A Fine Dutch Sea Chart of Florida and the Western Caribbean
Rare Dutch sea chart of Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, by Gerard Van Keulen, son of the Johannes Van Keulen, the patriarch of the Van Keulen family of sea chart publishers.
With the assistance of Claes Janz Vooght, the Van Keulen family published the Zee-Atlas. The first edition appears in 1680, and later the Nieuwe Groote Lightende Zeefakkel, a monumental 5 volume work which was commenced in 1678 and continuously enlarged and expanded over the next 100 years.
This superb, large-scale nautical chart is a landmark in the mapping of the Florida peninsula, Bahamas and Cuba. Southern Florida is shown in tremendous detail and includes dozens of place names, islands, and soundings with an excellent depiction of the Keys. The fine detail extends throughout the Bahamas and Cuba and includes three inset plans of Havana, Hondo, and Mantanacas Bays.
Van Keulen based much of his map on English observations and includes two designations of latitude (English and Dutch) which vary by 30 minutes.
Gerard Van Keulen was the son of Johannes Van Keulen, patriarch of perhaps the most prolific of all Dutch map making families. The family firm commenced in 1680, but it was Gerard who brought it to its full glory in the 18th century. A talented engraver and mathematician, and later Hydrographer to the East India Company, Gerard greatly enlarged his father's work, issuing many important charts and books on all aspects of geography, navigation, etc. Until the opening of the Dutch Hydrographic Office in the 19th century, the Van Keulen firm issued what were regarded as the official Dutch sea charts.
The Van Keulens were a family of chartmakers and publishers. The firm, In de Gekroonde Lootsman (In the Crowned Pilot), was founded in 1678 by Johannes van Keulen (1654-1715). Van Keulen originally registered his business as a vendor of books and instruments (specifically cross-staffs). In 1680, however, he gained a privilege from the States of Holland and West Friesland for the publication of pilot guides and sea atlases.
In that year, van Keulen released his Zee-Atlas (Sea Atlas), which secured him a name in the competitive maritime publishing market. In 1681, he published the first volume of Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel (New Shining Sea Torch). This would be the first of an eventual five volumes originally published between 1680 and 1684. A sixth volume was added in 1753. The Zee-Fakel won van Keulen lasting fame. The atlas had charts compiled by Claes Jansz Vooght and artwork from Jan Luyken. It proved immensely popular and was reprinted until 1783. There were translations in French, English, Spanish, and Italian.
The late-seventeenth century was an auspicious time to enter the maritime chart business. Previous industry leaders had either closed shop, died, or retired, leaving space for a new competitor. Van Keulen proceeded to buy up the stock and privileges of several maritime publishing firms; the most notable was the stock of Hendrik Doncker, acquired in 1693.
Johannes’ son, Gerard (1678-1726) took over the business upon his father’s death. Gerard was a skilled engraver and mathematician. His talents were noticed, as in 1706 he was named as Hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
In turn, Gerard’s son Johannes II (1704-1770) came to run the shop. He was also tied to the VOC, and his role as their chartmaker allowed his charts to be considered as quasi-official government documents. It is with access to formerly clandestine VOC geographic knowledge that Johannes the Younger was able to add a sixth volume to the Zee-Fakkel, which covered the East Indies. Johannes also continued to sell instruments, including the recently-invented Hadley’s Quadrant from 1744.
When Johannes II died in 1770, his widow ran the business in his stead, aided by her two sons, Cornelis Buys (1736-1778) and Gerard Hulst (1733-1801). Now a century old, the family business had extended to include an anchor factory. After Cornelis died in 1778, Gerard took on the management of the firm alone. He oversaw the introduction of sextants to their inventory and published the Dutch Nautical Almanac beginning in 1788. Annual editions appeared until 1885. Gerard also served as an original member of the Dutch Commission for Longitude at Sea from 1787.
Gerard’s widow ran the business for nine years after his death, when their son, Johannes Hulst, started to lead the firm in 1810. After his death in 1844, the firm passed out of family hands and into the control of Jacob Swert, a skilled cartographer who had worked for the business for two decades. He passed the work to his son, another Jacob, in 1866. By the mid-nineteenth century, the conversion from sail to steam had diminished the size of the market for charts. Fewer sailors needed fewer maps, charts, and instruments. In 1885, after 207 years in business, In de Gekroonde Lootsman closed its doors and auctioned its stock.