II. Preserving an American Treasure


Preserving Old Maps. Before students, researchers, and the public can access old maps, we must first preserve them in a safe, climate-controlled environment. Only in this way can we be certain that the records of the past — both the remarkable and the mundane — will survive to be read in the future.

Wall maps are especially vulnerable to the passage of time. They fade under daylight, they tear under their own weight, they burn readily, and they are easily stained by smoke and water; like tapestries, they are part of the décor and are discarded when no longer fashionable or current. We are therefore very pleased to preserve such a remarkable map as Frederick de Wit’s great 1672 wall map of America (item 4). This map is one of only two copies known in the USA, and one of only seven worldwide. Its many embellishments of sea battles, New World animals, Dutch merchants negotiating with Native Americans, and colonial cities suggest — from the Dutch perspective — the competition for empire in the Americas between the Dutch and the Spanish, part of the ongoing, seventeenth-century hostilities between the two nations. This and other glorious works were hung on the walls of wealthy Dutch merchants and statesmen and so offer us a glimpse of their avid interest in global commerce and empire.

4. Preserving an American Treasure

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Frederick de Wit (1630-1706)
Nova totius Americæ tabula emendata a F. de Wit {New map of all America, corrected by F. de Wit} (Amsterdam, 1672)
Copper engraving in six sheets, plus separately printed title banner on six sheets, side vignettes on eight, and numerous sheets of letterpress text panels, all with hand-applied water color, mounted on linen; 153cm x 197cm
Osher Collection