Nicolas Sanson’s “Gentleman’s Pocket Atlas”



Nicolas Sanson’s Gentleman’s Pocket Atlas

Better grab this one before Rick realizes we moved it out of his office! As seen on “Pawn Stars” a copy of cartographer Nicolas Sanson’s Gentleman’s Pocket Atlas from 1700, published by Francois Halma. It was printed over 300 years ago and it gives a snapshot into what the world looked like in 1700. Each country has a written description of what to expect and advisory on local customs; this item likely accompanied a very wealthy individual on their travels throughout the world, if only this book could talk!

What makes this a highly collectible item is it’s depiction of California as an island, marking one of the great cartographic errors in the history of the New World. Coincidentally, it sparked quite a bit of literary interest as well, being the background for fictional tales about Queen Califia and her Amazonian warriors. The earliest Spanish maps from the 16th century show a continuous coastline, but a Carmelite friar accompanied Sebastian Vizcaíno on his West Coast expedition of 1602-03 and apparently drew a map depicting California as an island around 1620. Plunder was commonplace, and Spanish maps were a hot commodity being that they were a state secret. It’s generally accepted that the Dutch captured a Spanish ship en route, captured their charts and then widely copied them. It’s possible that Spain knew the area was not an island, but it was politically and strategically expedient for others to think it was. It wasn’t until 1747, that King Ferdinand VI of Spain issued a royal decree proclaiming, “California is not an island.”

Nicolas Sanson was one of the foremost French cartographers of the 17th century and is often considered the “father” of French cartography. Born in Abbeville in December 1600, Nicolas Sanson was educated by the Jesuits in nearby Amiens. He studied history, and it is believed that he turned to cartography simply as a means to illustrate history.  His maps soon came to the attention of Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII’s chief minister, and Sanson was asked to tutor the king in geography. − Louis XIII later appointed Sanson “Geographe Ordinaire du Roy” (Geographer to the King). Before passing in 1667, Nicolas Sanson created around 300 maps, two of which were of particular importance: Amerique Septentrionale (1650) and Le Canada ou Nouvelle France (1656).

 Although this atlas is always listed under Nicolas Sanson, the “Pocket Atlas” is essentially Francois Halma’s plagiarized pocket version of the Sanson atlas. The size is reduced from Sanson’s 1658 folio atlas, with the map divided into Continent groups. It was published by Halma in Amsterdam in 1700 under the title of “ Description de tout l’Univers, en plusieurs Cartes, & en divers Traitez de Geographie et d’Histoire.” This translates roughly to “Description of all the Universe, in several Maps, & in various Geography and History.”

The item has 13 pages, experts believe there were 15 originally but the missing pages do not greatly impact it’s value. The covers are slightly scuffed and aged, the contents of the Sanson portion with outer 2½” moderately damp stained, and there are two blank leaves at front with margins chipped and frayed. It measures 9.25” long, 7.5” wide, and 3” thick. The book is housed in a black clamshell case.

This is something people will travel far and wide for but we’ll ship it right to your front door! Make us an offer today!

We welcome all reasonable offers, we will also consider requests for dedications, autographs, and video messages from the “Pawn Stars,” just let us know in your message when you press “Make an Offer”! Yes we do ship International! However we must process your orders manually, please make an offer and include your full shipping address in the message field and we will reply with a shipping quote. Contact us at with any questions regarding this listing. We appreciate your business and look forward to helping you bring a piece of History home!

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