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. 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 Oronico 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.
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.