Auctions | October 10, 2022

18th Century California Map the First to Depict San Francisco Bay


The 18th century map of California, estimated at $600,000 – 800,000

New York – On October 25, Bonhams will present the most important 18th century map of California as the highlight of its Exploration and Travel Literature, featuring Americana sale in New York. Estimated at $600,000 – 800,000, the extraordinarily rare, original manuscript map of costal California is signed by Miguel de Costansó (1741-1814), a Catalan cartographer, cosmographer, and engineer for the Portola Expedition who created the map, and dated Mexico, October 30, 1770. It is the first map to depict San Francisco Bay and marks the beginning of the Spanish settlement in the state. The map exists in three versions: an early version in manuscript, not showing San Francisco Bay, this version in manuscript, and the 1771 printed map produced in Spain from this version.
An incredible selection of Americana also highlights the sale including a subpoena for then President Thomas Jefferson, the first to be issued to a sitting president, to produce evidence in the case of treason against Aaron Burr, one of the earliest and most prominent tests of the concept now known as executive privilege. Burr, the third Vice-President of the United States and a Founding Father, was arrested and accused of High Treason for his role in a wild conspiracy attempting to raise an army to separate the Louisiana Territory and western states from U.S. rule in 1807. The subpoena gave rise to a host of issues, including executive privilege, equal rights under the law, the independence of the executive branch, as well as the idea of preservation of state secrets. It is estimated at $200,000 – 300,000.
Additional Americana sale highlights:

  • Estimated at $50,000 – 70,000, an important and previously unknown letter written and signed by Frederick Douglass (1817-1895), an American abolitionist and former slave, in 1847. Douglass, who had fled the United States in 1845 for fear of being taken up as a fugitive by his ex-owner. In this letter, Douglass, returning for the first time to America as a free man, vividly and poignantly describes his mistreatment during his return voyage aboard the Cambria – a pivotal experience in his life.
  • Additionally of importance in American history, an incredibly rare copy of the first federal copyright law signed in 1790 by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) as the first United States Secretary of State, which laid the foundation of American copyright law, spurring 230 years of innovation and creating the framework for modern intellectual property law in the 21st century, estimated at $100,000 – 150,000.

The sale will also feature material related to exploration and travel literature including:

  • Thesaurus rei herbariae by Johann Wilhelm Weinmann (1683-1741), a German apothecary and botanist known his influential masterwork Phytanthoza iconographia (1737-1745) which contained more than 1,000 hand-colored engravings of several thousand plants. Estimated at $40,000 – 60,000, this manuscript is a rare and valuable record of plants cultivated in the early 18th century, based on Weinmann's own collection.
  • Three rare photograph albums featuring the work of British photographer JohnClaude White (1853-1918), including the personal journal in photographs of his son-in-law Henry Hyslop during their expedition to the coronation of the King of Bhutan in 1907, estimated at $30,000 – $40,000.