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Willem Janszoon Blaeu's decorative, carte-a-figure map of the World.

One of the finest and most famous world maps to appear in an atlas during the Golden Age of Dutch cartography. The map became Blaeu's standard world map in his atlases until 1662 when a double hemisphere map of the world was added. Later a double hemisphere polar projection was included by Valck.

The map's rectangular shape and a regular grid of latitude and longitude lines reflect Blaeu's use of Gerard Mercator's projection which Mercator first introduced in 1569. Blaeu's map is essentially a reduced-size version of his wall map of 1605, with basically identical geographical information. As is characteristic of the Mercator projection, the sizes and shapes of landmasses in the polar regions are greatly exaggerated. The map is now famous for its elaborate ornamentation, embellished with ships, sea monsters, compass roses, and ornate border panels. Across the top are allegorical representations of the sun and moon and the five known planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The four basic elements, Fire, Air, Water, and Land, are illustrated on the left panel, while the four seasons are depicted on the right panel. The seven wonders of the ancient world are displayed in the bottom panels.

The lower panel includes illustrations of the seven wonders of the Ancient World.

The left panel illustrates the personifications of the four elements. The right panel illustrates the personifications of the four seasons.

The top panel shows the seven planets of the old cosmology personified as Roman gods.

The map incorporates some of the classic early 17th century cartographic misconceptions, including the elongated Northwest coast of America, a massive southern landmass with narrow strait between it and South America, incomplete New Guinea attached to a large southern continent, etc.

States of the Map:

The present example is state 5 of the map. The states can be determined as follows:

  • State 1. The image does not include the signature "Ja. vanden Ende sculpsit." to the lower left of the South Pole projection. Shirley says "possibly a proof".
  • State 2. With signature of Josua van den Ende: "Ja. vanden Ende sculpsit"
  • State 3. As state 2, but Terra del Fuego is now an island and Fretum le Maire has been added. Probably issued in 1617, as a companion map of Europe bears this date.
  • State 4: "Gul. Jansonius 1606" removed and replaced with "Guil. Blaeuw". "Gulielmus Janssonius" replaced with "Gulielmus Blaeuw"
  • State 5: Confusingly, this final state, unrecorded by Shirley, adds back the connection between Terra del Fuego and the Southern Continent and some of the coastline erased in the third state.
Condition Description
Excellent original hand-color. Wide margins.
Shirley 255.
Willem Janszoon Blaeu Biography

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) was a prominent Dutch geographer and publisher. Born the son of a herring merchant, Blaeu chose not fish but mathematics and astronomy for his focus. He studied with the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, with whom he honed his instrument and globe making skills. Blaeu set up shop in Amsterdam, where he sold instruments and globes, published maps, and edited the works of intellectuals like Descartes and Hugo Grotius. In 1635, he released his atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive, Atlas novus.

Willem died in 1638. He had two sons, Cornelis (1610-1648) and Joan (1596-1673). Joan trained as a lawyer, but joined his father’s business rather than practice. After his father’s death, the brothers took over their father’s shop and Joan took on his work as hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company. Later in life, Joan would modify and greatly expand his father’s Atlas novus, eventually releasing his masterpiece, the Atlas maior, between 1662 and 1672.