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Stock# 94374

One of the Most Spectacular Atlases in Existence

A superlative example of Nicolaes Visscher's Atlas Minor, comparable to the Paul Mellon-Yale Center for British Art example, which has been called "the most spectacularly illuminated atlas known."

Bound in two volumes, the atlas is composed of two engraved allegorical frontispieces and 226 double-page engraved maps (95 in volume I, with original hand-numbering in ink, 1 to 94 (the first map unnumbered); there are 131 maps in volume II, numbered 1 to 129 with map 14b and 14c). Each volume has two handwritten index sheets. Maps 14b and 14c of the second volume are captioned by hand.

All maps are fully hand-colored and finished in gold by a contemporary hand. The resplendent original hand-coloring and gold-leafing of the maps are far beyond what is encountered in other Dutch atlases of this period and it embodies the finest output of the Dutch Golden Age map colorists (called meester afsetter in Dutch).  The combination of this quality of hand-coloring and the size of the book elevates this Atlas Minor far beyond what has appeared on the market in decades.

Visscher's Atlas Minor

Visscher's Atlas Minor was produced in widely varying configurations and compliments of maps. The least elaborate examples of the atlas include a couple dozen uncolored maps. The largest examples (of which there are only two known) have over 225 maps with full hand-coloring and extensive gold illumination. The present atlas belongs to the latter group; it is one of the two largest known Atlas Minors produced by the Visscher firm. This atlas includes 226 maps, the other, from the Mellon Collection and now in the Yale Center for British Art, has 227.

The coloring of the present atlas and the Mellon atlas is quite similar and was possibly completed by the same workshop. The gold-leafing of the maps in the Mellon atlas is so impressive that Cornelis Koeman, the noted Dutch atlas scholar, described it as "the most spectacularly illuminated atlas known". Having compared the present atlas with the Mellon example, it is clear that, if anything, there is more gold-highlighting on maps in the present atlas than the Mellon atlas. The coloring of both atlases is differentiated from the work of the famous Dutch colorist Dirk Jansz. van Santen by the lack of a yellow-and-red border around the neatlines of all of the maps. Furthermore, in some cases, the colorist of the Visscher atlases preferred to use more gold illumination than even van Santen. For instance, we can see from comparing the Novi Belgii map in the present atlas to that in the Atlas Blaeu Van Der Hem in the Austrian National Library (the greatest work attributed to van Santen), that there is more gold on the present map than in that atlas. Indeed, the colorist of the present atlas used gold to lavishly heighten the neatlines, graticulated borders, cartouches, titles, costumes, ships, cities, the tropical and equatorial lines, coast lines and major geographical and political borders.

Aside from the gold, the hand-coloring is fantastic. The subtly and attention to detail far exceeds that of even the great class of "standard" seventeenth-century Dutch colorists; mountains are individually and varyingly picked out in a range of appropriate colors, with the rusty, brown, and blue summits sloping into green plains that extend far beyond the lines laid down by the engraver. The spires and battlements representing towns are all carefully filled in in deep red, often finished with gold. For the cartouche of Jansson's America Pars Meridionalis map of South America, there are seven natives standing around it. Not one of the figures is painted with the same pigment as the one adjacent, each has a believable but different skin tone. This is not the paint-by-numbers composition of the usual hand-colored map; here the colorist subdues the engraver's work, rendering it the backdrop to astoundingly-illuminated watercolors.

Provenance and political context

Based on dating the maps included in the atlas, a publication date in the latter half of the 1680s is most likely. That was a time of colossal intra-European power struggles, the most relevant of which for this book was the formation of the Grand Alliance to counter France in 1689. It is probably within this context of great diplomacy that this atlas was produced. A few details in the book hint at the initial owners of the book. 

Firstly, the publisher's gilt-leather bindings hold an important clue. The inner gilt-ruled borders on all of the books' covers have been emblazoned with additional gilt tools of the Habsburg crowned double-headed imperial eagle. These emblems would only have been placed on an atlas that was owned by the Holy Roman Emperor, another member of Habsburg family, or a subsidiary royal within the Holy Roman Empire. It is possible that the book was once owned by Leopold I himself, however, it seems more likely that it would have been a gift or purchase by someone like Prince Eugene of Savoy, who purchased the Atlas Blaeu-Van Der Hem in Amsterdam in 1730 and whose impressive collection of books and atlases was purchased by the Austrian state after his death in 1737. 

