The Earliest Obtainable General Sea Chart of Europe
First state of Waghenaer's map of Europe, the British Isles, Iceland, and the western Mediterranean, including the mythical Island of Brazil. Richly embellished with compass roses, sea monsters, sailing ships, coats of arms and rhumb lines, the chart appeared in an early edition of Waghenaer's Speigel der Zeevaerdt and is characterized by the curious circular representation of Iceland, which was revised in later reprints.
Waghenaer's Spiegel was the first engraved sea atlas, making this sea chart of Europe and the Western Atlantic the earliest printed sea chart of the region. Because this chart was significantly larger than the others in the atlas, it rarely appears on the market in good condition. The present example is an unusually nice one, with remarkably wide margins.
Waghenaer (c. 1533-1606) was a Dutch marine cartographer and navigator. He grew up in the important port of Enkuizen. From 1550-1579 he served at sea, increasing his practical knowledge of sailing and charting. His first publication was the famous Speigel der Zeevaerdt, or Mariner's Mirror, which appeared in 1584. The work was reprinted and translated into several European languages. The combination of detailed charts accompanied by sailing directions set a precedent and model for subsequent sea atlases, which came to be called waggoners. Waghenaer published two other works, Thresoor der Zeevaert ( Treasure of navigation) in 1592 and the Enchuyser zeecaertboeck (Enkhuizen sea-chart-book) in 1598. He died in 1606.
The fine engraving work of Joannes Doetecum is very much in evidence on this map. Doetcum came from a family of printmakers from Deventer, although Joannes and his brother Lucas moved to Antwerp. They engraved not only the maps in the Speigel, but also maps for Hieronymus Cock, Gerard de Jode, and Abraham Ortelius.
The island of Brazil, or Hy Brasil, shown here typically as a circular island with a river bisecting it, is part of Irish folklore. It is said to appear from a constant shroud of mist for one day every seven years. However, as Barbara Freitag has shown, the island was only Gaelicized in the mid-nineteenth century. It was originally the product of late Medieval and early modern Mediterranean mapping practices that named and located Brasil Island off the west coast of Ireland. It first appeared on portolan charts as early at 1325 and continued to wander the eastern Atlantic in charts by Ortelius and Mercator, among others. In the 1480s, Bristol merchants sent two expeditions to search for the place, while sightings continued into the mid-nineteenth century. By then, however, geographers had started to identify the island as Brasil Rock and hypothesized that it was part of a shoal or rocky outcrop that had appeared as something more substantial when viewed across foggy waters. The Waghenaer chart, therefore, is important as it is a practical sailing aid, yet it is also a chronicle of geographic chimeras.
Koeman, C. "Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer: A Sixteenth Century Marine Cartographer." The Geographical Journal. Vol. 131, No. 2 (Jun., 1965), pp. 202-212.