Joan Blaeu inherited the successful cartographic publishing house in 1638 on the death of his father, Willem Blaeu in 1638. His greatest achievement was no doubt the ‘Atlas Major’, arguably the finest atlas ever printed. He was given his father’s role as the Dutch East India Company’s (VOC) cartographer on 23 November 1638. It was a position he held until his death in 1673. This position gave him access to all the logs, journals, and sketches of all the company’s ships on their return to Holland.
These charts were highly prized and strict control was required of them. Part of this process was the introduction of inventory lists in 1655. Each vessel was equipped with specific instruments and sets of charts. These were checked out and again on arrival in Batavia, the VOC’s capital in the East Indies. There were penalties incurred for missing or damaged items. An example of this pre-printed list is illustrated as figure 3 in Schilder’s article published in Imago Mundi in 1976. A translation into English of the charts appears in the same piece. Each vessel was supplied with 34 manuscript charts.
This chart was almost certainly produced for the VOC, it matches item 31 on the VOC list listed as Java as plotted on the chart by Schilder. Supporting evidence for this appeared at Sotheby’s auction on 27 June 1994 as lot 300. This lot consisted of three manuscript charts produced by Isaak de Graaf c.1735 for the VOC. One of these is identical in format to this example.
Krakatoa is easily identified in the Sunda Strait and inland detail is confined to schematic profiles of mountains. The iconic Buddhist temple at Borobudur is also illustrated near the south cost of Java. The imprint at the top reads ‘1672 Joan Blaeu. Mot Octroy Van de Ho: Mo: H: Staten Gonor. Der vereenigde NeederLandon’. The same year that he produced this chart a devastating fire destroyed the Bloemgracht factory. Almost all the sheets and plates were destroyed, the devastated Joan died the following year. Koeman (1967-70 I pp. 68-9; Schilder (1976) Imago Mundi 28 pp. 61-78; Schilder & Kok (2010) p. 413, item 7.05.