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A 16th century view of North America in the Vallard Atlas

vallard atlas north America

The prolific Dieppe school of Northern France produced some of the atlases with the most innovative and beautiful marginalia. The Vallard Atlas, which was made in 1547 and ascribed to the Dieppe cartography school, has a clearly Portuguese flavour due to either its anonymous creator or the model that inspired it. Like the Miller Atlas, one of its most noteworthy characteristics are the miniatures depicting colonization scenes from the 16th century, plus countless illustrations of the daily life of the native population.

The scene above shows the second American map, which is of the East Coast of North America, and is one of the most significant of the Vallard Atlas. It is again oriented to the South and has the latitude markers and distance scales in the left and right margins. In the Atlantic, almost in the center of the map, is one beautiful ship, partially surrounded by compass roses, exuding rhumb lines.

But what makes this map particularly important is its display of the geographical information brought back from the New World by the expeditions of Jacques Cartier in 1534, 1535-1536, and 1541-1542. Detailed are the Gulf of St Lawrence and the St Lawrence River and some of the wilderness beyond them, discovered and explored by Cartier in search of the elusive Northwest Passage to the Orient and who gave Canada its name. The meticulous representation of the coastlines with their numerous inlets underscores Canada’s potential for fishing and trade. He also reported fully on the Indians of the many tribes that he encountered. Shown in the forests of the mainland in an exquisite, almost late Medieval manner are Cartier, his well armed explorer-colonists, and the winter fort of Sainte-Croix. The Indians, who clearly are overshadowed by the Europeans, also are present observing them, hunting deer, and warring with each other. In addition to the deer, other fauna such as dogs, bears, and possums or foxes are present as well. This map is an aesthetic testimonial to the increasing French presence in the North Atlantic in the sixteenth century. ~ excerpt from the Commentary volume of the Vallard Atlas, by Dennis Reinhartz (Emeritus professor at the University of Texas in Arlington).

You can learn more about the Vallard Atlas and see more images from Moleiro.com

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