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1650 circa Johannes Blaeu
$ 1,200.00

First State -- Searching For the Northwest and Northeast Passage

Nice example of the first state of Blaeu's signature map of the North Polar Regions, with several wonderful cartouches and decorative coat of arms.

Blaeu's decorative map of the North Pole, including Arctic North America, Scandinavia, and northern Asia, was one of the most accurate 17th-century polar maps. The information for this map is based on the discoveries of James, Barentsz, Baffin, Frobisher, Hall, Davis, and others. In particular, this map incorporates the discoveries of James along the southern and western shore of Hudson's Bay in 1631-32, just before the issue of the state and promotes the view that the famous "Northwest Passage" across northern North America did not exist.

The map suggests that a northeast passage might be possible, as the northern Russian and Siberian coastline appears intact and the sea clear and without any barrier to progress. The Canadian Arctic, however, appears almost landlocked lacking any promise of a northwest route to the Indies, with the exception of several small sounds.

The map is highly decorative - eight compass roses are included, with curved lines so that they always point in the requisite direction. Ships can be found at sea, and a marvelous cartouche requires a thorough inspection.

This map was accurately updated using the latest voyages. The model it was based on would prove more accurate than the previous Mercator model, which had a clear northwest passage as well as several mythical features, such as the four polar islands and the island of Friesland.


  1. c. 1638 Without the dedication on the left-hand side
  2. 1645. With dedication to GVILIELMO BACKER DE CORNELJIS , signed by Joan Blaeu. No other alterations.
  3. undated in Burden. c. 1650? Groenlandia named. 
Burden 252.
Johannes Blaeu Biography

Joan, or Johannes, Blaeu (1596-1673) was the son of Willem Janszoon Blaeu. He inherited his father’s meticulous and striking mapmaking style and continued the Blaeu workshop until it burned in 1672. Initially, Joan trained as a lawyer, but he decided to join his father’s business rather than practice.

After his father’s death in 1638, Joan and his brother, Cornelis, took over their father’s shop and Joan took on his work as hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company. Joan brought out many important works, including Nova et Accuratissima Terrarum Orbis Tabula, a world map to commemorate the Peace of Westphalia which brought news of Abel Tasman’s voyages in the Pacific to the attention of Europe. This map was used as a template for the world map set in the floor of the Amsterdam Town Hall, the Groote Burger-Zaal, in 1655.

Joan also modified and greatly expanded his father’s Atlas novus, first published in 1635. All the while, Joan was honing his own atlas. He published the Atlas maior between 1662 and 1672. It is one of the most sought-after atlases by collectors and institutions today due to the attention to the detail, quality, and beauty of the maps. He is also known for his town plans and wall maps of the continents. Joan’s productivity slammed to a halt in 1672, when a fire completely destroyed his workshop and stock. Joan died a year later and is buried in the Westerkerk in Amsterdam.