Amsterdam, 1621 or later, but before 1650.
687x868 mm. Copper engraving on parchment. Slightly cropped as is usual and to the right cut about 5 mm into the printed area. The imprint is on some places somewhat weaker and /or the ink has been faded. One small hole (17x14 mm.) in lower portion, inland of Russia, has been filled in. As often, the parchment is a little wavy, with light water staining, usual staining and surface dust.
First state of two. The title and imprint appear in a cartouche, crowned by the printer's mark of Willem Jansz Blaeu [INDEFESSVS AGENDO], at the center of the lower border. Scale cartouches appear in four corners of the chart and richly decorated coats of arms have been engraved in the interior. The chart is oriented to the west.
The chart is printed on parchment and has contemporary colouring with some refreshment of colours.
Parchment was preferred over paper because of its waterproof properties on board of a ship and at display.
The chart shows the sea coasts of Europe from Novaya Zemlya and the Gulf of Sydra in the east, and the Azores and the west coast of Greenland in the west. In the north the chart extends to the northern coast of Spitsbergen, and in the south to the Canary Islands. The eastern part of the Mediterranean is included in the North African interior. Magnificently decorated, there are richly detailed European coats of arms, scale cartouches in the corners, several ships in the waters, a pair of natives in Greenland, and a number of animals portrayed on land, including polar bears and elephants.
Willem Blaeu's chart of 1621 extends much further west than his c.1606 example so that it include the Azores.
A second state of the map was published by Pieter Goos, with an updated address "By Pieter Goos Op't Water". Goos was active at this address from 1650-1666. The present chart must therefore been published in between 1621 and 1650.
Price on request.
That the chart was published in 1621 was no coincidence; hence, the Dutch "West India Company" was founded in that year. The W.I.C. ships bound for New Amsterdam (later becoming New York) and Brazil, but also the V.O.C. ships bound for Batavia (Djakarta), China and Japan (Nagasaki) where in need of accurate charts. Blaeu published in 1621 also his West Indische Paskaert.
This chart of Europe by Blaeu was perhaps the earliest charts of Europe including the waters south of Greenland and including Davis Street, which in part was largely based on Hessel Gerritz (1581-1632) chart of 1612. Importantly Blaeu does no longer include the mythical island "Frislandt", a feature still incorporated on contemporary maps.
Willem Blaeu incorporated 16 names along the western shores of Davis Street.
The Noordsche Compagnie founded in 1614 held the monopoly for whaling in the Arctic waters between the Davis Street and Novaya Zemlya. The company's whale hunters and the growing demand of Dutch mariners for a good sea chart to help in their ever-increasing trade and shipping with northern Russia made it also necessary to include the northern region in the Europe chart.
Novaya Zemlya is depicted in the lower right corner but Willem Blaeu avoids the question if it is an island or connected to the mainland.
This chart of 1621 extend much further west than his c. 1606 example so that it include the Azores. The earliest European ships bound for America took a southern route, but later navigators favored a shorter northern route. Prevailing winds led the way. Navigators later realized the benefits of the shorter northern route. Ships headed to the Scilly Islands and then southwest toward the Azores before heading due west. For better navigation use it was therefore important that the Azores were included in the general chart of Europe.
Because of prevailing westerly winds and the west to east Gulf Stream flow, a return journey to Europe on the northern route was easier than charting a course on the southern sea lane.
The importance of the Azores at that time was connected with the observation of Columbus that compass variation (i.e. the difference between the real and the magnetic north) was minimal in that region. A few places in this group of islands were therefore indicated as the first meridian. It was Willem Blaeu however, who gradually changed his prime meridian in maps and globes from islands in the Azores, to the Peak of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Only in the second half of the 19th century it was internationally agreed that the first meridian should run through Greenwich.
Blaeu's chart greatly influenced other Amsterdam publisher's. Anthonie Jacobsz, for example, published an extremely accurate copy about 1650, Justus Danckerts even included Blaeu's printer’s mark, while the chart published by Willem Blaeu's grandchildren also strongly resembles it.
This newly engraved chart by Willem Blaeu's grandchildren Joan Blaeu II, Willem and Pieter, published in 1677, was newly engraved and shows an updates Iceland, Spitbergen and Statenland but deleted the names along the west coast of Greenland and adds an imaginary coastline in . He also deleted the beautiful scale cartouche, the compass rose and a Dutch trader in Baffin Bay. The two natives from Greenland, two polar bears and several other decorative elements are copied in mirror image. Some minor changes to Europe's mainland are made, but in general it was a faithfully copy of their grandfather's mile stone chart, mainly to please their wealthy customers demand for decorative show pieces.
Other known examples
No example of this first state printed on parchment is kept in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Universiteis bibliotheek has an example printed on paper. In total 8 other complete copies (6 on parchment and 2 on paper) of the first state are located by prof. Schilder. (Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica, IV, 45.1 ) In France only the BNF processes a complete copy on parchment and one fragment of this chart.
Due to its rarity this chart was unknown to Wieder (1925-1933) and Keunig (1973).
Recorded examples on vellum :
- Stadsarchief Antwerpen, Belgium
- Szechenyi Nationalbibliothek Budapest
- Staatsbibliotheek Berlin, Germany
- Hessische Landesbibliothek Darmstadt
- Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe
- Bibliothèque Nationale Paris
- Herzogin Anna Amalia- Bibliothek, Weimar.
- This copy
Recorded examples on paper:
- Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam
- Collection Stopp, Germany
- Raremaps, La Jolla, USA.
