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Fine early map of the Straits of Singapore, the first published map of the Strait.

The details of the region around Singapore had been jealously guarded by the Portuguese for nearly a century. The map is oriented with north to the left and depicts the southern coast of the Singapore island (Sinca Pora) and the Straits of Johor (Rio Batasubar). Most of the coastline is marked as unknown (Cust unbekent), suggesting that Europeans had not circumnavigated the island at this time. The map shows Pulu Karimon and other major islands in the Singapore Strait. The island of Singapore is depicted as attached to the mainland.

The map records a naval battle between the Dutch and Portuguese, probably in 1603, with alphabet letters to code the various ships involved. A Portuguese galleon, the Santa Catherine was captured by the Dutch and its cargo sold in Amsterdam for a princely sum of 3.5 million guilders. Depicted are the Dutch ships Zierickzee, Enkhuysen, Amsterdam and Hollandse Zaan.

Theodor De Bry Biography

Theodor de Bry (1528-1598) was a prominent Flemish engraver and publisher best known for his engravings of the New World. Born in Liege, de Bry hailed from the portion of Flanders then controlled by Spain. The de Brys were a family of jewelers and engravers, and young Theodor was trained in those artisanal trades.

As a Lutheran, however, his life and livelihood were threatened when the Spanish Inquisition cracked down on non-Catholics. De Bry was banished and his goods seized in 1570. He fled to Strasbourg, where he studied under the Huguenot engraver Etienne Delaune. He also traveled to Antwerp, London, and Frankfurt, where he settled with his family.

In 1590, de Bry began to publish his Les Grands Voyages, which would eventually stretch to thirty volumes released by de Bry and his two sons. The volumes contained not only important engraved images of the New World, the first many had seen of the geographic novelties, but also several important maps. He also published a collection focused on India Orientalis. Les Grands Voyages was published in German, Latin, French, and English, extending de Bry’s fame and his view of the New World.