Fine Original Color Example
Rare Dutch sea chart of Curaçao, published by the Van Keulen family in the middle of the 18th Century.
The chart includes several coastal insets and an inset of Fort Amsterdam and the Bay of St. Anna.
Van Keulen's chart is one of the earliest detailed maps of Curacao. Based on Arent Roggeveen's map of the island first published in 1675, Van Keulen closely copied a vignette featuring Fort Amsterdam as well as an inset map with a bird's-eye plan of Fort Amsterdam and the Santa Anna Bay. Van Keulen significantly improves upon and updates Roggeveen's chart with numerous details along the coastline and the interior of the island. Navigational notes surround Curacao, with additional notations regarding the locations of salt pans, plantations, and landings by the French.
The island of Curacao was the historical nexus of the Dutch Antilles. With its large and protected natural port, the island was the major center for commerce of the Dutch West India Company. Although first inhabited by the Spanish around 1500, they soon abandoned the island due to its lack of gold and fresh water. In 1634 the Dutch claimed Curacao and began building settlements and plantations.
Van Keulen's chart of Curacao was by far the most accurate obtainable sea chart of the region during this period. Augmented with sailing directions and six coastal profiles, the quality and detail of the chart reflected the importance of Curacao as a regional center for Dutch trade in the Southern Caribbean and along the coast of Venezuela.
The map would serve as the prototype map for Sayer & Bennett's map of Curacao which appeared in the West India Atlas.
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.