Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

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Willem Janszoon, or Blaeu as he was later to be known, had been issuing separately published maps since 1604. The only atlases he was producing at this time were of the sea. In 1606 he produced this CLASSIC SINGLE SHEET MAP OF THE WORLD on Mercator’s projection. This map arguably more than any other helped to popularise the by now nearly fifty year old projection. It is celebrated as one of the supreme examples of the map maker’s art’ (Shirley). Schilder praises the map very highly stating that the “balanced composition and elegant ornamentation make this world map one of the small masterpieces of the seventeenth century”.

Cartographically it is drawn from Blaeu’s own double-hemispheric projection 20-sheet wall map, the sole surviving example is in the Hispanic Society of America, New York, in rather poor condition. Its engraver is believed to be Joshua van den Ende who also produced this single sheet map. The wall map was published at the behest of the Dutch States-General who encouraged Blaeu to utilise the very latest knowledge. As a result it is the most accurate world map published to date. Because Mercator’s projection particularly distorted the higher latitudes Blaeu incorporates in the lower corners two hemispherical maps of the Polar Regions. It is dedicated to Cornelis Pietersz Hooft (1547-1626) a wealthy administrator and merchant in Amsterdam. At the same time Blaeu was working on a four-sheet version also in Mercator’s projection. This map was known in just two examples prior to the Second World War and both were lost in the conflict. In 1980 the four map sheets alone were discovered in Berne, Switzerland.

In 1617 the results of Jacob le Maire and Willem Cornelisz Schouten’s voyage around Cape Horn became known. They showed that Tierra del Fuego was an island and not connected to the unknown southern continent. Owing to law suits that were filed between the Australian Company and the Dutch East India Company, Blaeu was legally barred from incorporating this new information on his maps and globes in July 1617. This restriction was not lifted until August of the following year. Blaeu immediately updated this work to include ‘Fretum Magalanicum’ and ‘State landt’.

The first three states of the map were separately published and as such are of extreme rarity. It is the fourth state which was incorporated into Blaeu’s first folio terrestrial atlas, the ‘Atlantis Appendix’ of 1630. This fifth state is not noted by Shirley and reinstates the land connection on the west coast of Terra del Fuego to the southern continent. This was Blaeu’s first attempt at a world atlas, largely instigated by his purchase in 1629 of a number of Jodocus Hondius’ plates, and in the following years he would experiment with various formats. The ‘Atlas Novus’ as it would become was issued from 1635 to 1658 expanding along the way to consist of six volumes. This map’s popularity rests on its association with arguably the greatest Dutch cartographer of all time. One of the classic features of the map is the four decorative border panels. Above are seven allegorical images of the sun, moon and the five planets known. The left side features four vignettes of the elements – Fire, Air, Water and Earth. The right displays the four seasons. Matching the seven vignettes above are seven below of the wonders of the world. Schilder in his ‘Monumenta’ IV details magnificently the origin of much of this imagery. Blaeu died in 1638 and the business passed to his sons, Cornelis and Joan. The latter particularly carried the family name and was the driving force behind the multi-volume ‘Atlas Major’. Provenance: private English collection since the 1970s. Van der Krogt (1997-2003) 0001:2A; Shirley (1984) 255, state 5 (not listed); Schilder (1993) 10.4 pp. 41, 171-83; Schilder (2000) 1.4 pp. 86-9.

BLAEU, Willem Jansz

Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula

Amsterdam, 1606-[c.1640]
410 x 550 mm., in early wash colour, light even toning, narrow margins upper edge, a slight area of offset in upper central vignette otherwise a good example.
Stock number: 6212
$ 9,500
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