As increasing geographic detail filled the previously empty spaces on maps, opportunities for incorporating decorative elements into the map itself diminished correspondingly. It was inevitable that artistically inclined mapmakers would look to the borders as blank canvases. The decorative borders thus constituted a frame for the geographic picture. Furthermore, appropriately designed images could create a conceptual setting for the geography and provide supplementary information such as pictures of inhabitants and their customs, and of the fauna, flora, and natural resources of the lands portrayed Alternatively, the decorative imagery could be unrelated to the geography and be devoted to scientific exposition or allegorical themes, or could simply be a visual catalog of informa­tion concerning the universe or the human condition.

The format of the border decorations, initially free-form with one image merging into another to fill the available space surrounding the map itself, gradually became more compartmentalized and culminated in a formalized arrangement of paneled vignettes on three or four sides of the map. This format, termed "carte d. figure," first appeared on early seventeenth century Dutch wall maps, and was subsequently widely used on smaller maps in various countries.

16. Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula

This is one of the masterpieces of the greatest period of Dutch cartography. It combines accurate, up-to-date geography with ornate and elaborate design to create an image that is both informative and aesthetically pleasing. Recent geographic concepts - both correct and erroneous - are depicted, including California as an island; in addition, newly established North American colonies are recorded, including "Pleymouth" and Virginia. The beautifully engraved and brilliantly colored borders are rich in symbolism. The four classical elements (fire, air, water, and earth) are personified, as are the continents in a vignette at the lower center, showing Europe as an enthroned queen receiving tribute from the other continents. In the corners are finely engraved miniature portraits of Julius Caesar, Claudius Ptolemy, Gerardus Mercator, and Jodocus Hondius, the mapmaker's father.

Henricus Hondius (Dutch, 1597-1651)
Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula (Amsterdam, 1630)
Engraving, hand colored
Osher Collection

17. A New and Accurat Map of the World

Geographically, this map is almost identical to the previous one. The border decorations, however, are less artistic and more scientific and the engraving is considerably less refined The four elements are portrayed in a relatively crude fashion. Similarly, four miniature portraits, now of the circumnavigators (Magellan, Drake, Cavendish, and van Noort), are less competently rendered. The remaining border areas are devoted to astronomical illustrations, including celestial hemispheres with attractive delineations of the constellations and zodiacal symbols, a diagram of an earth-centered solar system (including the "Christaline and first moveable Heav­ens"), proof of "the sphearical roundnes of the sea," and eclipses of the sun and moon. In contrast to the vivid colors of the preceding map, the muted colors of this map are in keeping with its scientific emphasis.

John Speed (English, 1552-1629)
A New and Accurat Map of the World. From, A Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World (London, 1676)
Engraving, hand colored
Smith Collection

18. Planiglobii Terrestris cum utroq Hemisphaerio Caelesti generalis exhibitio

Advances in geographical knowledge are reflected here in the rejoining of California to the North American mainland and in the emerging outlines of Australia. Two putti (winged cherubic infants) support the banner title, and numerous ornamental cherubic windheads are responsible for chaotic winds, in contrast to their early Renaissance function of indicating specific wind directions. Celestial hemispheres are present, similar to those on the previous map. However, the emphasis of the decorative elements is clearly on natural phenomena. Climatic zones are indicated around the circumference of the hemispheres, and prevailing marine winds are shown. The sun, moon, and stars, appropriately colored, occupy the upper corners. Diagrams surmounting the terrestrial hemispheres depict the relationships of sun and earth in summer and winter. Natural phenomena of all types are graphically illustrated, including rain, snow, strong winds, lightning, a rainbow, a whirl­pool, waterspouts, the ebb and flow of the tides, a flood, an earthquake, and the eruption of Mount Etna.

Johann Baptist Homann (German, 1663-1724)
Planiglobii Terrestris cum utroq Hemisphaerio Caelesti generalis exhibitio (Nuremberg, about 1730)
Engraving, hand colored
Smith Collection

19. Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula

This map, an example of the formal paneled border, or "carte a figure" format, is copied from the Blaeu map of 1606, considered by many to be one of the highest achievements in the art of mapmaking. It is geographically advanced, incorporating informa­tion from the latest discoveries and utilizing a rectangular grid (Mercator projection) for ease of navigation. The seas are embellished with ships and sea battles, sea monsters, and a native canoe; there are several examples of elegant swash lettering. Intricately engraved panels frame the map on all four sides. Across the top, the "seven planets" (actually the five known planets, the sun, and the moon) are represented by mythological gods and goddesses. On the right side are allegorical representations of the seasons, and on the left, personifications of the four elements. Along the bottom are vignettes of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Pieter Kaerius (Dutch, 1571-1646)
Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula (Amsterdam, 1608/31)
Engraving, hand colored
Osher Collection

20. America noviter delineata

This map of the Americas with three paneled borders is another example of the carte a figure format. Views and plans of an Indian village and five early Colonial settlements are arrayed across the top, while the side panels depict costumed natives of various parts of the Americas. Ships and sea monsters dot the seas, and tiny native figures, including a Patagonian giant, inhabit the interior of South America. Maps such as this often provided Europeans with their first concrete impressions of the New World and its inhabit­ants. The origin of some of the panel vignettes is illustrated in the display case in this gallery.

Jodocus Hondius (Flemish, 1563-1612)
America noviter delineata (Amsterdam, 1632)
Engraving, hand colored
Osher Collection