The New World




Balboa and





Orontius Finaeus-Double Cordiform Projection

(Paris 1531)


One of the most compelling questions facing mapmakers in the first decades after Columbus was that of the relationship of the New World to the Orient.  The question almost always pertained to North America since South America had grown on its own as truly a new world.  If South America bore any continuity with the Orient,  it was only via Central and North America.  With this map,  Finaeus adopts a different and radical stance.  North and Central/South America are each individual extensions of Asia.  This is the completion of a cycle that began late in the previous century with the demise of the old landbridge connecting Southeast Asia to Africa on Ptolemaic maps.  After the Portuguese succeeded in reaching the Indian Ocean by way of Africa,  some cartographers opened the landbridge but left its residue in the form of a large "extra" Southeast Asian Peninsula.  Here in the final phase,  Finaeus transforms this earlier vestige of Ptolemy's Africa-Asia landbridge into the "true" Central and South America.  Thus there are three Asian Peninsulas in Finaeus' Indian Ocean (upper left);  India,  Malay Peninsula,  and Central/South America.  North America extends further counter-clockwise,  also as part of Asia.  The main forces that substantiated these theories for Finaeus were the expeditions of Vasco Nunez de Balboa,  who transversed the Central American isthmus in 1513,  and Ferdinand Magellan,  whose completed his circumnavigation of the earth in 1521*.   Magellan's voyage clearly was one of the most staggering achievements of navigation,  but Finaeus' map,  while strongly influenced by it,  equally demonstrates how poorly it was understood.  Thus Finaeus held the belief that Central And North America were part of Asia and we STILL find place-names of the Orient mixed in with those of America.


Like his southern continent,  Finaeus' depiction of Greenland is extraordinary.  While many contemporary maps show it as a peninsula of Europe or Asia,  he shows it correctly as an island and in remarkably accurate fashion.  Even the island's westerly bulge above Baffin Bay is primitively represented.  North of Greenland,  Finaeus shows the Arctic region as four large islands following a concept originating in the fourteenth century and used by Ruysch in 1507.


* In 1511 Magellan sailed East to the East Indies.  His return trip to Spain must be considered his first leg around the world.  In 1519 he sailed West,  reaching the East Indies in 1521 and thus completing the 2nd leg of the circumnavigation.  Therefore he became the first man to circumnavigate the world....starting from the East Indies  in 1511 and ending there in 1521.  Magellan died in the East Indies and his crew under Juan Sebastian El Encano returned to Spain becoming the second circumnavigation of the world.