Extremely rare early sea chart of the Caribbean coast of Panama by Arent Roggeveen.
Panama Silver Trade and Piracy
The chart shows the coast of Panama toward the end of the golden age of the Spanish Silver Trade and Piracy in the region, centered on the Spanish trading port of Portobelo. Portobelo was colonized in 1597 by Spanish explorer Francisco Velarde y Mercado and quickly replaced Nombre de Dios as a Caribbean port for Peruvian silver. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus originally named the port "Puerto Bello", meaning "Beautiful Port", in 1502.
During the first quarter of the 17th century, trade between Spain and the isthmus remained undisturbed. At the same time, England, France, and the Netherlands, one or all almost constantly at war with Spain, began seizing colonies in the Caribbean. Such footholds in the West Indies encouraged the development of the buccaneers—English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese adventurers who preyed on Spanish shipping and ports with the tacit or open support of their governments. Because of their numbers and the closeness of their bases, the buccaneers were more effective against Spanish trade than the English had been during the previous century
Henry Morgan, a buccaneer who had held Portobelo for ransom in 1668, returned to Panama with a stronger force at the end of 1670. On January 29, 1671, Morgan appeared at Panama City. With 1,400 men he defeated the garrison of 2,600 in a pitched battle outside the city, which he then looted. The officials and citizens fled, some to the country and others to Peru, having loaded their ships with the most important church and government funds and treasure. Panama City was destroyed by fire, probably from blown up powder stores, although the looters were blamed. After 4 weeks, Morgan left with 175 mule loads of loot and 600 prisoners. Two years later, a new city was founded at the location of the present-day capital and was heavily fortified.
The buccaneer activity rapidly declined after 1688 mainly because of changing European alliances. By this time Spain was chronically bankrupt; its population had fallen, and it suffered internal government mismanagement and corruption
Arent Roggeveen was a land surveyor, mathematician, poet and teacher of navigation. Born in Delfshaven, he later moved to Middelburg where both the Dutch East and West India Companies were based. He was employed by both companies as a teacher in the art of navigation. He also helped maintain their collections of hydrographic manuscripts and charts, including Spanish portulanos of the West Indies. In the mid-1660s, Roggeveen compiled a series of large scale charts of the North American coastline, West Indies and later, West Africa. His Het Brandende Veen or The Burning Fen represented a landmark in the coastal charting of North America, with a number of regions mapped in a larger scale than in any previously printed work. Roggeveen arranged for Pieter Goos, one of the leading engravers and publishers of maritime books in Amsterdam to publish the collection. The completed work was the first Dutch pilot that was focused on select areas of the American coastline. Previously, all printed maps and charts that dealt with this coastline were on a much larger scale.
Roggeveen died in 1679. Goos' widow sold the plates to Jacob Robijn, who reissued the maps with his name added to the title, but otherwise unchanged, in 1680. Both examples of the map are extremely rare. The atlases were undoubtedly published in limited quantities. Working sea charts and pilots from the 17th Century are inherently rare due to the nature of their use aboard ships. The vast majority of them were either destroyed by use or destroyed intentionally when new updated versions were obtained.