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Fine old color example of this decorative map of Egypt, the Red Sea and part of the Holy Land, which first appeared in Jan Jansson's Atlas Major VI: Novus Atlas Absolutissimus, published by Schenk & Valk, with their names added in lower left corner.

The map includes an elaborate cartouche and a detailed treatment of the region from Jerusalem, Cairo and the Mediterreanean in the north, extending south to include most of the Red Sea. The map is oriented to show West at the top.

The area shown on the map is the eyelet of Egypt. This region encompasses Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Arabia, including the cities of Mecca and Medina.

In 1517, the Ottoman Empire conquered Egypt, following the Ottoman-Mamluk War and the absorption of Syria into the Empire in 1516. Egypt was administered as an eyelet of the Ottoman Empire between the years 1517 and 1867. Ruling from Istanbul, the Ottomans immediately divided Egypt into districts attached administratively to the province headquarters. The Orderly Government of Suleiman the Magnificent brought improvements and stimulated immigration of Jews from Europe to the Holy Land.

Due in part to the continued influence of the Mamluks, Egyptian slave militants who had ruled the country for centuries, Egypt remained a difficult province for the Ottoman Sultans to control. Early during Ottoman occupation, constant changes in the Egyptian government sparked unrest in the army. Mutinies were often led by successive pashas in an effort to stop the extortion, a forced payment exacted by troops from the inhabitants of the country. In 1604, the governor was murdered by soldiers. In 1609, a type of civil war broke out between the army and the pasha-a year later the rebellion was put down.

Between the years 1687 and 1731, Egypt experienced six famines. The weakening economic and governmental system combined with the effects of plague left Egypt vulnerable to foreign invasion. Egypt remained semi-autonomous under the Mamluks until it was invaded by the forces of Napoleon in 1798. After the French were expelled, power was seized in 1805 by a military commander of the Ottoman army in Egypt. The Portuguese were the first to initiate trade relationships, soon followed by the English.

This map was made around 1690 when the eyelet of Egypt was at its weakest point. At the time, European powers traded throughout Africa; they sailed the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea looking for new routes to circumnavigate the Ottoman Turks and the Silk Road.

Peter Schenk Biography

Peter Schenk the Elder (1660-1711) moved to Amsterdam in 1675 and began to learn the art of mezzotint. In 1694 he bought some of the copperplate stock of the mapmaker Johannes Janssonius, which allowed him to specialize in the engraving and printing of maps and prints. He split his time between his Amsterdam shop and Leipzig and also sold a considerable volume of materials to London.

Peter Schenk the Elder had three sons. Peter the Younger carried on his father’s business in Leipzig while the other two, Leonard and Jan, worked in Amsterdam. Leonard engraved several maps and also carried on his father’s relationship with engraving plates for the Amsterdam edition of the Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences.  

Gerard Valk Biography

Gerard Valk, or Gerrit Leendertsz Valck (1652-1726) together with his son Leonard, were the only significant publishers of globes in the Netherlands in the eighteenth century, enjoying an almost total monopoly in the first half of the 1700's. Initially an engraver and art dealer, and having worked for map-sellers Christopher Browne and David Loggan in London between 1672 and 1679, Valk established the firm in Amsterdam in 1687. Initially, they published maps and atlases, but in 1700 the company moved the shop to the building previously occupied by map and globe-maker Jodocus Hondius. In 1701, he applied for a charter for making globes and the "Planetolabium", designed by Lotharius Zumbach de Coesfelt (1661-1727), an astronomy lecturer at Leiden University. The Valks produced several editions of 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 and 24-inch diameter terrestrial and celestial globes. The cartography, as stated on the cartouche, is based closely on the celestial atlas Uranographia, published in 1687 by the celebrated Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687).

Around 1711, when he became a member of the bookseller's guild, Leonard Valk (1675-1746) came into partnership and his name started to appear alongside that of his father on the cartouches of the globes, although the earliest of these, both terrestrial and celestial, still bear the date 1700. Leonard naturally took over the business on his father's death in 1726, and following his own death in 1746 the firm was run by Maria Valk, cousin, and wife to Gerard. By then its days of glory had passed. Leonard Valk died in relative poverty: his wife had to take in the washing of their aunt to make ends meet. The late eighteenth century saw a number of successful reissues by publisher Cornelis Covens (1764-1825), who ran the famous cartographical publishing house of Covens & Mortier (1721-1866) in Amsterdam. This firm was the biggest Dutch one for publishing maps in the 18th century. It was located on the Vijgendam (Fig Dam), the southern part of what is now Dam Square, the central hub of the city. They didn't move out of their building, but they did change addresses. At first in 1795 the whole Dam was rebaptized into Revolution Square, then it got the name Napoleon Square, till in 1813 after Napoleon's fall Covens & Mortier were back again at the Vijgendam.