American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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California as an Island

Map of Baja California Shown as an Island
Johannes Vingboons
[Map of Baja California Shown as an Island], 1639
Manuscript map
Geography & Map Division
Gift of Henry Harisse, 1915 (110.10)

One of the major geographic misconceptions originating during the discovery and exploration of North America was the depiction of California as an island. Based on erroneous Spanish manuscript accounts, European cartographers began in 1622 to portray the western coast of North America as a separate island. Major publishers, especially the British and the Dutch, accepted this concept well into the early eighteenth century, long after Father Eusebio Kino confirmed during exploration of the American southwest from 1698 to 1701 that California was not an island. Shown here is one of fourteen manuscript maps acquired by the great nineteenth-century collector of Americana, Henry Harisse.

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