Blaeu’s chart greatly influenced other Amsterdam publishers. Anthonie Jacobsz (1606/07-1650), for example, published an extremely accurate copy about 1650, Justus Danckerts (1635-1701) even influenced Blaeu’s imprint ‘Indefessus agendo’ in his very faithful copy of this chart (found in the British Library, London (140), while the chart published by Blaeu’s grandchildren Willem, Pieter and Joan, also strongly resembles it. This latter version, contrary to what has been claimed in some publications, was printed from a different copperplate.
No example of this first state printed on vellum is kept in any private collection or collections in museums in the Netherlands. There is a total of seven recorded complete examples of the Sea Chart of all the Seacoasts of Europe on vellum and three on paper of the first state.
They are located by prof. Schilder in his Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica, IV, 45.1:
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.
Recorded examples on paper: Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam; Collection Stopp, Germany;
Raremaps, La Jolla, USA.
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.
WILLEM JANSZOON BLAEU (1571 – 1638)
HIS EARLY CAREER
Willem Janszoon (Jansz. for short) Blaeu was the founder of a large publishing house that became famous for cartography under the name Blaeu. The Blaeus were a fairly wealthy Mennonite family in Amsterdam. However, Willem’s father lived in Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam, or in the nearby village of Uitgeest, where Willem was born in 1571 and where he received his early education.
It must have been during this period that he met Adriaan Anthonisz (1541-1620), surveyor, astronomer, mathematician, military engineer and superintendent of the Dutch Republic. This lover of the liberal arts was the father of the better-known Adriaan Metius, who was also born in 1571 and would later become Blaeu’s scientific advisor. Blaeu moved to Amsterdam at the age of 23 to get acquainted and learn the ins and outs of his family’s herring trade. However, he was more interested in scientific matters, and especially in mathematics and astronomy, so after two years he left for Denmark, where he studied for two years with the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) on the island of Hven (modern Ven in Sweden. Tycho Brahe had his own observatory, a workshop for the manufacture of instruments and a printing press, which enabled Willem Jansz to gain both theoretical and practical knowledge and brought him into contact with people with similar interests.
After his return to the Netherlands, he devoted himself to astronomy for many years in the city of Alkmaar. Very little is known about his stay there, but it was where he married Marretie or Maertgen Cornelisdr van Uitgeest, probably in 1597.
There his eldest son Joan was also born. On February 21, 1598, Blaeu observed a solar eclipse from Alkmaar that was simultaneously observed by Tycho Brahe at Wandsbeck near Hamburg. The purpose of their observations was to determine the longitude difference between the two places.
While in Alkmaar he made a celestial globe with a diameter of 34 cm for Adriaan Anthonisz, based on Tycho Brahe’s new but unpublished star catalog. The world globe was published in 1597/98 and was masterfully engraved by Jan Saenredam, a pupil of Hendrick Goltzius and father of Pieter Jansz Saenredam, the famous painter of church interiors. The production of globes was Blaeu’s main activity early in his career, and to distinguish himself from the many others who were called Willem Jansz, he called himself “Willem Jansz Globi” or “Geloobmaker. Blaeu followed the tradition of making globes in pairs: one earthly and one heavenly.
Willem Jansz. moved to Amsterdam with his family around 1598/99 and opened a shop selling celestial and terrestrial globes and astronomical instruments, all made by himself.
The great voyages of discovery had advanced the science of navigation and there was an urgent need for astronomical instruments to determine the position of ships at sea. Blaeu had received excellent training as an instrument maker under Tycho Brahe. He showed great interest in navigational instruments in his sea atlases, illustrating or reproducing them by means of movable diagrams.
In 1605, he moved to new premises on the Damrak, where most of Amsterdam’s booksellers and mapmakers were then clustered. The building was called ‘In de Vergulde Sonnewyser’ (in the gilded sundial), and here he also set up a printing office and a publishing house. His first publications were in the field of cartography and navigation, and by 1608 he had already published a beautiful world map and a popular maritime atlas. His early works include a world globe of 1599, maps of European countries and a world map in 1604-1608.
Blaeu’s early interest in navigation led to his first sailor’s guide, called the Nieuw graetbouck. He occupies an important position in the history of early Dutch seaman’s guides. Blaeu had virtually no competition as an author of nautical guides until the early 1630s.His famous predecessor for the description of eastern, western and northern navigation was Lucas Jansz Waghenaer. Blaeu published two sailor’s guides: Het licht der Zee-vaert (first edition 1609), which firmly established his reputation as a maritime cartographer, and Zeespiegel (first edition 1623), both of which were reprinted several times.
