Hondius’ Striking Map of Southeast Asia
Nice example of Henricus Hondius' map of Southeast Asia, based upon Blaeu's map of 1635. It shows the important East Indies and some of the earliest Dutch encounters with New Guinea and northern Australia—one of the first to do so and only the second map with such information to be widely distributed.
The map includes Southeast Asia in general with all of Malaysia, the East Indies, the Philippines, Indonesia, Indochina and southern China with the Pearl River Delta, Taiwan, and part of Japan. Incomplete suggestions of a coastline are to the southeast. Part of these are labeled as “Terra dos Papous”, a name they gained from a “Jacobo le Maire, or Jacob le Maire, who circumnavigated the world from 1615 to 1617. The others are New Guinea and what would become Queensland, Australia.
The map is also richly embellished. In the bottom right corner is an ornate scale, framed with scrollwork. In the bottom left is a dedicatory cartouche encased within a pedestal and topped with a coat of arms. The title cartouche is set within inland China and is surrounded with bounteous fruits. At sea, two compass roses and rhumb lines suggest the importance of maritime commerce to the region, as do the six ships and the sea monster who roam the waters.
The Dutch in the East Indies
Although the map shows much of Asia, at its center are the islands of Southeast Asia: Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Celebes, the Moluccas, and others. The Moluccas were the vaunted Spice Islands, originally the only source in the world for nutmeg, mace, and cloves. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to gain power in the region, trading for spices in the Moluccas and controlling the spice market in Europe.
The Dutch wanted in on the lucrative trade, but they also had to contend with the Portuguese. The first Dutch expedition, led by Cornelis de Houtman in 1595, avoided India, the Strait of Malacca, and the Moluccas—Portuguese strongholds—in favor of the Sunda Strait.
The Dutch set up their trade centers on the island of Java, at Bantam and, later, Batavia; both are labeled here. After Houtman, the second Dutch expedition (1598-1600) quickly set sail for the East Indies. It was followed by five others; the Dutch merchants were eager to exploit the opportunity. In 1602, the most powerful of these merchants and the Dutch government, the States General, created the Dutch East India Company (VOC), a monopoly to control the East Indies trade.
Dutch exploration south of the East Indies
Unfinished coastlines east and south of Java suggest the unknown lands still to be encountered by Europeans. Here, New Guinea is a long thing island with an open western edge. It is very close to another coastline that we now know is the York Peninsula in Australia. Although Torres had sailed through the strait now named for him in 1606, the Spanish government suppressed news of the voyage. As a result, mapmakers for over a century would link Australia and New Guinea.
Hondius, however, does not quite connect the two here, preferring a cautious approach to the still-mysterious area. There is a note that says that part of the island, known as “Terra d’os Papous” was named by Jacob le Maire. Le Maire was part of a very important voyage from 1615 to 1617. Not only did he and his fellow Willem Schouten (whose name is on an island off the coast of Papous) circumnavigate the world and name many Pacific islands with Dutch names, they also passed round Cape Horn via a strait that now bears Le Maire’s name. As the Strait of Magellan had been under a VOC monopoly, Schouten and Le Maire’s voyage provided Dutch traders and those of other nationalities freer access to the Pacific.
Like the Spanish, the Dutch also kept geographic knowledge secret. However, they employed official hydrographers who simultaneously ran commercial print shops, thus providing a channel for geographic knowledge to reach a wider public. This map is an important Dutch representation of South East Asia, noteworthy for being one of the first printed maps to include the discoveries made in New Guinea and northern Queensland, Australia by the Dutch vessel Duyfken in 1605-06. Under the command of Willem Janszoon, the Duyfken explored the eastern shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria, just below the Cape York Peninsula, a venture which was famously the first recorded European contact with Australia.
This is not the only Australian encounter included on this map. Further west, another unfinished coast line extends into the lower border of the map. It is labeled as G.F. de Wits landt, or De Wits’ Land, which refers to the 1628 voyage of Gerrit Fredericsz De Wit to the western coast of Australia. Although they are not labeled explicitly, it is likely that Hondius had also heard about Jan Edel’s voyage farther south in 1619, and the Leuwin’s 1622 cruise around the southwest corner of the continent. Pieter Nuyts also sailed along the south coast in 1627.
Another noteworthy Dutch discovery recorded here is that of the Eendracht, which was blown off course en route to the East Indies in 1616. It was commanded by Dirk Hartog and Hartog’s landing was the first recorded European landing on the western coast of Australia. The crew commemorated their discovery by erecting a post with a pewter dish inscribed with their ship’s information—the earliest physical record that historians have of any European landing in Australia.
Finally, Hondius has kept in the tiny geographic feature called Trial. These refer to the rocks struck in the dead of night by the English ship Trial. The survivors of the wreck managed to sail in two small craft to Batavia in July 1622 and report the dangerous, but hard to locate, obstructions.
Hondius based this map on Blaeu’s map of the region. The original proof state of Blaeu’s version was issued without cartouches in 1633. The second proof state, with cartouches but pre-dating the dedication information and some of the final cartographic additions, was issued in 1634. The finished map, with dedication, appeared in Blaeu's two-volume atlas from 1635 onward and was only revised in 1664.
Hondius released his version in 1636, just after Blaeu’s finished version appeared. Later, it was integrated into atlases jointly published by Jan Janssonius and Hondius. It is an important map in the history of Australian and Pacific exploration and is a visually stunning cartographic depiction of the region.
Henricus Hondius (1597-1651) was a Dutch engraver and mapmaker, a member of a prominent cartographic family. His father, Jodocus Hondius, was also an engraver and geographer. While working with his father, Henricus was instrumental in the expansion and republishing of Mercator’s atlas, first published in 1595 and republished by Hondius in 1606.
Upon his father’s death in 1612, Henricus and his brother, Jodocus the Younger, took over the business. He set up his own shop in 1621, where he continued to release new editions of the Mercator atlas. Later, he partnered with his brother-in-law, Jan Janssonius, in continuing to expand and publish Mercator’s atlas, which would become known as the Mercator-Hondius-Janssonius atlas. Born and based in Amsterdam, he died there in 1651.