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Description

Fine Example of the Goos/Van Keulen Edition of Willem Blaeu's Separately Published Sea Chart of Europe

Large and sumptuously decorative chart of Europe and the eastern Atlantic—Van Keulen’s and Pieter Goos's edition of one of the rarest and most historically important monuments of Dutch Baroque cartography. The original issue was a milestone in the career of the celebrated mapmaker Willem Blaeu.

The first edition by Blaeu is exceedingly rare, with no examples recorded in British or American institutional collections. This Goos/Van Keulen edition is even rarer as well and has only been seen on the market once in the past several decades.

Blaeu's chart captures the entire western coastline of Europe and the shores of much of the Mediterranean Sea. The coverage of the main part of the chart commences in the northeast at Novaya Zemlya, then follows the intricate European coast past Norway, into the Baltic Sea, then down through the North Sea and the Atlantic littoral, through the Pillars of Hercules to take in all of the Mediterranean Sea west of Corfu, along with the adjacent coastlines of North Africa.

It also extends deep into the North Atlantic to feature Iceland, Greenland, Spitsbergen and the Azores. The latter is important as the location of the Dutch prime meridian of longitude (before it was changed later in the century to 'Pico' in Tenerife, and then to Greenwich in the nineteenth century), and as an important marker for ships sailing to the West Indies and South America.

The chart is oriented with west at the top and assumes a portolan-style appearance. There is sparse geographic detail in the interior while neat and tightly-clustered place names ring the littoral. The seas, in turn, are traversed by rhumblines emanating from compass roses. What embellishment the interior areas do have are elaborate national coats of arms, including those of Russia, Sweden, Denmark-Norway, the Holy Roman Empire, England, France, Spain and the Ottoman Empire. Four scale cartouches adorn the corners, while a magnificent title cartouche, topped by Blaeu's symbol of an armillary sphere and with his motto "Indefessus Agendo" ('Act Steadily'), graces the lower-center of the chart. The seas are further embellished with sailing ships and seals, while on the land roam Inuit hunters, goats, bears and elephants.

Importantly, the original edition of this chart is one of the earliest to include details of the waters around Greenland and the Davis Strait, on the west coast of the island, after the 1612 map of Hessel Gerritsz, a cartographer closely associated with Blaeu. Blaeu also makes a step forward in omitting the mythical island of 'Friesland', which was still included on many contemporary charts.

While most of the coastlines of Europe are well charted and fully familiar to the modern eye. As contrast, the Russian Arctic coastline, in the lower right of the chart, remains partially undefined. The chart presents some of the most advanced knowledge of the region, largely based on the recent charting done by Dutch explorers. In particular, Blaeu shows the western coasts of Novaya Zemlya, discovered by Willem Barentsz in the 1590s, although he is cautiously silent on whether or not the landform is an island.

Blaeu’s original chart was released after 1621. Blaeu based much of the cartography of the present chart on a chart he made in 1606, although the Pascaarte van alle de Zecusten van Europa is much larger and more detailed. The present edition, printed by Pieter Goos, was released in the period 1650-66, when Goos had his shop “Op het Water”, or on the water, as the additional cartouche in Greenland explains.

Historical Context

Blaeu devised the chart to take advantage of major events that were occurring with respect to the Dutch Republic's growing global ambitions in the first half of the seventeenth Century. In 1621, the year that the first edition of the chart was produced, the Dutch West India Company (the WIC) was formed in an effort to acquire commercial colonies in the Americas. The Company's mariners vitally needed such an omnibus chart that would guide their ships in approaching and clearing European inland waters, while also being able to sail down between the Canaries and Azores to take advantage of the trade winds, and so to sail down towards the West Indies. In a short matter of time, the WIC founded New Amsterdam (1624, modern New York), conquered much of Northern Brazil (starting in 1630), and acquired Caribbean Islands such as Curaçao and part of Saint Martin (1630). To further assist the WIC, Blaeu published his West Indische Paskaert later the same year.

Another major interest was the Noordsche Compagnie (the Northern Company), established in 1614, which held a monopoly on all Dutch trade in the Arctic, which was primarily centered on whaling and fishing. The chart's progressive delineation of Arctic Russia and Scandinavia, Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland would have been most useful.

