The Most Advanced Sea Atlas of the Americas When Published
Handsome example of this very rare sea atlas of the Americas and the West Indies, made by Johannes van Keulen, a renowned Dutch chartmaker of the end of the seventeenth century.
The atlas provides coverage of the Eastern Seaboard of the Americas from northern South America and the West Indies to the Canadian Maritimes. The atlas includes, among others, Van Keulen's excellent charts of the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, Long Island and the Hudson River. As Philip Burden explains of the latter, "It arguably represents the apogee of Dutch knowledge of the region."
There are also two charts of Florida (the east and west coasts), the former of which includes a detailed treatment of the Bahamas and an exceptional treatment of the islands of the West Indies.
The Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel (New Shining Sea Torch) was the work that made van Keulen’s reputation. Published in five volumes from 1680-1684 (with a sixth volume in 1753), the atlas was reprinted until 1783 and translated into English, Spanish, Italian, and French, as seen with this example. The Americas were featured in the fourth volume.
Editions of the atlas are somewhat difficult to conclusively date, as the final digit on the title page was left blank (i.e., reading "168" in print). The intention was that it be filled in later in pen. In the present example, the date was filled with "0" or "6". As the fourth volume of the Zee-Fakkel was not issued until 1684, we know that it must be a 1686. This is apparently a variant of the 1686 recorded by Koeman (Keu 188B), as the title formatting varies slightly and it lacks a dated privilege on the verso of the engraved allegorical title. The charts are second states according to Burden, representing the first time the plates are numbered in the lower-left corner. Burden had previously dated these changes to 1687, though it seems that, with this atlas, we can move the date one year earlier.
Van Keulen's American sea atlas invites comparison to that of Roggeveen, which was first published in 1675 with the second edition coming out in 1680. There are more charts in the Roggeveen, including some wonderful detailed regional treatments not seen in the Van Keulen. And, as it was published in 1675, the Roggeveen can claim the title of the first sea atlas of the Americas. However, it pays for that chronological primacy with cartographic accuracy; in several notable areas (Virginia, for instance; "this is a vastly improved map" Burden 588), the Roggeveen charts are far inferior to those of Van Keulen. Thus, it can be said that the Van Keulen was the most advanced sea atlas of the Americas when it appeared in the 1680s.
The Van Keulen American sea atlas does not appear as an individual volume in trade. Two examples of the five-volume French Zee-Fakkel have been sold in the past century, with the only 1680s edition (1681-1689) example making 42,900 GBP at Sotheby's in 1985. An example of a 1782 edition was offered at Christie's in 2019 for 30,000 GBP.
Koeman records only one example of the 1686 French edition, in the Biblioteca Nazionale Milano.
List of maps
- Pas-kaart. Van West Indien Behelsende soo Delzelffs Vaste Kusten als d'Onder behoorende Eylanden aan de oord Ocean...
- Pas-kaart. Van de Zee-kusten van Guiana Tusschen Cabo Noord en Rio Amano.