His reputation is evident from a fragment of Vondel’s famous poem Lof der zeevaart of 1623, in which Willem Jansz. Blaeu is praised as a pupil of the great Tycho Brahe and honoured for his work as a cartographer, producing navigation instruments, sea charts and globes.
The voyages of discovery in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries created an insatiable interest in cartography.
They also developed the science of navigation and there was an urgent need for astronomical instruments to determine the position of ships at sea. The newly discovered areas offered trading opportunities, and it was essential not only to know how to reach them, but also how to get home safely. Knowledge increased with each voyage and maps became more and more accurate. The development of new opportunities increased the demand for good maps.
Besides maps that were used specifically for navigation, a growing number of people became interested in maps. They wanted to satisfy their curiosity about new countries, if only on paper. Maps were also used to promote one’s status, to gain a better understanding of history or politics, or to replace paintings. The first major centre for the production of maps was in the Southern Netherlands in the 16th century, with Plantin, Ortelius and Mercator as the main publishers. They were the first printers of world atlases. Mercator’s name is inextricably linked to his invention, the Mercator projection, a system of increasing latitudes for use at sea.
Because of the growing role of Amsterdam in international trade in the sixteenth century, it is not surprising that the market for maps and pilot guides slowly moved north, initially led by publishers who had emigrated from the south of Spain to the Dutch Republic. Amsterdam was a favourite place for political refugees, victims of religious persecution and fortune seekers.
Amsterdam expanded enormously during the Twelve Year Truce (1609-1621). The economy was booming and this was reflected in the output of maps. Willem Jansz was not the only publisher of maps and globes in Amsterdam. When he founded his company, Cornelis Claesz (1546-47-1609) and Jodocus Hondius the Elder (1563-1612), both originally from the southern Netherlands, had already made a name for themselves. After Claesz’s death, Willem Jansz managed to acquire much of his estate, which strengthened his position as a mapmaker. However, he had fierce competition from his neighbour Jan Jansz, or Johannes Janssonius, another mapmaker, bookseller and publisher who took the premises next to Blaeu on the Damrak. Willem Jansz had also Latinised his name to (Guilelmus) Janssonius, in accordance with general custom, and this caused much confusion and was later abused by Jan Jansz. Willem Jansz decided to change his name and chose that of his grandfather, ‘Blauwe Willem ‘(Blue William) as his surname in 1621. From then on he called himself Willem (Jansz) Blaeu and sometimes added the Latinised form ‘Caesius’ (bluish grey) to his prints.
In 1621 Janssonius published a plagiarised copy of Blaeu’s pilot guide Het licht der zee-vaert. He could do this with impunity because Blaeu’s copyright had expired. Blaeu then decided to compete with his competitor Janssonius and his brother-in-law Henricus Hondius (1597 – 1651) in the field of atlas production, who had a monopoly on the atlases Mercator / Hondius / Janssonius. Blaeu had already published several maps in atlas format and started collecting maps for his own atlas. In 1630 he bought 37 plates from the Mercator Atlas of Jodocus Hondius the Younger. He added these to his own collection and published the Atlantis appendix, which contained 60 maps. This publication led to a new trend in Amsterdam atlas production, characterised by competition and increased production of maps. Blaeu then began planning a large atlas with the most up-to-date maps of the entire world.
In 1633, partly due to aggressive competition from the Hondius-Janssonius company, Blaeu announced his intention to publish a new Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive, Atlas novus in two volumes. According to Gunter Schilder, correspondence between Blaeu and Wilhelm Schickhard indicates that Blaeu wanted to complete the atlas that same year. Blaeu’s plan for a new ‘International edition’ of a world atlas was published in an Amsterdam newspaper on 11 February 1634. ‘Currently being printed in Amsterdam by Willem Jansz Blaeu is a large book of maps, The Atlas, in four languages: Latin, French, German and Dutch. The one in German will appear around Easter, the one in Dutch and French in the month of May, or early June at the latest, and the one in Latin shortly thereafter. All editions on very fine paper, completely renewed with newly engraved copper plates and new, extensive descriptions.
Despite the fact that the newspaper announcement in early 1634 stated that the atlas was ‘currently being printed’, only the German edition was completed that year, but not in its final form. In 1635 Blaeu published the first two volumes of the Atlas novus. Progress was painfully slow, and although he spent the rest of his life collecting maps for this ambitious project, the atlas was not completed until long after his death.