Second state by Pieter Goos
The second and final state of Willem Janszoon Blaeu's rare sea chart of Europe was done by Pieter Goos. The text in title cartouche, still crowned by the printer's mark of Blaeu, has been replaced and a new imprint has been placed in a new richly decorated cartouche in Greenland.
Read more or buy this version by Pieter Goos.
The chart was further copied by Anthonie Jacobz and Justus Danckerts, as well as by Blaeu’s own grandchildren Willem, Pieter and Joan.
- Essential Vermeer website for a analyses of this painting.
- Kees Zandvliet, "Vermeer and the Significance of Cartography in His Time." in The Scholarly World of Vermeer, Zwolle, 1996, pp. 65-66.
- Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. The Public and the Private in the Age of Vermeer, Osaka, 2000. p. 190.
- Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica, IV, 45.1.
- Denucé (1927) p.8; Catalogue des cartes nautiques (1963) p.313
- Stopp & Langel (1974) p.33 and plate VI,
- Schilder (1976c) p.18 en fig 7.
- W. W. Ristow in A la Carte, pp. 63-75.
Interestingly, Johannes Vermeer used this chart in his painting "The geographer" (1669) Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.
The cartographic objects surrounding the man are some of the actual items a geographer would have: the globe, the dividers the man holds, a cross-staff (hung on the center post of the window), used to measure the angle of celestial objects like the sun or stars, and the chart the man is using, which (according to one scholar, James A.Welu) appears to be a nautical chart on vellum. The sea chart on the wall of "all the Sea coasts of Europe" has been identified as one published by Willem Jansz Blaeu. This accuracy indicates Vermeer had a source familiar with the profession. The Astronomer, which seems to form a pendant with this painting, shows a similar, sophisticated knowledge of cartographic instruments and books, and the same young man modeled for both. That man himself may have been the source of Vermeer's correct display of surveying and geographical instruments, and possibly of his knowledge of perspective.
The ratio is not the same and a compass rose has been added in the Atlantic Ocean, however it is clear he was inspired by this chart. Wall maps where popular decorations to be found in the homes of wealthy 17th century merchants.
The use of maps as wall hangings in contemporary Dutch houses went beyond the desire for cartographic information. Maps were also used to express status, to promote a better understanding of history or politics or to take the place of paintings. ( See : Essential Vermeer website for a analyse of this painting. )
Wall maps where found in the interiors of wealthy businessmen. Wall maps occupied a prominent place in contemporary Dutch culture, iconologically representing affluence and intellectual curiosity.
One of the leading lights of the era, Constantijn Huygens (1596-87), remarked how he employed his own set of Blaeu's wall maps of the continents as a tool to enlighten his children, "To encourage them even more, I had the four parts of the world by Willem Blaeu mounted in my entrance hall, where they often played, in order to provide them with a fixed image of the world and its division."
Willem Blaeu's wall maps are considered to be among the most influential and artistically virtuous masterpieces of the great era of baroque cartography. His enterprise maintained close connections with intellectuals and political leaders across Europe, granting him privileged access to the most advanced geographical knowledge. Evinced for their fame is perhaps their appearance in several of Johannes Vermeer's paintings.
Johannes Vermeer and wall maps
A striking feature of the relatively small number of paintings that comprise the oeuvre of Johannes Vermeer is the prominent place accorded to maps and globes. The use of maps as wall hangings in contemporary Dutch houses went beyond the desire for cartographic information. Maps were also used to express status, to promote a better understanding of history or politics or to take the place of paintings. At the moment Vermeer painted his works Amsterdam was the world centre of map-making. Among the most majestic productions were the wall maps of Willem Blaeu. The pride of place that wall maps claimed in Dutch homes is most eloquently presented in a half-dozen or so of the exquisite paintings of Vermeer, as well as in such contemporary scenes as Pieter de Hooch's A Woman Drinking with Two Men (1658) in the National Gallery. These views of everyday life bear witness to an almost totemic cult of maps.
Paintings by Vermeer including wall maps :
Willem Blaeu and the Amsterdam map production.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century Amsterdam was becoming one of the wealthiest trading cities in Europe, the base of the Dutch East India Company and a centre of banking and the diamond trade, its people noted for their intellectual skills and splendid craftsmanship.
At this propitious time in the history of the Northern Provinces, Willem Janszoon Blaeu, who was born at Alkmaar in 1571 and was trained in astronomy and the sciences by Tycho Brahe, the celebrated Danish astronomer, who founded a business in Amsterdam in 1599 as a globe and instrument maker.
It was not long before the business expanded, publishing maps, topographical works and books of sea charts as well as constructing globes.
His most notable early work was a globe in 1598, a map of Holland (1604), a fine World Map (1605-06) and Het Licht der Zeevaerdt (The Light of Navigation), a popular marine atlas, which went through many editions in different languages and under a variety of titles.
At the same time Blaeu was planning a major atlas intended to include the most up-to-date maps of the whole of the known world, but progress on so vast a project was slow and it was not until he purchased between 30 and 40 plates of the Mercator Atlas from Jodocus Hondius II to add to his own collection that he was able to publish (in 1630) a 60-map volume with the title Atlantis Appendix.
It was another five years before the first two volumes of his planned world atlas, Atlas Novus or the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum were issued. About this time he was appointed Hydrographer to the East India Company.
It ought to be mentioned here that there is often confusion between the elder Blaeu and his rival Jan Jansson (Johannes Janssonius). Up to about 1619 Blaeu often signed his works Guilielmus Janssonius or Willems Jans Zoon but after that time he seems to have decided on Guilielmus or G. Blaeu.
In 1638 Blaeu died and the business passed into the hands of his sons, Joan and Cornelis, who continued and expanded their father's ambitious plans.
Click here to see samples of maps by the Blaeu family.