Auctions | March 20, 2014

Christie’s to Sell Trove of Rare Maps from Legendary Chicago Dealer Kenneth Nebenzahl

New York—Serious map collectors and geography buffs alike will find something to pique their interest in a special sale of rare maps from the dealer Kenneth Nebenzahl, Inc., at Christie’s New York on April 1. After more than 55 years in the business as a leading scholar and dealer in the fields of Americana, travel, exploration and cartography, Kenneth Nebenzahl is looking forward to traveling just for the pleasure of it.

The 180-lot sale is led by an extremely fine first edition 15th-century hand-colored Ptolemaic map (pictured above, estimate $180,000-$240,000). Executed in 1482 in Ulm, Germany, just a decade before Columbus’ famous voyage, the map is the first Ptolemaic world map to be printed outside of Italy, the first made from a fine woodcut, and the first signed by the artist (Johannes Schnitzer of Armsheim). Significantly, this map is also the first to show Greenland and Scandinavia in a Ptolemaic world view. Featuring vibrant rich hues in a contemporary hand, it is highly sought-after because of its decorative quality, striking typography and fine woodcut borders and initials.

Another extremely rare lot is a pair of English Regency period globes—one terrestrial, the other celestial—by cartographer, engraver, globe maker and publisher, John Cary, the elder, and his brother William, who were among the most successful in the thriving trade during this period of active exploration. Earlier globes often carried obsolete geographical or astronomical information, while Cary's globes, made in 1815 and 1819, incorporated many exciting contemporary geographical discoveries. The terrestrial sphere shows the routes of James Cook and his followers, and traces the routes of the 18th-century explorers of the North Pacific, with important new information on the American northwest and the Asian northeast coast, plus the Northwest Passage by W.E. Perry. The celestial globe includes some 3,500 stars, more than any previous globe. Both are executed in handsome mahogany with three turned, tapering reeded legs with brass caps and castors, which are joined by a circular brass compass with original needles and engraved paper dial.

The sale offers an opportunity for new collectors to get a head start on a well-rounded collection, or for established map enthusiasts to fill gaps in their own collections, with price points for nearly any collector. The 180 lots are organized by region, representing maps from the 15th-19th centuries of the Americas, Asia and the Holy Lands, Europe, Africa, Australia and the Arctic regions, plus world maps and a selection of celestial maps, title pages and portraits.

Selected Highlights

  • BLAEU, WILLEM (1571-1638). China Verteribus Sinarum Region Nunc Incolis Tame Dicta. Amsterdam: ca. 1640. Blaeu’s map of the eastern part of China including the Great Wall, Korea as an island, and the three main islands of Japan. It also shows the mythical “Chiamay Lacus” (or “Lake of Chiang Mai”) in the southern part of the map, and features many rivers flowing south into India and Siam. In the lower right are the coat-of-arms of Theodore Bas, the dedicatee and a director of the Dutch East India Company.

Estimate: $800-$1,200

  • ORTELIUS, ABRAHAM (1527-1598). Typus Orbis Terrarum. Antwerp: 1587 [1592]. The map features a galleon and sea monsters in the ocean. Ortelius’s third world map, dated 1587, includes geographical revisions based on Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the earth from 1577-1580. The updated map corrects the shape of South America and it notes the Solomon Isles for the first time.

Estimate: $6,000-$8,000

  • ORTELIUS, ABRAHAM (1527-1598). Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio. Antwerp, 1579/84. Ortelius’s map of the Americas is one of the most recognizable maps of the western hemisphere of the 16th-century. The map first appeared in 1570 and underwent 3 major revisions over the next 42 years. The present copy, the 1584 Latin edition, is the second issue, identifiable by the large ship in the Pacific, which is sailing eastward.

Estimate: $3,000-$4,000

  • JODE, CORNELIUS DE (1568-1600). NOVAE GUINEAE FORMA & SITUS.ANTWERP, 1593. THE FIRST PRINTED MAP OF AUSTRALIA. “Though this copperplate has New Guinea as its title and shows also the Solomon Islands, the whole of the lower half of the map depicts an entirely imaginary northern coast of Australia with vignettes of a native with bow and arrow attacking a gryphon, a snake and a lion” (Tooley). The map appears for the first time in the second edition of De Jode’s atlas issued by his son Cornelius Speculum Orbis Terrae Antwerp, 1593.

Estimate: $5,000-$7,000

Auction: Rare Maps from Kenneth Nebenzahl, Inc. April 1 at 5 pm 

Viewing: Christie’s NY Rockefeller Galleries March 28-April 1