Every few years, a cartobibliographic work is produced that is incontrovertibly the definitive work on the subject, and likely to remain so for many decades. In the first of two planned volumes, Philip Burden has combed and expanded the records of maps of North America. We are told that under worldwide scrutiny, those extreme rarities that he may have missed can be counted on one hand. Not bad sleuthing; the author has rounded up over 99% of the suspects. While the theme focuses on printed maps depicting any part of North America, the precursors, including reference to pre-Columbian voyages and maps of the encounter period, are noted in an extensive introductory section.
As a demonstration of the exhaustive coverage, Burden has identified thirteen states of Munster's Novae Insulae of the Americas, which appeared in four languages with different titles: Die neüwe Inselen …, La table des Isles neufes …, Tavola dell'isole nuoue …. These maps, exhibiting the "Verrazano Sea" are distinguished from the 1588+ Petri editions of Americae Sive No =/vi Orbis … where it is absent; details for identifying the issues to 1628 are provided. The charts and appendices set the standard for this kind of work. Included are family trees of derivative maps, a list of "lost" maps, California as an island (well covered beyond 1670 by McLaughlin), the first appearance of important place names, a chronology of events, a list of entries, and most important, a title index. This book is a must on the bookshelf of anyone even remotely interested in the early mapping of North America. In most instances, the "Burden" reference is checked and provided in this Price Record when the maps are offered for sale.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to many copies. This is in the construction of the book which weighs in at over 8 pounds (4 kg). Printed in Hong Kong, the signatures are beginning to separate where glued after less than two years of frequent use. The value of the reference is such that many owners will consider rebinding it when the time should arrive. In the meantime, readers can look forward with great anticipation to Volume Two. Without doubt attention will be paid to the physical integrity of the book because the period from 1670 to 1700 will be of at lease equal interest to aficionados and collectors as these are the maps that are still relatively obtainable. We can't wait. Bravo, Philip Burden.
Jon K. Rosenthal, 1998
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