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One of The Earliest Maps to Show Both Tasman Voyages

This rare, double-hemisphere map of the world by Danckerts has only recently been recorded by scholars.

The map is believed to have been published in 1648. If this date is correct then this map is amongst the first to show both of Tasman's voyages (1642-3, 1644), which were initially kept clandestine by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). His major findings were Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), New Zealand, and the charting of much of the north coast of Australia.

The outline of Australia and its environs is an important feature of the map, but other details also command attention. There is no southern continent, interestingly, but it is labeled as Terra Australis Incognita and faint marks on the print suggest that the plate was reworked to eliminate a shoreline.

California is shown as an island (see below). Curiously, Japan is unfinished in the north. In the North Atlantic, near Greenland, is the mythical island of Frisland (see below).

Between the geographic hemispheres are smaller circles. The one near the top is labeled as the Polus Arcticus, but it shows the heliocentric model of the solar system. At bottom, at the Polus Antarcticus, is a geocentric model.

In the corners are vignettes showing tranquil scenes. At top are angels, cherubs, chariots, and griffins in the sky. The bottom left shows Poseidon in the sea, while the bottom right has a pastoral landscape filled with the bounty of the earth.

The map has the same title as the early Visscher bible world maps (Shirley, map 401 and 414), and the same decorations in the corners as the famous Visscher-Berchem world map (Shirley, map 406) of 1656. It was only identified in the corrigenda to Shirley’s catalog of world maps at the turn of the twenty-first century (map 372A).  

Tasman’s voyages and the Dutch encounter with Australia

Whereas the Portuguese were the first Europeans to tap the lucrative resources of the East Indies, other European powers quickly joined the race. The VOC, founded in 1602, was based in Amsterdam with a local headquarters in Batavia (Jakarta).

Dutch ships roved the waters of the Indian Ocean. A few crossed the sea at southern latitudes, taking advantage of the winds of the roaring forties, which put them on a collision course with the continent of Australia, then still unknown to Europeans. These ships were following the Brouwer Route to Jakarta, so-called because it was explored in 1611 by Hendrick Brouwer. Less than five years later, it was named the prescribed route from the Cape of Good Hope to Java and following the route was compulsory for all VOC ships, unless they were destined directly for China and Ceylon, rather than Batavia.

Ships were supposed to turn north when they sighted Amsterdam Island or St. Paul Island, both of which are featured on this map. However, the methods for calculating longitude in the seventeenth century were imprecise and some ships continued east, eventually running afoul of the Australian coast.

The first of these to contact West Australia was the Eendracht in 1616, which was blown off course en route to the East Indies. It was commanded by Dirk Hartog and Hartog’s landing was the first recorded European landing on the western coast of Australia. It is marked here with Dirck Hartogs re. 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.

Other voyages also sighted or landed in Western Australia in the 1620s. This map references that of the Leeuwin in 1622 and of Pieter Nuyts, who commanded the Gulden Zeepaert along the southern coast in 1627. I. d. Edels lant refers to Jacob d’Edel who, in the Amsterdam, along with Frederik de Houtman in the Dordrecht, came within sight of the western coast in 1619. The F. Houtmans Abrolhos are an archipelago named for the navigator who sighted them, or at least it was Houtman who reported the islands to the VOC. The islands became infamous after the Batavia shipwrecked there in 1627. The mutiny and massacre that became Batavia’s fate fascinated all of Europe, but also flagged the islands as treacherous for ships, which is why they deserve such attention on charts. Also included is the shoal sighted by and named for the Tortelduyf in 1624.

By the 1640s, the officials of the VOC were eager to know the extent of the south lands and if they included any useful resources or willing trading partners. They appointed Abel Tasman to pursue these questions. Tasman's 1642-43 voyage was the first to circumnavigate the whole of the Australasia region, thus proving it was a separate entity unconnected from a mythical, and massive, southern continent. He surveyed the south coast of Tasmania, which he called Van Diemens Land after the VOC governor of Batavia, and the western coast of New Zealand, as well as the Tonga and Fiji Archipelagos. While important for geography, his voyage was nevertheless a disappointment to the VOC, as it netted no new commercial opportunities.

His second voyage proved even less successful. He was supposed to find a passage south of New Guinea to the east coast of Australia, but he missed the strait and instead thought it a bay. He did, however, more fully chart Australia’s northern coastline, which had only been sporadically encountered to that point. Previously, information for the north coast, especially for portions of the coasts in what it today Queensland, Australia, come from the voyage of 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 map is rarely seen on the market. This is only the third example of the map we have offered in the past twenty years.

