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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.

Jodocus Hondius Biography

Jodocus Hondius the Elder (1563-1612), or Joost de Hondt, was one of the most prominent geographers and engravers of his time. His work did much to establish Amsterdam as the center of cartographic publishing in the seventeenth century. Born in Wakken but raised in Ghent, the young Jodocus worked as an engraver, instrument maker, and globe maker.

Hondius moved to London in 1584, fleeing religious persecution in Flanders. There, he worked for Richard Hakluyt and Edward Wright, among others. Hondius also engraved the globe gores for Emery Molyneux’s pair of globes in 1592; Wright plotted the coastlines. His engraving and nautical painting skills introduced him to an elite group of geographic knowledge seekers and producers, including the navigators Drake, Thomas Cavendish, and Walter Raleigh, as well as engravers like Theodor De Bry and Augustine Ryther. This network gave Hondius access to manuscript charts and descriptions which he then translated into engraved maps.

In 1593 Hondius returned to Amsterdam, where he lived for the rest of his life. Hondius worked in partnership with Cornelis Claesz, a publisher, and maintained his ties to contacts in Europe and England. For example, from 1605 to 1610, Hondius engraved the plates for John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine.

One of Hondius’ most successful commercial ventures was the reprinting of Mercator’s atlas. When he acquired the Mercator plates, he added 36 maps, many engraved by him, and released the atlas under Mercator’s name, helping to solidify Mercator’s reputation posthumously. Hondius died in 1612, at only 48 years of age, after which time his son of the same name and another son, Henricus, took over the business, including the reissuing of the Mercator atlas. After 1633, Hondius the Elder’s son-in-law, Johannes Janssonius, was also listed as a co-publisher for the atlas.