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Mapping the Pacific Coast:   Coronado to Lewis and Clark, the Quivira Collection
By Henry Wendt
Illustrated. 107 pp.
Sonoma County Museum. US$20.00

Mapping the Pacific Coast: Coronado to Lewis and Clark is a gorgeous book based on the Sonoma County Museum's Quivira collection of old and rare Pacific Coast maps. Henry Wendt, the collector, is a lifelong lover of maps. In them, he sees the stories of exploration and of explorers and conquistadors who were driven by ambition, greed and curiosity to travel thousands of miles from home on uncertain seas.

These maps are pieces of art. Beautifully and richly decorated, each map is unique in its style, reflecting the skills and predilections of its maker. An example is the first map made that was devoted to the Pacific Ocean. This map, which appeared in Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius' popular atlas, was created in 1589. With its rich reds and greens, graceful script, and delicate rendering of an image of Ferdinand Magellan's flagship Victoria, it is a fine example of these early maps, which were, without exception, a blend of science, information, and art.

Cartographers from the 1500s to the 1800s are represented in Mapping the Pacific Coast. This time span is the era of European exploration. A tremendous growth in the knowledge of geography occurred at this time. Large, previously blank portions of the globe were meticulously and methodically filled in by explorers and cartographers. Their depictions were sometimes erroneous, sometimes creative. In Ortelius' map of the Pacific mentioned above, Antarctica is shown as much larger than it actually is. Even though explorers hadn't sized it yet, they believed that it had to be large enough for the southern hemisphere to have an equivalent landmass to the northern hemisphere. They believed that if the northern and southern landmasses were unequal, the Earth would wobble on its axis. Since the Earth didn't wobble on its axis (that they could perceive, at any rate--it actually does wobble), they deduced that there must be a large piece of land at the southern hemisphere, balancing it out.

The maps in Mapping the Pacific Coast are accompanied by much interesting historical storytelling. For example, the long-held but mistaken belief that California was an island is described in this book, along with maps showing the mistake. Mapping the Pacific Coast also includes some artwork of the explorers, depicting realistic portrayals of the lands and people they encountered. This book, a collaborative result of efforts by Henry Wendt and the Sonoma County Museum in California, makes an informed, detailed, and perceptive treatment of its topic.

In addition to collecting maps, Henry Wendt is co-proprietor, with his wife, of the Quivira Estate Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma Valley, California.

Sylvia Breau, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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