The Zeno Map and the mythical island of Frisland

The Zeno family was part of the Venetian elite; indeed, their family had controlled the monopoly over transport between Venice and the Holy Land during the Crusades. Nicolo Zeno set off in 1380 to England and Flanders; other evidence seems to corroborate this part of the voyage. Then, his ship was caught in a huge storm, blowing him off course and depositing him in the far North Atlantic. He and his crew were wrecked on a foreign shore, the island of Frislanda (sometimes Friesland or Freeland).

Thankfully, the shipwrecked Venetians were found by King of Frisland, Zichmni, who also ruled Porlanda, an island just south of Frisland. Zichmni was on a crusade to conquer his neighbors and Nicolo was happy to help him strategize. Nicolo wrote to his brother, Antonio, encouraging him to join him and, good navigator that he was, Antonio sailed for Frisland and arrived to help his brothers. Together, they led military campaigns against Zichmni’s enemies for fourteen years.

Their fights led the brothers to the surrounding islands, presumably enabling them to make their famous map. Zichmni attempted to take Islanda but was rebuffed. Instead, he took the small islands to the east, which are labeled on this map. Zichmni built a fort on one of the islands, Bres, and he gave command of this stronghold to Nicolo. The latter did not stay long, instead sailing to Greenland, where he came upon St. Thomas, a monastery in Greenland with central heating. Nicolo then returned to Frisland, where he died four years later, never to return to Venice.

Antonio, however, was still alive. He ran into a group of fishermen while on Frisland. These fishermen had been on a 25-year sojourn to Estotiland. Supposedly, Estotiland was a great civilization and Latin-speaking, while nearby Drogeo, to the south, was full of cannibals and beasts. Antonio, on Zichmni’s orders, sought these new lands, only to discover Icaria instead. The Icarians were not amenable to invasion, however, and Antonio led his men north to Engroneland, to the north. Zichmni was enthralled with this new place and explored inland. Antonio, however, returned to Frisland, abandoning the King. From there, Antonio sailed for his native Venice, where he died around 1403.

News of the discoveries and the first version of the Zeno map was published in 1558 by another Nicolo Zeno, a descendent of the navigator brothers. Nicolo the Younger published letters he had found in his family holdings, one from Nicolo to Antonio and another from Antonio to their other brother, Carlo, who served with distinction in the Venetian Navy. They were published under the title Dello Scoprimento dell’isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engrouelanda, Estotilanda, & Icaria, fatto sotto il Polo Artico, da due Fratelli Zeni (On the Discovery of the Island of Frisland, Eslanda, Engroenland, Estotiland & Icaria, made by two Zen Brothers under the Arctic Pole) (Venice: Francesco Marcolini, 1558).

At the time of publication, the account attracted little to no suspicion; it was no more and no less fantastic than most other voyage and travel accounts of the time. Girolamo Ruscelli published a version of the Zeno map in 1561, only three years after it appeared in Zeno’s original work. Ruscelli was a Venetian publisher who also released an Italian translation of Ptolemy. Ruscelli had moved to Venice in 1549, where he became a prominent editor of travel writings and geography.

Ruscelli was not the only geographer to integrate the Zeno map into his work. Mercator used the map as a source for his 1569 world map and his later map of the North Pole. Ortelius used the Zeno islands in his map of the North Atlantic. Ramusio included them in his Delle Navigationo (1583), as did Hakluyt in his Divers Voyages (1582) and Principal Navigations (1600), and Purchas (with some reservation) in his Pilgrimes (1625). Frisland appeared on regional maps of the North Atlantic until the eighteenth century.

In the nineteenth century, when geography was popular as both a hobby and a scholarly discipline, the Zeno account and map came under scrutiny. Most famously, Frederick W. Lucas questioned the validity of the voyage in The Annals of the Voyages of the Brothers Nicolo and Antonio Zeno in the North Atlantic (1898). Lucas accused Nicolo the Younger of making the map up, using islands found on other maps and simply scattering them across the North Atlantic. He also accused Nicolo of trying to fabricate a Venetian claim to the New World that superseded the Genoan Columbus’ voyage. Other research has revealed that, when he was supposed to be fighting for Zichmni, Nicolo was in the service of Venice in Greece in the 1390s. He is known to have drafted a will in 1400 and died—in Venice, not Frisland—in 1402.

