Tycho Brahe's sextant, from Blaeu's Nuevo Atlas o Teatro del Mundo, the Spanish edition of Blaeu's Atlas Maior.
Tyco Brahe (1546-1601) was widely considered the greatest astronomer of the second half of the 16th century. King Frederick II granted Tycho an estate on the island of Hven and the money to build Uraniborg, an early astronomical research institute, where he built his own large astronomical instruments and took many careful measurements of the orbits of planets and the moon. The telescope was not invented until seven years after his death.
Blaeu's images of Tycho Brahe's instruments are drawn from Brahe's own woodcuts, first published in his Astronomiae Instauratiae Mechanicae of 1598.
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.