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Unrecorded 17th Century Wall Map of the World By Cornelis Danckerts

Old color example of this unrecorded 4-sheet wall map of the World, published in Amsterdam by Cornelis Danckets.

The present example is an extraordinary survival, being the earliest surviving state of a wall map previously believed to have only survived in a single late state by Johannes Van Keulen, but posited by Rodney Shirley to have existed in earlier states.  The survival is made all the more remarkable by the extraordinary bold original color in which the map survived, as most 17th century wall maps typically have severally faded or broken color remnants.

The map includes a dedication portrait to Prince Wilhelm III, which would seem to be an erroneous spelling for Prince Wilhem Hendrik of Orange, better known as William of Orange (the family coming from Dillenburg in Nassau, Germany). The Prince of Orange from birth, Wilhem Hendrik would become King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702.  In 1672, he became Stadtholder (National Leader) of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel in the Dutch Republic, the title he likely held at or about the time the map was created.  As such, while Shirley concludes below that the map was printed as early as 1668, we think it more likely that the map's creation more likely occurred around the time of William of Orange becoming Stadtholder of 5 of the states of the Dutch Republic.

In his Mapping of the World, Rodney Shirley notes:

So far, the author of this outstanding four-sheet world map has not been identified.  The only copy known, in the University of Leiden, carries the imprint of J. Van Keulen, almost certainly over an earlier impression which has been erased.  Van Keulen's issue is unlikely to date before the 1680s.

The exterior details of the map is a graphic enlargement, down to the smallest detail, of the vivid surround of De Wit's maritime world map of 1668 [engraved] by Romeyn de Hooghe . . .The artistry of this large four-sheet map is no less distinguished and it is either a masterly copy or perhaps even a predecessor original by De Hooghe on which no trace of his signature can be found.

Considerably more geographical detail is shown on the two large hemispheres:  in addition there are certain features pointing away from De Wit as the sole source.  The flattened shape of the top of California (as an island), the retention of the large undefined lake in the centre of North America, and the prominent marking of Xamo Desertuim are all features found on Visscher's prototype world maps (from 1658 onwards) and not on later updated maps such as those by Sanson and De Wit.   Australia is however more precisely defined with both the west coat and the northern coastline (as it joins on to New Guinea) being drawn without any break. . . . . On the left hand lower hemisphere is two water nymphs carrying an oval portrait of Wilhelm [sic] III, the date of his death [actually the date of his being crowned king of England]  in 1672 providing a terminal date for the original map [a conclusion we question).

It is possible that this map was prepared several years earlier, in the mid-1660s by De Wit and De Hooghe.  In 1668, the map was then redrawn in a single sheet form . . . Further evidence of De Wit's earlier collaboration with De Hooghe would be needed to support this reasoning, and a copy of the map, in its first state, if it could be found, might provide this.

The De Wit / Danckerts credit on this state of the map confirms Shirley's conclusions that the map was engraved by Romeyn De Hooghe for Frederick De Wit and a comparison of the present example with the Van Keulen strongly suggests that this example pre-dates the Van Keulen state.  Most notably, the absence of De Wit's name on the Van Keulen state is strong evidence that Van Keulen acquired the copper plates after Danckerts.

Based upon the address given in the Cornelis Danckerts credit in the title (Cornelis Danckerts op de Nieuwendyk in den Atlas), we date the map to about 1696, as most recorded records for Danckerts at this address are given the date 1696.   The Cornelis Danckerts identified on the map would be Cornelis II (1664-1717), the grandson of Cornelis Danckerts the Elder and son of Justus Danckerts.  1696 is also the year that Danckerts became Stadtholder of Drenthe, which may have spurred the re-issuance of the map.


This is the only known example of this state of the map.  A single example of a later state exists in the University of Leiden, as noted above.

Condition Description
Old color. 4 sheet map, plus separately printed title banner at top. A few abrasions expertly filled with minor facsimile reinstatement (mainly in blank areas). Color retouched.
Frederick De Wit Biography

De Wit (1629 ca.-1706) was a mapmaker and mapseller who was born in Gouda but who worked and died in Amsterdam. He moved to the city in 1648, where he opened a printing operation under the name of The Three Crabs; later, he changed the name of his shop to The White Chart. From the 1660s onward, he published atlases with a variety of maps; he is best known for these atlases and his Dutch town maps. After Frederik’s death in 1706, his wife Maria ran the shop for four years before selling it. Their son, Franciscus, was a stockfish merchant and had no interest in the map shop. At the auction to liquidate the de Wit stock, most of the plates went to Pieter Mortier, whose firm eventually became Covens & Mortier, one of the biggest cartography houses of the eighteenth century.

