Rare First Appearance of Blaeu's Iconic Map of America In His Atlas Novus
Nice example of Blaeu's seminal map of America, from the first edition of his Atlas Novus.
Blaeu's map of America is one of the most sought after maps of America from the Golden Age of Dutch Cartography, blending contemporary geographical knowledge and a rich decorative image. Blaeu's maps set the standard for the quality of the engraving, paper and color, as well as a fine depiction of contemporary geographical knowledge.
This map illustrates excellent detail throughout, 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…"
There are 5 states of the map, as described by Burden:
- State 1: Blaeu uses the name Guiliel: Janssonius. No Straits of Le Maire (1617) (2 known examples--British Library and private collection)
- State 2: Straits of Le Maire added (1618)
- State 3: named changed to Guiljelmo Blaeuw (1621)
- State 4: engraved water around the ships and sea monsters in lower right part of map increased. (1642)
- State 5: sea area re-engraved with harsher straight lines.
The present example is state 3 of the map. It was the first to appear in Blaeu's Atlas Novus, which was first issued in 1634, with German text on the verso. This first appearance of the map is quite rare, so much so that Burden was unable to identify the verso markings, which would be catalogued by Burden as America E, with a manuscript number 5 or S at the right corner of the first text page.
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.