The headline lot in the December 13 Books and Manuscripts sale, with an estimate of £600,000-900,000, was pulled at the eleventh hour “pending further research”, according to Christie’s.
In recent weeks a group of academics and dealers in the US suggested that the map – the first ever to use the name ‘America’ – might be a copy.
Three points of evidence were particularly problematic for a supposed woodblock print: areas where the printed image was either quite heavy or missing altogether; the over-printing of glue on the paper surface and the ghostly line in the image that appears to replicate a tear.
Nick Wilding, a rare-book expert at Georgia State University, believes the white line in Christie’s map follows a historic repair in an authentic print residing in the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota.
Another version of the map in Munich in the Bavarian State Library is also understood to carry this ‘tear’ line and it too will now come under scrutiny. It was bought by the library from the estate of the dealer-collector HP Kraus in 1991.
Christie’s map came with relatively little in the way of provenance. It was consigned over the counter from a gentleman who inherited it from a British paper restorer.
The auction house made the decision to withdraw the map after Wilson travelled to Minnesota to review the two maps side by side.