THE FIRST PRINTED SEA CHART OF IRELAND. Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer (c.1553-1606) was one of many Dutchmen who sailed the trading waters from Holland as far afield as Spain and the Baltic Sea. He retired from the sea in 1579 and began production of sea charts using the knowledge he had gained. Part one of the ‘Spieghel der Zeevaerdt’ was published to critical acclaim in 1583, the second part followed in 1585. Schilder states that it ‘was from every point of view a spectacular achievement for its time and was published in many subsequent editions in Dutch, French and Latin’.
Although the work contained eight charts of England and Scotland there were however none relating to Ireland. First published by Christopher Plantin in Leyden it was taken over by Cornelis Claesz in 1589 with future editions being printed in Amsterdam. In 1596 he issued the ‘Nieuwen Speighel der Zeevaert’ with expanded text and two new charts, one of which is this, the first sea chart of Ireland. It is the work of Willem Barents (c.1550-97). Barents was born on Terschelling around 1550 and became along with Waghenaer one of the best known pilots of the Low Countries. His fame rests on his famous third arctic voyage of 1596-97 on the return from which he died. It is not known for sure that Barents sailed to the Irish coast in his lifetime but it seems highly likely. The cartography bears no relation to that of any identified earlier printed map and must have been drawn from manuscript material, most likely his own. The engraver was Pieter van den Keere whose own map of 1591 surviving in just three known examples bears no resemblance.
The spur for the maps production was undoubtedly the Nine Years War in Ireland begun in 1594 as a rebellion by Lords O’Neill and O’Donnell with sporadic support from the Spanish. In the year of this maps inclusion the Spanish attempted another armada which was destroyed off the coast of northern Spain in a storm. The chart shows the southern coast of Ireland from Dundalk in the north to Kinsale in the south. Identifiable are Dubling (Dublin), Westfoert (Wexford), Waterveer (Waterford) and Korck (Cork). An inset focuses on the west coast of Ireland from Lemrick (Limerick) north to Galway. The whole is beautifully engraved by van den Keere including ornate cartouche and scale. Four compass roses, sea monsters and ships finish off the map. There are considerable depth soundings recorded, sandbanks landmarks and even coastal profiles.
Following the Dutch edition of 1596 it was issued with French text in 1600. It is in this edition that the present map is found. An extremely rare chart. Howgego (2003) B21-23; Koeman (1967-70) IV p. 21, Wag 11A no. 47; Koeman (1970) Bibliographical Note to the facsimile edition of Barents’ ‘Caertboeck vande Midlandtsche Zee’; Schilder (2007) Monumenta VII pp. 55-6 fig. 3.14; Schilder (2007) Monumenta VIII pp. 114, 337-40 fig. 20.3; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).