As the finest general sea chart of Europe made during its era, Blaeu's chart also had important military strategic value. In 1621, the Twelve Years' Truce in the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) expired and the Dutch Republic and Spain renewed their epic conflict. Leading officials of the government of the Dutch Stadholder, Prince Maurits of Orange-Nassau, as well as senior naval commanders, would certainly have consulted copies of the chart when planning their missions. Indeed, over the coming years the Dutch Navy came into combat with the Armada Real in wide variety of places, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, so an accurate panoptic view of the continent would have been most beneficial.

Blaeu's magnificent chart thus acted as a 'calling card' for the WIC, the Noordische Company and the Dutch Navy, which ensured Blaeu a tremendous amount of business for the rest of his days. The Pascaarte van alle de Zecusten van Europa also helped to establish Blaeu's supremacy in the highly competitive Dutch cartography market. The chart was highly influential and was copied many times over the next three generations with editions by Anthonie Jacobsz, Pieter Goos, Justus Danckerts, and Blaeu's own grandchildren Willem II, Pieter and Joan. Frederick De Wit also made a version of the chart, which cut off the region that included Greenland, which was in turn copied by Renard and Ottens. Perhaps most notably, Blaeu's Pascaarte van alle de Zecusten van Europa was used by the great painter Vermeer as the backdrop to his painting 'The Geographer' (1669), which today resides in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.

The Pascaarte van alle de Zecusten van Europa was, during its time, a practical working sea chart, and so copies tended to be heavily used aboard ship. Thus, they have a relatively low survival rate. It was printed on both paper (as with the present example) and on vellum. Both types are exceedingly rare, with only eight institutional examples known (six on vellum and only two printed on paper). Gunther Schilder notes that of these examples none resides in American or British collections. The institutions which record examples are: Universiteitsbibliotheek Amsterdam; Stadsarchief Antwerpen; Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin; Nationalbibliothek Budapest; Hessesche Landesbibliothek, Darmstadt; Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe; Bibliotheque Nationale de France; Herzogin Anna Amalia-Bibliothek, Weimar; and the Stopp Collection.

Goos/Van Keuen Edition

In about 1650, Pieter Goos acquired the original Blaeu chart. He added his name to the central cartouche at the bottom of the chart, erasing Blaeu’s in the process. In Greenland, Goos added another large cartouche, which covered the polar bears that were on Blaeu’s original chart. The bears, here colored darkly, were then added to the scale cartouche nearby. This second state was issued between 1650 and 1666, according to Schilder. There are three known copies on vellum at the Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe; the Kungl. Bbilioteket, Stockholm; and the Library of Congress. The Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris has two examples on paper.

Goos’ edition was subsequently acquired by Johannes I van Keulen, circa 1680. He reprinted the Goos plate, as seen in this example, with his own name inserted in the cartouche in the upper right. The van Keulen family was building their chart business precisely at this time, so reprinting previously popular charts was an effective business strategy.

Interestingly, Schilder does not include the van Keulen edition in his Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica. It is also not mentioned in The Van Keulen Cartography Amsterdam 1680-1885.

Rarity

The map is very rare on the market and is hardly known to researchers. We note only one prior example, in a catalogue issued by the Norwegian dealer Pal Sagen in November 2003, with the top 9 cm cut off. It is an important historical document and a lush example of Dutch cartography from its Golden Age.

Provenance 

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; acquired by CW in 1960.

Reference
Dirk de Vries, Gunter Schilder, Willem Morzer Bruyns, Peter van Iterson, and Irene Jacobs, The Van Keulen Cartography Amsterdam 1680-1885 (Alphen aan den Rijn, 2005); Gunter Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica IV (Alphen aan den Rijn, 1993), pp. 100-101, maps 45.1 and 45.2.
Pieter Goos Biography

Pieter Goos (ca. 1616-1675) was a Dutch map and chart maker, whose father Abraham Goos (approx. 1590-1643) had already published numerous globes, land and sea maps together with Jodocus Hondius and Johannes Janssonius in Antwerp.

Pieter Goos gained recognition due to the publication of sea charts. He bought the copperplates of the famous guide book for sailors, De Lichtende Columne ofte Zeespiegel (Amsterdam 1644, 1649, 1650), from Anthonie Jacobsz.  Goos published his own editions of this work in various languages, while adding his own maps. In 1666, he published his  De Zee-Atlas ofte Water-Weereld, which is considered one of the best sea atlases of its time.  Goos' sea charts came to dominate the Dutch market until the 1680s, when the Van Keulen family began to come to prominence.