The oldest map of North America—including New York—is slated to go on sale at TEFAF, an Amsterdam-based arts fair, for a cool $10 million. Of course, the vintage map is basically completely inaccurate, but it’s still cool, right?
Here’s the history of the map: In 1531, a Genoese cartographer named Vesconte Maggiolo sketched out the first known map of America’s eastern seaboard on goatskin parchment. This was a few years after Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed into New York Bay, becoming the first European to see the Hudson River. (Henry Hudson, who arrived some 80 years after, gets all the fame and glory. Not fair.) Some historians think Maggiolo must have been a shipmate of Verrazzano, but there is no direct evidence for this claim.
At any rate, Verrazzano has been largely forgotten, and an attempt in the ‘70s to reintroduce him to the collective memory of New York failed miserably—the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a misspelling of his name (there are supposed to be two Zs). While a campaign to correct the typo of the beautiful bridge launched this June, it’s gathered little support.
And though there are a comedy of errors on Maggiolo’s map—including the non-existent Sea of Verrazzano and unicorns—it is a significant historical document nonetheless. If it sells for $10 million, it will be the most expensive map ever. And hey, it’s still more realistic than that subway map with the Second Avenue subway on it.
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