Rare Dutch sea chart of the eastern United States, Florida, the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean.
Joannes Van Keulen's "Pascaerte van WestIndien . . . " is a masterful representation of cartography from the age of exploration. Centered on the crucial geographic locales of Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas, it offers an expansive view of the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and parts of South America. Moving northward, the map also reaches as far as Long Island Sound and the southern tip of Cape Cod, capturing places with evocative and early spellings such as Adriaen Blocks Island, Marten Vinnart, and Natocket (modernly known as Block Island, Martin Vineyard, and Nantucket, respectively).
One of the striking features of this map is its intricate title cartouche. The visual appeal of the cartouche showcases the meticulous craftsmanship of the era. Two cherubs delicately hold a compass and falstaff on either side, underscoring the primary use of the map as a navigation tool. The elaborate garland gracing the bottom of the cartouche adds a touch of decorative elegance to the functional artwork.
Van Keulen’s chart draws its foundation from Hessel Gerritz's map of 1631, but is by no means a mere reproduction. Instead, Van Keulen enhances and updates the map, integrating more recent geographic information and, in particular, refining details of the Mid-Atlantic region. This transformation indicates a blending of cartographic traditions: while Gerritsz's influence is clear, the improvements suggest an inclusion of knowledge from English sources. Interestingly, despite the English influence and the shifting control of territories, van Keulen holds onto the name "Nieu Nederland", a nod to the Dutch heritage and their historical claims in the region.
Moreover, this map is of particular significance in the cartographic world due to its incorporation of updates from the English cartographers, making it one of the pioneering charts to do so for the Mid-Atlantic. Such blending of sources and updates reflects the vibrant exchange of knowledge during the period, as explorers and cartographers from different parts of Europe shared, adapted, and sometimes contested geographical understandings.
The map is known in 3 states:
- 1680 - lacking privilege
- 1681 - Met privilegie voor 15 Iaar added to title cartouche.
- 1632 - Addition of the plate number 1 at top right corner.
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.