Scholars still enjoy trying to assign the Zeno islands to real geographic features. For example, Frisland is thought to be part of Iceland, while Esland is supposed to be the Shetlands. Some still believe the Zenos to have sailed to these lands. Most, however, view the voyage and the map as a reminder of the folly and fancy (and fun) of early travel literature and cartography. Whatever the truth, the Zeno map and its islands are one of the most enduring mysteries in the history of cartography. 

California as an island

The popular misconception of California as an island can be found on European maps from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. From its first portrayal on a printed map by Diego Gutiérrez, in 1562, California was shown as part of North America by mapmakers, including Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius. In the 1620s, however, it began to appear as an island in several sources.

The myth of California as an island was most likely the result of the travel account of Sebastian Vizcaino, who had been sent north up the shore of California in 1602. A Carmelite friar, Fray Antonio de la Ascensión, accompanied him. Ascension described the land as an island and around 1620 sketched maps to that effect. Normally, this information would have been reviewed and locked in the Spanish repository, the Casa de la Contratación. However, the manuscript maps were intercepted in the Atlantic by the Dutch, who took them to Amsterdam where they began to circulate. Ascensión also published descriptions of the insular geography in Juan Torquemada’s Monarquia Indiana (1613) (with the island details curtailed somewhat) and in his own Relación breve of ca. 1620.

The first known maps to show California as an island were on the title pages of Antonio de Herrera’s Descripción de las Indias Occidentales (1622) and Jacob le Maire's Spieghel Der Australische Navigatie (1622). Two early examples of larger maps are those by Abraham Goos (1624) and another by Henry Briggs, which was included in Samuel Purchas’ Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas his Pilgrimes (1625). In addition to Briggs and Goos, prominent practitioners like Jan Jansson and Nicolas Sanson adopted the new island and the practice became commonplace. John Speed’s map (1626-7), based on Briggs’ work, is well known for being one of the first to depict an insular California.

The island of California became a fixture on mid- and late-seventeenth century maps. The island suggested possible links to the Northwest Passage, with rivers in the North American interior supposedly connecting to the sea between California and the mainland. Furthermore, Francis Drake had landed in northern California on his circumnavigation (1577-80) and an insular California suggested that Spanish power in the area could be questioned.

Not everyone was convinced, however. Father Eusebio Kino, after extensive travels in what is now California, Arizona, and northern Mexico concluded that the island was actually a peninsula and published a map refuting the claim (Paris, 1705). Another skeptic was Guillaume De L’Isle. In 1700, De L’Isle discussed “whether California is an Island or a part of the continent” with J. D. Cassini; the letter was published in 1715. After reviewing all the literature available to him in Paris, De L’Isle concluded that the evidence supporting an insular California was not trustworthy. He also cited more recent explorations by the Jesuits (including Kino) that disproved the island theory. Later, in his map of 1722 (Carte d’Amerique dressee pour l’usage du Roy), De L’Isle would abandon the island theory entirely.

Despite Kino’s and De L’Isle’s work, California as an island remained common on maps until the mid-eighteenth century. De L’Isle’s son-in-law, Philippe Buache, for example, remained an adherent of the island depiction for some time. Another believer was Herman Moll, who reported that California was unequivocally an island, for he had had sailors in his offices that claimed to have circumnavigated it. In the face of such skepticism, the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, had to issue a decree in 1747 proclaiming California to be a peninsula connected to North America; the geographic chimera, no matter how appealing, was not to be suffered any longer, although a few final maps were printed with the lingering island.

Shirley's corrigenda, 372A. KAP
Cornelis II Danckerts Biography

The Danckerts were a family of Dutch engravers and geographers who produced geographic materials, including a series of original atlases. Initially, Justus I Danckerts (1635-1701) was a book and print publisher based in Amsterdam. His great-uncle, Cornelis Danckerts de Rij, (1561-1634) was a surveyor who produced a Kaert-boeck showing various views of Amsterdam. His brother, Dancker Danckerts (1634-1666), was a skilled engraver who produced several maps. Justus I was most likely influenced by both their work when he followed his father, Cornelis I Danckerts (1603-1656), into the publishing business.