- Pas-kkart Vande Rivieren Commewini Suriname en Cupanama
- Pas kaart Vande Kust van Guiana Tusschen R. Cupanama en R: Oronoque
- Pas kaart Van Rio Oronoque
- Pas kaart Van de Caribes Tusschen I. Barbados en I.S. Martin
- Pas kaart van t Eyland S. Iuan De Porto Rico met d'Eylanden daar Beoosten
- Pas-kaart vande Zee kusten van Venecuela met de Byleggende Eylanden
- Pas-kaart Van de Zuyd-Kust van Espaniola met de Zee kust van Nuevo Reyne de Granada
- Pas-kaart Van de Noord Kust van Espaniola met d'Eylanden daar Benoorden
- Pas-kaart Van de Zee Kusten van Carthagena Tierra Firma, Costa Rica ended Honduras
- Pas kaart Van de Zuyd kust van Cuba en Van Geheel Yamaica en and're bygeleegen plaatsen
- Pas-kaart van de Golff de Guanaios Met 't Canaal Tusschen Yucatan en I. Cuba
- Pas Kaart van de Golff van Mexico
- Pas kaart van de Boght van Florida
- Pas Kaart Van Noord Oost Kust van Cuba en d'Oost Kust van Florida
- Pas Kaart Van I. La Barmuda
- Pas Kaart Van de Kust van Carolina Tusschen C. Canaveral en C. Henry
- Pas Kaart Van de Zee Kusten van Virginia Tusschen C. Henry en t Hooge Land van Renselaars Hoek
- Pas-Kaart Vande Zee-Kusten van Niew Nederland Anders Genaamt Niew York Tusschen Renselaars Hoek en de Staaten Hoek
- Pas-Kaart Vande Zee Kusten inde Boght van Niew England Tusschen de Staaten Hoek en C. de Sable
- Pas-kaart, Vande Zee-Kusten, van Terra Nova, Met de Byleggende Zee-Kusten van Francia Nova Canada
- Pas-kaart Van de Grand Banq By Terra Nuff
The Van Keulens were a family of chartmakers and publishers. The firm, In de Gekroonde Lootsman (In the Crowned Pilot), was founded in 1678 by Johannes van Keulen (1654-1715). Van Keulen originally registered his business as a vendor of books and instruments (specifically cross-staffs). In 1680, however, he gained a privilege from the States of Holland and West Friesland for the publication of pilot guides and sea atlases.
In that year, van Keulen released his Zee-Atlas (Sea Atlas), which secured him a name in the competitive maritime publishing market. In 1681, he published the first volume of Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel (New Shining Sea Torch). This would be the first of an eventual five volumes originally published between 1680 and 1684. A sixth volume was added in 1753. The Zee-Fakel won van Keulen lasting fame. The atlas had charts compiled by Claes Jansz Vooght and artwork from Jan Luyken. It proved immensely popular and was reprinted until 1783. There were translations in French, English, Spanish, and Italian.
The late-seventeenth century was an auspicious time to enter the maritime chart business. Previous industry leaders had either closed shop, died, or retired, leaving space for a new competitor. Van Keulen proceeded to buy up the stock and privileges of several maritime publishing firms; the most notable was the stock of Hendrik Doncker, acquired in 1693.
Johannes’ son, Gerard (1678-1726) took over the business upon his father’s death. Gerard was a skilled engraver and mathematician. His talents were noticed, as in 1706 he was named as Hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
In turn, Gerard’s son Johannes II (1704-1770) came to run the shop. He was also tied to the VOC, and his role as their chartmaker allowed his charts to be considered as quasi-official government documents. It is with access to formerly clandestine VOC geographic knowledge that Johannes the Younger was able to add a sixth volume to the Zee-Fakkel, which covered the East Indies. Johannes also continued to sell instruments, including the recently-invented Hadley’s Quadrant from 1744.
When Johannes II died in 1770, his widow ran the business in his stead, aided by her two sons, Cornelis Buys (1736-1778) and Gerard Hulst (1733-1801). Now a century old, the family business had extended to include an anchor factory. After Cornelis died in 1778, Gerard took on the management of the firm alone. He oversaw the introduction of sextants to their inventory and published the Dutch Nautical Almanac beginning in 1788. Annual editions appeared until 1885. Gerard also served as an original member of the Dutch Commission for Longitude at Sea from 1787.
Gerard’s widow ran the business for nine years after his death, when their son, Johannes Hulst, started to lead the firm in 1810. After his death in 1844, the firm passed out of family hands and into the control of Jacob Swert, a skilled cartographer who had worked for the business for two decades. He passed the work to his son, another Jacob, in 1866. By the mid-nineteenth century, the conversion from sail to steam had diminished the size of the market for charts. Fewer sailors needed fewer maps, charts, and instruments. In 1885, after 207 years in business, In de Gekroonde Lootsman closed its doors and auctioned its stock.