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JANSSON, Jan

(Novus Atlas sive Theatrum Orbis Terrarum -'Belgii, Britannia, Norvegie')

Amsterdam, c.1652
Folio (475 x 315 mm.), early half calf binding, thick boards, marbled paper boards, rebacked preserving original spine, spine with gilt and blind ruled compartments, calf gilt title label affixed. With 97 maps, many laid on contemporary paper, NO TEXT on the verso, very sharp impressions, in good condition.
Johannes Janssonius (1596-1664) was the great rival of the Blaeu family of publishers. In 1630 Blaeu published his ‘Appendix’ which was a challenge to the pre-dominance of the Mercator-Hondius atlases of the day. A publishing race ensued and Jodocus Hondius joined forces with Janssonius who co-published and distributed the ‘Atlas Novus’. It was expanded over the years to six volumes and eventually formed 12 volumes in the ‘Atlas Major’.

This volume is notable for having NO TEXT on the verso. Skelton states on page 83 ‘the maps were also printed (probably continuously from 1646) without text on the back’. It’s composition is also unusual, not matching any of the volumes of the ‘Atlas Novus’. It consists of three geographical sections; the Low Countries consisting of 36 maps, the British Isles in 52 maps and that of Scandinavia consisting of 9 maps. This is quite likely the second volume as the manuscript pagination begins with 97 and runs consecutively through the British section to 186. Those of Scandinavia run from 112 to 120. Clearly the atlas has been reconstructed. It is also notable that a small wormhole appears right through the British section into some of the Low Countries. This curiously only appears on the left side of the map indicating that these two sections were originally sidebound.

The construction of the British section is interesting. It consists of just 52 maps, the first complete edition of 1644 contained 56. The differences are notable. Five maps are omitted; the Fens, the islands, the Channel Islands, Lothien and the Orkneys. One extra map is ‘Cambriae Typus’ was first published in the historical atlas of 1652. It is also noteworthy that the Somerset and Merionith and Montgomery are in proof states as issued in the Dutch edition of 1644. In 1640 Janssonius began work on a volume covering England and Wales. Progress was slow and it was not until the competition of Blaeu’s own atlas of England and Wales published in 1645 that Janssonius pushed his to completion the following year. The volume is finished with 9 maps of Scandinavia.

Some conclusions can likely be made. The collection was put together either at the publishers or over a period of time as loose maps. The presence of the Welsh map, first issued in 1652, with consecutive numeration and the worm hole indicates that they were sidebound after that date. Later still they were rebound in a different order, in the normal folio manner, most likely in this binding which may well be early eighteenth century. An interesting bibliographical story. Provenance: Norwich Public Library; private English collection. Keuning (1947). ‘The History of an Atlas. Mercator-Hondius’, in ‘Imago Mundi’ 4, pp. 37-62; Koeman (1967-70) volume II pp. 395; Krogt (1997-2010) volume I pp. 238, 657-70; Skelton (1970) no. 34 and pp. 225-6.
Stock number: 9773

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