Cornelis II Danckerts Biography

The Danckerts were a family of Dutch engravers and geographers who produced geographic materials, including a series of original atlases. Initially, Justus I Danckerts (1635-1701) was a book and print publisher based in Amsterdam. His great-uncle, Cornelis Danckerts de Rij, (1561-1634) was a surveyor who produced a Kaert-boeck showing various views of Amsterdam. His brother, Dancker Danckerts (1634-1666), was a skilled engraver who produced several maps. Justus I was most likely influenced by both their work when he followed his father, Cornelis I Danckerts (1603-1656), into the publishing business.

In the early 1680s, Justus decided to embark upon a new project, an atlas with all the maps made in house. Such a project was feasible because two of his sons with his wife, Elisabeth Vorsterman, Theodorus I (ca. 1663-ca. 1720) and Cornelis II (1664-1717) had recently come of age and were trained in engraving and etching. Justus’ decision was most likely influenced by his surroundings; Amsterdam was the center of map publishing in the seventeenth century and in the 1680s several local publishers sought to join the atlas market then dominated by the Blaeu and the Hondius-Janssonius atlases.

Together, the brothers created their first maps in the mid-1680s. In 1684, the family received a 15-year privilege to protect their maps and they were then publishing both folios sized maps, the basis of an atlas, and wall maps for sale. Their first atlases contained around 20 original maps and 4-5 maps by other cartographers like Visscher and De Wit. The first known atlas to contain only Danckert maps was a 26-sheet volume published in 1690. As a guide, the Danckerts turned to similar atlases by De Wit, but by 1690 they clearly had the knowledge and capacity to produce their own original work.

After the first 26-sheet atlas, the Danckerts released a 37-sheet (1692-4), a 50-sheet (1694-6), and a 60-sheet (1698-1700) atlas. Several of the maps added to the atlases in the 1690s reflect the theater of the Great Alliance War (1688-1697). Other political events also influenced the contents of the atlases. For example, the English and Irish sheet maps were altered in 1688-9 and 1689-91 respectively, just after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

In 1692, Justus II (?-1692), a third son of Justus I, died. A series of maps bearing a distinct style which abruptly stopped at this time have been attributed to him. A family member assumed to be another son of Justus I, Eduard (?-after 1721) came of age around the same time. Analysis of engraving style suggests that Eduard was heavily involved in the engraving process, working alongside Theodorus I and with another relation, also presumed to be a younger son of Justus I, Johannes (?-1712), thereafter.

Justus I drew up his will in 1696 and most likely retired from daily management of the shop at this time, although he lived until 1701. The aforementioned Johannes, who had a distinct engraving style, began contributing to the map engraving in 1700, although most of the maps he worked on are published under the name of another brother. The privilege had expired in 1699 and its renewal in the same year, before the death of Justus I, could explain why his sons continued to publish in his name after his death. Using the well-known name of Justus could protect the younger sons whose own reputation was not yet established.  

In the new century, many of the maps were reworked or completely redone, as was the case with the world map and those of the continents. New maps were added to reflect the new areas of fighting in the War of the Spanish Succession, including new depictions of Italian states, the southern Netherlands, and the German provinces. In 1706, Albert Schut joined the business as an engraver and etcher and his name appears on maps from then onward. Between 1700 and 1712, the number of atlas maps increased to 75 and then 100 sheets. It seems Cornelis II was the main voice in atlas contents during this time, while Theodorus I’s role is unclear.

Johannes died in 1712, radically changing the business’ daily routine. Johannes had not only been an engraver, but also the firm’s representation to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest book fair in Europe at that time. As the German market was the main source of income for the Danckerts, his death was a heavy blow.

Over the next two decades, the pace of new map production slowed drastically. Only two known maps made during this period are known today: a third world map, engraved by Jacob Folkema, and a Hispania map published with Cornelis II’s name. Neither of these featured in the atlases. After 1717, when his father Cornelis II died, a few maps were reworked by Theodorus II and the contents of the atlases were altered slightly to include those printed from unfinished plates.

By 1726, Theodorus II was in debt. He gave much of his stock to a creditor, T. Rijswick, just before he died in 1727. The stock was sold at auction by Rijswick and other publishers, including the Ottens and Van Keulen, bought plates from the atlas.

Lack of biographical data is a problem for all the Danckerts, especially the younger brothers. Justus I was born in Amsterdam, where he also began his business. All the sons were born and presumably died there. Justus II’s death date is all that has survived of him in the records, and all that is known of Eduard is that in 1721 he served as uncle and guardian to Theodorus II (ca. 1701-1727), the son of Cornelis II. After that nothing is known of him. Theodorus I most likely died between 1718 and 1721. He had a son, Gerit (ca. 1708-after 1731), but the lad does seem to have become a map engraver. With the death of Theodorus II, therefore, there were no more Danckerts to carry on the business even if Theodorus II had avoided debt.

Although not as long-lived as some of the other family firms, for the decades surrounding the turn of the seventeenth-century the Danckert family produced well-respected and widely distributed wall maps and atlases. They joined the atlas trade at a time when atlases were increasing in popularity and the expansion in the number of sheets included in their atlases indicate both their popularity and the skill of the engraving brothers.