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Southeastern Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas

Finely color example of Van Keulen's sea chart of Southeastern Florida, the Bahamas and Northeastern Cuba, first issued in the fourth part of the 1684 edition of his Zee-Fakkel, published in Amsterdam.

Oriented with West at the top, Van Keulen's chart provides a highly detailed treatment of South Florida, from the Mosquito Lagoon and the Merritt Island area in the north to Tavernier and Islamorado in the south. Six or Seven Keys are named, including Key Biscane, which is called Cayo de Biscambos. Cajo de Melchior Roiz appears, drawn from Hessel Gerritsz' chart of 1631.

The chart provides a detailed look at the major islands of the Bahamas, including Grand Bahama Island, Great Abaco Island, Nassau, Grand Exuma, Eluthra, New Providence, etc. The treatment of Northeastern Cuba is also among the best of the 17th Century.  Van Keulen's chart was an useful tool for navigators of the period, providing and essential overview of the region's islands, reefs, and other landmarks and hazards.

Johannes van Keulen, a Dutch cartographer, established his business in Amsterdam in 1680 and quickly gained a reputation for producing highly accurate and detailed sea charts. His work played a significant role in the development of Dutch maritime cartography, which was then the most advanced in the world. Van Keulen's sea chart of the Bahamas Channel is a prime example of his expertise and the quality of his craftsmanship.  Over the next century, his family would come to dominate the Dutch market for sea charts.

The Bahamas Channel, located between the southeastern coast of Florida, the Bahamas, and the northern coast of Cuba, was a crucial passage for ships traveling between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. European powers, including Spain, Britain, and the Netherlands, sought to establish and maintain control over trade routes and resources in the Americas. The accurate mapping of this region was essential for the safe navigation of their fleets and the successful execution of their colonial and trade ambitions.

Furthermore, the chart exhibits the blending of artistic and scientific elements typical of Dutch cartography at the time. The map's elaborate cartouche and ornamental flourishes, and compass roses speak to the cultural and aesthetic values of the period, while the meticulous attention to geographical detail demonstrates the chart's practical utility.

States of the Map

This is the third state of the map. The first does not include page numbers. The second includes the number 16 at the bottom left corner. This final state includes the number 16 in both lower corners.

A cornerstone map for Florida, Cuba and Bahama collections.

Johannes Van Keulen Biography

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.