Showing El Dorado on the West Side of Lake Parime
One of the best early decorative maps of the Amazon region, published by Jan Jansson in Amsterdam in the 17th century. This extremely attractive map is notable for the sheer density of cartographic myths that it shows, with a large Lake Parime and the location of El Dorado included.
The map includes nice detail along the Brazilian and Guianan coastlines, with numerous rivers and islands named. In the north, the start of the Antilles and Trinidad and Tobago are seen. The Orinoco and Amazon rivers are portrayed extending deep into the interior of the continent. Mountain ranges and more appear throughout, and the indigenous populations are named.
The map, like many of Jansson's creations published during the Dutch Golden Age of Cartography, is highly decorative. The map includes three cartouches, the same number of sailing ships, a sea monster, and a compass rose.
Lake Parime and El Dorado
Lake Parime is a fictional lake located in the Amazon rainforest of northern Brazil that started to appear on maps in the late sixteenth century, although it was not disproved until the nineteenth century. The myth was primarily due to Raleigh's El Dorado Expedition, which was his first voyage to Guiana in which he went up to four hundred miles inland into the continent. During this expedition, Rayleigh was supposedly told of the lake from indigenous and Spanish sources and informed that the gold of the local peoples initially came from there.
While Rayleigh never found the supposed lake, in 1596, one year after his initial expedition, he sent Lawrence Kemys to Guyana to search for the lake. Kemys again gathered more information, but was unable to find the lake. However, the myth of Lake Pareme, and its "city of gold," continue to live on.
It has been more recently been conjectured that the explorers misunderstood reports of the flooded shores of the Orinoco River. During these flood months, gold from the high plateaus would have washed up on the banks of the river, providing an explanation for the myth.
Maps that focus on the Lake to such a great extent are uncommon, and this is one of the prime examples of the genre.
Jan Janssonius (also known as Johann or Jan Jansson or Janszoon) (1588-1664) was a renowned geographer and publisher of the seventeenth century, when the Dutch dominated map publishing in Europe. Born in Arnhem, Jan was first exposed to the trade via his father, who was also a bookseller and publisher. In 1612, Jan married the daughter of Jodocus Hondius, who was also a prominent mapmaker and seller. Jonssonius’ first maps date from 1616.
In the 1630s, Janssonius worked with his brother-in-law, Henricus Hondius. Their most successful venture was to reissue the Mercator-Hondius atlas. Jodocus Hondius had acquired the plates to the Mercator atlas, first published in 1595, and added 36 additional maps. After Hondius died in 1612, Henricus took over publication; Janssonius joined the venture in 1633. Eventually, the atlas was renamed the Atlas Novus and then the Atlas Major, by which time it had expanded to eleven volumes. Janssonius is also well known for his volume of English county maps, published in 1646.
Janssonius died in Amsterdam in 1664. His son-in-law, Johannes van Waesbergen, took over his business. Eventually, many of Janssonius’ plates were sold to Gerard Valck and Pieter Schenk, who added their names and continued to reissue the maps.