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1621 (1635) Willem Janszoon Blaeu

First state of Willem Janszoon Blaeu's landmark map of America, published in 1617.

Willem Blaeu's map of America is one of the most celebrated and soughtafter maps of America from the Golden Age of Dutch Cartography, blending contemporary georgaphical knowledge and a rich decorative image. Based on Blaeu's wall map of America, published in 1608, this is the first single sheet map of America published by Blaeu.

While Blaeu's maps have long been celebrated for their beauty and accuracy, the present example of the map is especially noteworthy for a number or reasons. First, while Blaeu had begun publishing sea charts in 1604 and produced a set of wall maps of the continents in 1617, this is one of the earlist single sheet maps published by Blaeu. In fact, it is so early that the map pre-dates his use of the name "Blaeu". The present map includes the name "Guilielmus Janssonius", a name which Blaeu used until 1621, when he added the surname Blaeu or Blaeuw, likely to distinguish himself from Johannes Janssonius, a rival map maker.

This example of the map is also of great note as being the impossibly rare first state of one of Blaeu's landmark maps. While the map 4th and later states of this map appear on the market with some regularity, according Burden, this first state is known in only 3 examples, an example in the British Library and 2 examples catalogued by Dealers Robert Douwma and Nico Israel in the 20th Century, which Burden lists as "present location unknown." The example offered here is almost certainly the same example as was listed in these 2 catalogs. The present example is known to have been acquired by a private collector in 1985 from Robert Douwma, which would correspond to the first of the two Burden dealer entries. The Douwma firm had a very close relationship with the firm of Nico Israel and there is a strong probability that the two dealer catalog entries are for the same map.

The most important advance in Blaeu's 1617 map, which was not present on his earlier wall map, was his depiction of Hudson's Bay, which first appeared on a printed map in 1612, but to date had only appeared on maps published by Samuel de Champlain and Hessel Gerritsz, but had not yet appeared in a map appearing in a commercial atlas.

The map is highly detailed, including a classical rendition of the West Coast of America (which did not follow the California as an Island myth) and dozens of place names along the East Coast. Nine decorative views of important American Cities and Harbors across the top and 10 fine miniatures of Native Americans of various regions along the side panels. The map is also embellished with eight sailing ships, four sea monsters and vignettes in the interior of the continent showing Indian life. Goss states "this magnificent map sums up the general European view of the western hemisphere in the early seventeenth century…"

The first state of the map was published in 1617 and is extremely rare. Published in the year that the Straits of Le Maire was discovered, it is the only state of the map to omit this as yet unknown discovery. This feature was added the following year. Burden identifies the following states:

  • State 1: Auct: Guiliel Janssonio. Straits of Le Maire not yet named. Continuous southern coastline to the west of South America (1617)
  • State 2: Terra del Fuogo is completely redrawn. The Straits of Le Maire shown. Most of the Southern Continent removed. New islands in South Pacific (1618)
  • State 3: Auct: Guiljelmo Blaeuw. (1621)
  • State 4: Newly engraved sea around decorative embellishments (1642)
  • State 5: Further re-engraving to the seas (1645)

According to Burden, there are only 3 known examples of State 1 (British Library, Robert Douwma catalog (#22) and Nico Israel Catalog (#3)) Of the 3 known examples, Burden states that the location of 2 are currently unknown.

Further details on the the collection source are available on request.

Condition Description
Lower margin expertly extended.
Burden 189; Goss 26; Tooley, America, pp. 296-97.
Willem Janszoon Blaeu Biography

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) was a prominent Dutch geographer and publisher. Born the son of a herring merchant, Blaeu chose not fish but mathematics and astronomy for his focus. He studied with the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, with whom he honed his instrument and globe making skills. Blaeu set up shop in Amsterdam, where he sold instruments and globes, published maps, and edited the works of intellectuals like Descartes and Hugo Grotius. In 1635, he released his atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive, Atlas novus.

Willem died in 1638. He had two sons, Cornelis (1610-1648) and Joan (1596-1673). Joan trained as a lawyer, but joined his father’s business rather than practice. After his father’s death, the brothers took over their father’s shop and Joan took on his work as hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company. Later in life, Joan would modify and greatly expand his father’s Atlas novus, eventually releasing his masterpiece, the Atlas maior, between 1662 and 1672.