Then with colours and golde shall you garnyshe and beautifie the Cities, Compasses, Shyppes, and other parts of the Carde. Then shall you set forth the coastes with greene, . . . and make them fayre to syght with a Utile saffron . . . . Richard Eden, The Arte of Navigation (London, 1561)

Prior to the advent of printing, hand-drawn maps were intended for, and often commissioned by, monarchs, nobles, or prelates, and were elaborately colored in the tradition of illuminated manu­scripts. Medieval cartographers introduced the use of color as an information-carrying convention by reserving certain colors for specific geographic features: blue for water, dark green for woods, brown for roads, and red for buildings and towns. This practice continued after printed woodcut maps came into use in the fifteenth century, when heavy wash colors were sometimes added for adornment.

During the middle of the sixteenth century, copperplate engraving was perfected by the Italians and became the preferred technique for map printing; maps were then appreciated for their fine engraving and were usually left uncolored. Leadership in map-making passed to the Low Countries in the late sixteenth century. The Flemish and Dutch, with their strong tradition of landscape painting, created elegantly engraved and highly decorative maps and embellished them with refined and delicate hand coloring. Most of the colors were water-based and composed of well-known ingredients; a few remain "trade secrets" to this day.

Map illumination, or limning, was developed to a high level of artistry and became a respected profession represented by artists' guilds; the creator of the first modern atlas, Abraham Ortelius, started his career as a map colorist The skill of these artists is evident in the richness and vibrancy of their creations after more than three hundred years.

4. Carte de la Nouvelle France

This intricately engraved map showing the region from Labrador to New Mexico contains an extraordinary amount of information. The minute geographic detail is supplemented by numerous historical and explanatory notes, and vignettes of Indian stockades, fauna, and scenes of native life. A large inset in the upper left de­picts detailed geography of the Mississippi Delta, and two small insets in the lower right present a view of the city of Quebec and a plan of its environs. The map was intended to promote French commercial and political interests, and relegates the English colonies to a relatively narrow zone along the east coast In spite of the crisp engraving, it is difficult to extract information from the mass of detail.

Henri Chatelain (French, 1684-1743)
Carte de la Nouvelle France. From, Atlas Historique (Amsterdam, 1732)
Osher Collection

5. Carte de la Nouvelle France

This is the same map as the preceding one in fine original hand color. In addition to being more beautiful, the map is infinitely easier to "read." The topographical features are more clearly de­fined, and the vignettes are highlighted. Colonial boundaries, des­ignated only by obscure engraved lines on the uncolored version, are now immediately obvious. The decorative borders of the insets are more easily identified, especially that on the upper left.

Henri Chatelain (French, 1684-1743)
Carte de la Nouvelle France. From, Atlas Historique (Amsterdam, 1719)
Engraving, hand colored
Osher Collection

6. Novus Planiglobii Terrestris per utrumque Polum conspectus

This map is of geographical interest because of the unusual polar hemispherical projections and the depiction of California as an is­land. Only the continental land-masses and major islands are col­ored, in accordance with the practice of some colorists. The decorative borders, while handsomely designed and engraved, are subordinated to the geography.

Gerard Valck (Dutch, about 1650-1726)
Novus Planiglobii Terrestris per utrumque Polum conspectus (Amsterdam, about 1695)
Engraving, hand colored in part
Osher Collection

7. Novus Planiglobii Terrestris per utrumque Polum conspectus

Indicative of the artistic independence enjoyed by colorists, this copy has received entirely different treatment from the identical map preceding. The geographic hemispheres are entirely colored, using a different color scheme and including small islands, ships, and compass roses. The decorative border is also fully colored, with the title banner unfurled against a sky featuring a resplendent golden sun, clouds, stars, and a pale crescent moon. In the lower right comer, an apparently contented Adam gazes heavenward from a Garden of Eden filled with docile animals, including a unicorn. In the lower left comer lies a guilt-ridden Adam with a remorseful Eve after expulsion to a desolate land The additional color has produced a more decorative map with more forceful imagery.

Gerard Valck (Dutch, about 1650-1726)
Novus Planiglobii Terrestris per utrumque Polum conspectus (Amsterdam, about 1695)
Engraving, hand colored in full
Smith Collection