the need for information about the country, Ovalle’s book and map were published in Rome in 1646, in both Spanish and Italian editions. The printer was Francesco Cavallo; Ovalle dedicated the work to Pope Innocent X. The book highlighted Jesuit missionary activities and focused on the physical, social, and cultural aspects of Chile during the first 40 years of the 17th century. It provided detailed topographical and ethnological descriptions of the southern settlements. Ovalle’s map complemented the text with illustrations of volcanoes, rivers, and lakes, along with decorative images of wildlife and vegetation and scenes of people engaged in various social and commercial activities. The figure of a native with a tail is a puzzling, unexplained detail. From a cartographic perspective, the map contains errors. In his statement to the reader (Ad Lectorem), Ovalle admits uncertainties and the absence of longitudes. The orientation of the map is unusual. North (septentrio) is on the left, placing Tierra del Fuego on the right. The Strait of Magellan divides the mainland from "Terra Incognita," the as-yet unknown Antarctica, which is placed in the upper right-hand corner, to the southeast of the South American continent.

Description of the New Route to the South of the Strait of Magellan Discovered and Set in the Year 1616 by Dutchman Willem Schouten de Hoorn

In June 1615, Dutch navigators Jacob Le Maire (circa 1585–1616) and Willem Corneliszoon Schouten (circa 1567–1625) set out in two ships, the Eendracht and the Hoorn, from the Dutch port of Texel. Their goal was to find a new route to the Moluccas Islands, Europe’s main source of pepper in the lucrative spice trade with the East Indies, and in so doing avoid the trade monopoly of the Dutch East Indies Company. They sailed south of the Strait of Magellan and on January 24, 1616, discovered a new passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans: a strait about 13 kilometers wide between Tierra del Fuego and what they called Staten Land (present-day Isla de los Estados, Argentina). The passage came to be called Le Maire Strait. Several days later, Le Maire and Schouten became the first Europeans to round the extreme southern point of South America, known for its storms and heavy seas, which they named Cape Horn in honor of Schouten’s birthplace, the city of Hoorn. This map of Le Maire Strait is from the French edition of Schouten’s journal of the voyage, Journal ou description du merveillevx voyage de Guillaume Schovten, hollandois natif de Hoorn, fait en années 1615, 1616 & 1617 (Journal or description of the marvelous voyage of Willem Schouten, a Dutch native of Hoorn, made in the years 1615, 1616, and 1617), which was published in Amsterdam in 1619.

A Chart of Magellan by the Route of Tierra del Fuego

This map of “Magellanica,” the land south of the Strait of Magellan, is by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, a leading Dutch cartographer and map publisher and the founder of a family of distinguished mapmakers that included his sons Joan and Cornelis. Born in the Netherlands in 1571, between 1594 and 1596 Blaeu studied in Denmark under the astronomer Tycho Brahe, where he developed skills as an instrument and globe maker. Returning to Amsterdam, he founded the family map company. In 1608 he was appointed chief hydrographer of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (United East Indian Company), a position he held until his death in 1638. This 1640 map reflects Blaeu’s specialization in maritime cartography. The lower left corner depicts a group of seven sailing ships, positioned over a cartouche in which the scale is given in German miles. The cartouche is supported by a group of three Patagonians. The names of the Atlantic, Pacific, and southern oceans are indicated in the other corners of the map. The map is dedicated to Constantijn Huygens, a Dutch poet and diplomat who, with his more famous brother Christiaan (the discoverer of Saturn’s moon Titan), also built telescopes and studied the skies.

Commentary of Husayn

Tafsīr-i Ḥusaynī (Commentary of Husayn) is a commentary on the Qurʼan, transcribed in two volumes. The original commentary was written in 1504 (910 AH), but this copy was made in 1855–57 (1272–74 AH) by Wali ul Din. The first volume of this manuscript covers the chapters (surahs) in the Qurʼan from Fatihah (Opening verse) to Kahf (The cave); the second volume the surahs from Maryam (Mary) to Al-Nās (The people). The manuscript is beautifully transcribed on handmade paper, with commentary devoted to each concept, word, or thought. Words and concepts from the Qurʼan are written in red ink, followed by the commentary in black ink. The first page of each volume of manuscript has a floral adoration inlaid with gold.