In the early 1680s, Justus decided to embark upon a new project, an atlas with all the maps made in house. Such a project was feasible because two of his sons with his wife, Elisabeth Vorsterman, Theodorus I (ca. 1663-ca. 1720) and Cornelis II (1664-1717) had recently come of age and were trained in engraving and etching. Justus’ decision was most likely influenced by his surroundings; Amsterdam was the center of map publishing in the seventeenth century and in the 1680s several local publishers sought to join the atlas market then dominated by the Blaeu and the Hondius-Janssonius atlases.

Together, the brothers created their first maps in the mid-1680s. In 1684, the family received a 15-year privilege to protect their maps and they were then publishing both folios sized maps, the basis of an atlas, and wall maps for sale. Their first atlases contained around 20 original maps and 4-5 maps by other cartographers like Visscher and De Wit. The first known atlas to contain only Danckert maps was a 26-sheet volume published in 1690. As a guide, the Danckerts turned to similar atlases by De Wit, but by 1690 they clearly had the knowledge and capacity to produce their own original work.

After the first 26-sheet atlas, the Danckerts released a 37-sheet (1692-4), a 50-sheet (1694-6), and a 60-sheet (1698-1700) atlas. Several of the maps added to the atlases in the 1690s reflect the theater of the Great Alliance War (1688-1697). Other political events also influenced the contents of the atlases. For example, the English and Irish sheet maps were altered in 1688-9 and 1689-91 respectively, just after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

In 1692, Justus II (?-1692), a third son of Justus I, died. A series of maps bearing a distinct style which abruptly stopped at this time have been attributed to him. A family member assumed to be another son of Justus I, Eduard (?-after 1721) came of age around the same time. Analysis of engraving style suggests that Eduard was heavily involved in the engraving process, working alongside Theodorus I and with another relation, also presumed to be a younger son of Justus I, Johannes (?-1712), thereafter.

Justus I drew up his will in 1696 and most likely retired from daily management of the shop at this time, although he lived until 1701. The aforementioned Johannes, who had a distinct engraving style, began contributing to the map engraving in 1700, although most of the maps he worked on are published under the name of another brother. The privilege had expired in 1699 and its renewal in the same year, before the death of Justus I, could explain why his sons continued to publish in his name after his death. Using the well-known name of Justus could protect the younger sons whose own reputation was not yet established.  

In the new century, many of the maps were reworked or completely redone, as was the case with the world map and those of the continents. New maps were added to reflect the new areas of fighting in the War of the Spanish Succession, including new depictions of Italian states, the southern Netherlands, and the German provinces. In 1706, Albert Schut joined the business as an engraver and etcher and his name appears on maps from then onward. Between 1700 and 1712, the number of atlas maps increased to 75 and then 100 sheets. It seems Cornelis II was the main voice in atlas contents during this time, while Theodorus I’s role is unclear.

Johannes died in 1712, radically changing the business’ daily routine. Johannes had not only been an engraver, but also the firm’s representation to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the largest book fair in Europe at that time. As the German market was the main source of income for the Danckerts, his death was a heavy blow.

Over the next two decades, the pace of new map production slowed drastically. Only two known maps made during this period are known today: a third world map, engraved by Jacob Folkema, and a Hispania map published with Cornelis II’s name. Neither of these featured in the atlases. After 1717, when his father Cornelis II died, a few maps were reworked by Theodorus II and the contents of the atlases were altered slightly to include those printed from unfinished plates.

By 1726, Theodorus II was in debt. He gave much of his stock to a creditor, T. Rijswick, just before he died in 1727. The stock was sold at auction by Rijswick and other publishers, including the Ottens and Van Keulen, bought plates from the atlas.

Lack of biographical data is a problem for all the Danckerts, especially the younger brothers. Justus I was born in Amsterdam, where he also began his business. All the sons were born and presumably died there. Justus II’s death date is all that has survived of him in the records, and all that is known of Eduard is that in 1721 he served as uncle and guardian to Theodorus II (ca. 1701-1727), the son of Cornelis II. After that nothing is known of him. Theodorus I most likely died between 1718 and 1721. He had a son, Gerit (ca. 1708-after 1731), but the lad does seem to have become a map engraver. With the death of Theodorus II, therefore, there were no more Danckerts to carry on the business even if Theodorus II had avoided debt.

Although not as long-lived as some of the other family firms, for the decades surrounding the turn of the seventeenth-century the Danckert family produced well-respected and widely distributed wall maps and atlases. They joined the atlas trade at a time when atlases were increasing in popularity and the expansion in the number of sheets included in their atlases indicate both their popularity and the skill of the engraving brothers.