Rare Van Keulen "Secret Atlas" Chart of The Persian Gulf
Rare sea chart of the Persian Gulf, from Basra to
The VOC Secret Atlas
The so-called "Secret Atlas" of the Dutch East India Company was, in fact, Part VI of the Zee-Fakkel, published by Johannes (II) Van Keulen, from 1753. For the first 150 years of the Company's history, the VOC had resisted producing printed sea charts of the area east of South Africa, which the VOC saw as their proprietary region. By keeping these charts secret, the best available navigational information and coastal details would remain proprietary. To this end, manuscript charts were produced with proprietary information by the likes of Isaak de Graaf.
The Secret Atlas (Volume VI of the Zee-Fakkel), like the VOC manuscript maps before it, was never offered for sale to the public and was only issued to VOC ships, with explicit instructions that the charts must be returned at the completion of each voyage.
It is interesting to note that Sayer & Bennett published a nearly identical version of the map and credited Van Keulen with its production. This shows that decades after it had first been issued, the Van Keulen name and the VOC knowledge contained on the chart still carried real weight among the British public. The knowledge was still worth keeping secret -- and worth stealing!
The map is extremely rare on the market. We locate only a single example offered for sale by a dealer in the past 30 years and no other examples in published auction records.