Fine example of Willem Barentsz's map of the area around Nova Zemlya, which appeared in Pontius' Rerum et Urbis Amstelodamensium historia, published in Amsterdam in 1611.
The map depicts the course of Barentsz explorations along the West Coast of Nova Zembla in his ill-fated third voyage of 1596, in search of the Northeast Passage. Engraved by a young Henricus Hondius, the map provides and exceptionally detailed accounting of Barentsz's discoveries, and is richly embellished with a compass rose, sailing ships, polar bears and an image of the ice encountered by Barentsz.
Willem Barentsz was a Dutch map maker and explorer. His first major work was an atlas of the Mediterranean, which he co-published with Petrus Plancius. Barentsz believed that the North Polar regions included a northeastern passage to the Pacific and that the Polar regions consisted of open waters above Siberia, due to the fact that they would be exposed to the sun 24 hours per day. In the last decade of the 16th Century, Barentsz made 3 voyages to the North Polar regions. In June 1594, Barentsz led an expedition of 3 ships which sailed from Texel for the Kara Sea. On this voyage, the crew made the first ever encounter with a polar bear. Barentsz's first voyage reached the west coast of Novaya Zemlya. After coasting northward, the crew encountered large icebergs and were forced to turn back and return to Holland.
In 1595, Prince Maurice of Orange commissioned a second Barentsz led expedition, which included 6 ships and a cargo of goods which were intended for trade with China. The expedition made several noteworthy encounters with Samoyed "wilde men" and polar bears, but was forced to turn back when they encountered a frozen Kara Sea.
In 1596, the Town Council of Amsterdam sponsored a voyage of two ships, in hopes of claiming a reward offered by the Dutch States-General to the first expedition which successfully navigated the northeast passage. Barentsz voyage discovered Spitsbergen, before reaching Bear Island on July 1, 1596 and Novaya Zembla on July 17, 1596. Shortly thereafter, Barentsz's ship was stranded by ice and the 16 man crew was forced to winter on the ice. After making it through the Winter, the crew set out in two small boats on June 13, with Barentsz dying about 7 days later. Seven weeks later, the remainder of the crew reached Kola and were rescued by a Russian Merchant ship. The crew made it back to Amsterdam in November 1597 and several crew members wrote accounts of the voyage. The wooden lodge where Barentsz's crew spent the winter was not revisited until 1871, when Norwegian seal hunter Elling Carlsen discovered the hut in 1871. In 1875, Captain Gunderson returned to the site and collected several artifacts, including 2 maps and a handwritten transalation of the Pet and Jackman voyages. In 1876, Charles L.W. Gardiner visited the site and collected many more artifacts and documents, including Barentsz's and Jacob van Heemskerck's notes on the settlement.
Henricus Hondius (1597-1651) was a Dutch engraver and mapmaker, a member of a prominent cartographic family. His father, Jodocus Hondius, was also an engraver and geographer. While working with his father, Henricus was instrumental in the expansion and republishing of Mercator’s atlas, first published in 1595 and republished by Hondius in 1606.
Upon his father’s death in 1612, Henricus and his brother, Jodocus the Younger, took over the business. He set up his own shop in 1621, where he continued to release new editions of the Mercator atlas. Later, he partnered with his brother-in-law, Jan Janssonius, in continuing to expand and publish Mercator’s atlas, which would become known as the Mercator-Hondius-Janssonius atlas. Born and based in Amsterdam, he died there in 1651.