One valuable atlas: $1.29-million

Sotheby's auctions off the book believed to include the earliest map of any U.S. city.

Published March 16, 2007

JACKSONVILLE - A map of St. Augustine believed to be the earliest printed plan of a U.S. city and four other charts dating to the 16th century were sold for $1.29-million at auction.

The maps were sold to an anonymous bidder on the telephone during a Sotheby's auction in London, a record price for the bound Atlas of England and Wales containing the charts. Sotheby's officials had predicted the sale could bring between $990,000 and $1.38-million.

The St. Augustine map shows Sir Francis Drake's raid there in 1586 and was drawn by Italian draftsman and cartographer Giovanni Battista Boazio, who was aboard one of the Englishman's ships.

A privateer and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, Drake was the first Englishman to sail around the world. She knighted him after his successful voyage and dined with him aboard the Golden Hind in the Thames River.

The St. Augustine map clearly shows the English fleet at anchor in the Atlantic Ocean and others in the inlet into the bay; a lighthouse on Anastasia Island; cannon fire from Anastasia Island and a large fort across the river. It also depicts infantry troops attacking the Spanish settlement.

The fort was one of a series of wooden strongholds that guarded St. Augustine before construction of the coquina Castillo de San Marcos, built in the late 17th century and still standing today.

The maps were bound together in a copy of the first printed Atlas of England and Wales by Christopher Saxon, the father of English cartography.

The maps also contain the first printed appearance of any American natural history subjects. Among the drawings are a lizard and crocodile.

Printed between 1579 and 1590, the hand-colored volume has remained almost untouched for more than two centuries. It includes an engraved portrait of Queen Elizabeth I.