Striking view of Gaeta, which first appeared in Blaeu's Theatrum Civitatum et admirandorum italiae, published in Amsterdam in 1663.
Gaeta (formerly Caieta) is situated on the slopes of the Torre di Orlando, a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean. Gaeta was an ancient Ionian colony of the Samians according to Strabo, who believed the name stemmed from the Greek kaiétas, which means "cave", probably referring to the several harbours. According to Virgil's Aeneid, Caieta was Aeneas 'wet-nurse. Aeneas was one of the few Trojans who were not killed in battle or enslaved at the conclusion of the Trojan War. When Troy was sacked by the Greeks, Aeneas, after being commanded by the gods to flee, gathered a group, collectively known as the Aeneads, who then traveled to Italy and became predecessors of the Romans.
Johannes Blaeu published a monumental work of three volumes of Italian city views, covering the Papal States, Rome and the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. Following his death, his heirs published 2 additional volumes dated 1682 focused on the cities of of Piedmont and Savoy. Pierre Mortier published a later edition in 1704-5, entitled Nouveau Theatre de l'Italie, which includes additional maps and changes added by Mortier.
Joan, or Johannes, Blaeu (1596-1673) was the son of Willem Janszoon Blaeu. He inherited his father’s meticulous and striking mapmaking style and continued the Blaeu workshop until it burned in 1672. Initially, Joan trained as a lawyer, but he decided to join his father’s business rather than practice.
After his father’s death in 1638, Joan and his brother, Cornelis, took over their father’s shop and Joan took on his work as hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company. Joan brought out many important works, including Nova et Accuratissima Terrarum Orbis Tabula, a world map to commemorate the Peace of Westphalia which brought news of Abel Tasman’s voyages in the Pacific to the attention of Europe. This map was used as a template for the world map set in the floor of the Amsterdam Town Hall, the Groote Burger-Zaal, in 1655.
Joan also modified and greatly expanded his father’s Atlas novus, first published in 1635. All the while, Joan was honing his own atlas. He published the Atlas maior between 1662 and 1672. It is one of the most sought-after atlases by collectors and institutions today due to the attention to the detail, quality, and beauty of the maps. He is also known for his town plans and wall maps of the continents. Joan’s productivity slammed to a halt in 1672, when a fire completely destroyed his workshop and stock. Joan died a year later and is buried in the Westerkerk in Amsterdam.