Selections from the Roy V. Boswell Collection for the History of Cartography

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The Exhibit 

This exhibit features a selection of maps depicting California as an Island & Worlds that Never Were.

The name California originated 1510 in a five-volume romance called Las Sergas de Esplandián written by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. In it, the hero’s adventures take him to an island called California ruled by a beautiful Amazon Queen named Calafia. California fit the myths then circulating in Europe: it had plenty of gold, free-loving amazons, strange beasts, and was very difficult to reach. Thereafter, California was represented as an island on maps throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

Cartographers continued to portray California as an Island for another 50 years after Father Eusebio Kino’s map titled "A passage by land to California," in 1705, based on his own travels, dispelled that notion. This cartographic phenomenon, and blunder, continues to intrigue and astound to this day.

Early maps tell us not only what was known at a certain time, but also about that time’s ignorance, misunderstandings, fears, hope, and fantasies. The printed maps of the 16th and 17th centuries exhibited here embody the artistic and decorative styles of Renaissance and Baroque art. They also reveal other themes of the age: the clash and confluence of classical learning and scientific discovery, the opposition between religious tradition and secular autonomy, the liberated imagination versus the pursuit of practical information. Our selections of maps from this period, Worlds that Never Were, seek to explore these narratives amid sea monsters and imaginary worlds.

This exhibit is also in conjunction with Maps and their Geography: Exploring the Past, Present and Future

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About the Roy V. Boswell Collection for the History of Cartography

The Collection for the History of Cartography was founded by Roy V. Boswell and Ernest W. Toy, Jr. in October 1971 to provide a resource for scholarship and education on the history of cartography. The collection is of rare and antiquarian, manuscript and printed geographical maps from the earliest times through the nineteenth century. It also holds reference and scholarly books, pamphlets, and journals on cartography and the History of Geographic Study. The maps are historical documents, many are examples of fine copper engraving and some are artistic.

Over the years the collection has received generous support from the Patrons of the Library, CSU, Fullerton, through its purchase of maps and sponsorship of exhibits, catalogs, and lectures.

The collection was named the Roy V. Boswell Collection for the History of Cartography posthumously in October 1987 in honor of Roy’s vision, curatorship, contributions, and his volunteer service to the University and the collection for 16 years.

About the Curator

Patricia Prestinary is the University Archivist in University Archives and Special Collections.

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Hours Staffed

All display and exhibit spaces are open during regular library operating hours.

Location & Floor Map

First Floor Library North map

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