Willem Blaeu’s wall maps are considered one of the most influential and artistically virtuoso masterpieces from the great age of Baroque cartography. The publication of his first set of wall maps in 1608 marked the beginning of the prominent position he would occupy in the highly competitive world market for maps. Blaeu published several wall maps, printed on parchment or paper. A fine example of one on parchment is this PASCAARTE of all the Zécuften of EUROPE. Nieulycx befchreven by Willem Ianß. Blue. Men vintfe te coop tot AMSTERDAM, Op’t Water inde vergulde Sonnewÿser.
It was first published between 1621 and 1650. It is the first state of two and measures 687 x 868 mm. The title and imprint are in a cartouche surmounted by Willem Jansz Blaeu’s printer’s mark, with his motto ‘INDEFESSVS AGENDO’ in the centre of the lower edge. The map is very rare and, surprisingly, no Dutch institution has an example made of parchment. Interestingly, Johannes Vermeer used this map in his painting The Geographer of 1669), which is now in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. Amsterdam was the world centre for mapmaking in Vermeer’s time, and Blaeu’s wall maps were among the most majestic productions.
Blaeu also printed loose route maps on parchment, known in Dutch as ‘overzeilers’ (literally ‘maps for sailing across oceans and seas’), which were printed on a particularly wide press. Besides maps, Blaeu published several folio maps, as well as assembled wall maps and a series of large-format profiles of cities all over the world, often with figures on the edges.
THE BLAEU FAMILY
The production of globes was also an important and lucrative part of the business. In the second half of the seventeenth century, after having bought the copper plates of all competing companies, the Blaeus became the only producers of globes in Amsterdam.
Besides his activities as a publisher, Blaeu continued his scientific activities. He used his findings to improve his maps and guides, so each discipline strengthened the other. His expertise was officially recognised when in 1633 he was appointed official cartographer and researcher of ship’s officials at the Amsterdam Chamber of the United East India Company (VOC). It was a period when Amsterdam was one of the richest trading cities in Europe, and a centre for banking and the diamond trade.
The VOC (1602-1798) contributed significantly to the wealth and prosperity of the Dutch Republic, and Blaeu’s prestigious appointment firmly established his reputation in the highly competitive world of Dutch mapmaking. As the official cartographer of the VOC and the Dutch West India Company (WIC; 1621-1792), Blaeu had access to the best craftsmen and the quality of his own work continued to improve. The artists usually drew and coloured the maps in the field, which meant that the quality of their work was under constant supervision.
Willem Jansz Blaeu sold his products not only in Amsterdam, but throughout Europe. An important tool in his merchandising strategy was the biennial Buchmesse in Frankfurt, where publishers and sellers of books and printed matter from all over Europe came together to show and sell their latest wares.
Blaeu published a new edition of his World Atlas in German (10 March 1634), Latin (13 April 1635), Dutch (22 April 1635) and French (1 July 1635). He had ambitious plans for his publications and said in the preface of the German edition of 1636: ‘It is our intention to describe the whole world, that is heaven and earth, in several parts like these two, two more of which will soon follow’. Unfortunately, Blaeu died before the publication of the other two volumes he had prepared saw the light of day. They appeared in 1640 (Italy) and 1645 (England).
After his death in 1638, Willem Jansz was succeeded by his sons Joan (1598-99-1673) and Cornelius (c. 1610-1642) Blaeu, who continued and expanded on their father’s ambitious plans. Joan inherited his father’s VOC privileges, including the making of manuscript charts and the compilation of sailing directions for sailors. He had access to an enormous amount of current information, particularly on parts of the world that were dominated by the Dutch. Although much of this information was incorporated into his manuscript charts and large wall maps, he seemed unable to use his privileged position with the VOC for his own publications, with the result that many of the maps in his large atlases contained less accurate information than those of his competitors.
Joan continued the business alone after Cornelis’ death in 1644 and established his own reputation as a great mapmaker. He completed his father’s grand project in 1655 with the sixth and final volume of the Atlas Novus. Joan succeeded in producing the most comprehensive world atlas of all time when the magnificent Atlas Maior saw the light of day in 1662. The last, eleventh, volume of the Spanish edition was in the press when, on 28 February 1672, the printing house was destroyed by fire, a setback from which the famous Blaeu publishing house never recovered. Joans sons Johan and Peter were the third generation to run the business before it closed in 1706. The printing business had already been sold in 1695.