Johannes Van Keulen's General Sea Chart of America -- West Oriented At The Top
A beautiful example of Johannes Van Keulen's striking antique sea chart of the East Coast of America, the Caribbean, and Gulf Coast, one of the most decorative sea charts published in the late 17th century.
This attractive and important chart is from Van Keulen's great sea pilot De Nieuwe Groote Lichtende Zee-Fakkel ('The New Shining Sea Torch'), first issued in Amsterdam, 1681-4. It is oriented with west at the top, illustrating the approach to North America from the Atlantic. The map follows his earlier chart of 1680, although Carolina has been added, along with 'Charles Towne', and the Albemarle Sound is enlarged.
The Dutch claims to the Northeast are still clearly in evidence, even though the permanent Dutch presence in North America concluded in 1664. In recognition of the English presence in the Northeast, various English town names are noted.
As noted by Philip Burden (583):
The majority of the cartography is derived from his earlier 1680 chart of the West Indies, here extended to the north to take in Labrador, and rotated to place the west at the top. The only disparities are the naming of CAROLINA and Charles Touwne and a slightly larger Albemarle Sound. Dutch claims in the north-east are still identified, here as far north as present day Maine. No mention is made of New York or New-England, although some of latter's coastal town are identified such as New London, Providence, Pleymouth, Baston, Salem and Dover. French Canada is shown with all the usual nomenclature. The whole is finished with an ornate title cartouche depicting scenes relating to the production of sugar cane.
States of the Map
The present example is the second state of the map, with the plate number '1' added at the bottom right corner.
Van Keulen's chart is considered to be one of the fundamental general sea charts of America and the West Indies.
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.