The book must also be understood in the context of the Dutch rampjaar (or Disaster Year) of 1672, when much of the Dutch Republic was conquered by England, France, and an assortment of German principalities. This atlas makes an interesting study of one of the major events of 1672, the flooding of the defensive Dutch Water Line. In maps 14a-14c of the second volume, three variations of Visscher's Ultraiectini Dominii Tabula are presented each telling more of the story of the Water Line and its use against the French. The first map is a beautifully hand-colored, but otherwise standard, example of the map. Map 14b uses lavish blue and gold coloring to tell the story of which cities had been taken by France and which remained under the control of the Dutch state during this time,. The map also shows the large section of Holland that had been flooded to halt further French encroachment towards Amsterdam. Map 14c goes a step further showing what areas of the Water Line had been flooded and what areas had been drained through the actions of the state.

The following notes elaborate on what we know about the provenance of the book.

  • On each cover, the corners of the inner gilt-ruled border have been emblazoned with additional gilt tools of the Habsburg crowned double-headed imperial eagle.  This suggests that the book was owned by a member of the Habsburg family or a royal within the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Both front covers of the volumes bear blue-bordered nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century(?) paper sale labels on the front covers: "N. 1451 / 179 / 2 vol" (i.e., sale number 1451, lot number 179).
  • From at least 1881 the book was owned by Marino Morandi, Padova, Italy. Green and black label: "Espositore: Commune di Padova | Proprieta: Marino Morandi di Padova." The atlas is recorded as Morandi's in the 1881 cartobibliography Saggio di Cartografia della Regione Veneta, entry 785. Morandi was a doctor who wrote a book in 1846 on medicinal plants: Rhodigino Medicinae Lauream in Archigymnasio Patavino Consequenti. His family might have come to Padova from Switzerland in the nineteenth century.
  • Offered for sale on December 21, 2000. Sotheby's Italia (Milan), lot 1982.
  • From the Library of the Count de Ribes, the Ribes family sale, December 12, 2019. Sotheby's Paris.

Notes on some of the maps

The atlas contains a number of important maps and suites of maps, however the most noteworthy is probably the set of five wall maps including four of the continents (Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas) and a double-hemisphere world map from which the two hemispheres have been cut out and pasted onto leaves in the atlas.

The world map in two hemispheres appears to be a larger version of the ca. 1679 Visscher world map 'Novissima Totius Terrarum' Orbis Tabula, Auctore Nicolao Visscher (Shirley 486). The dating, by Koeman, makes sense for this atlas, and the fact that Shirley 486 appears in some examples of later Atlas Minors increases the chance that the present example is a larger version of that map. The fact the map is present here without any decorative borders and that it is not recorded by Shirley in his catalog of world maps suggests that the map was possibly never fully completed.

The large folding map of the Americas, titled simply America, has long eluded map catalogers. In his catalog of maps of North America, Burden (313) says of the map:

This extremely rare two-sheet map of America is by Jan Mathisz (1627-87), a relative unknown in cartographic circles... The life of this map is difficult to piece together, largely owing to the lack of surviving examples. It is a possibility that it might have been in the hands of the Visscher family, their catalogue of maps and prints in 1682 describes a set of four continents, in two sheets each... State 2, c. 1680 Presumed, by Nicolaas Visscher; no example known.

The wall map of the Americas included in this atlas is that lost map mentioned by Burden. In the cartouche in the upper right corner of the map is an imprint line reading "Gedruckt | T'AMSETEDAM, | bij | JAN MATHYSZ | PLAATSNYDER". The map is exceptionally beautiful, with two large scenes of European explorers and native peoples at the bottom. However, the cartography was largely out of date by the 1680s, when it was apparently issued.

Betz (84) was unaware of this state of the Africa wall map, saying of the title generally:

The map's history is not clear, largely due to its extreme rarity... It is possible that the Mathisz.' plates were acquired by Visscher in c. 1680, as Burden speculates, but this is impossible to prove as an example of this state is not known to exist. It is known that the Mathisz. plates re-appeared in c.1696 in the hands of Cornelis Danckerts II (1664-1717). In 1992, Sotheby's auctioned a set of wall maps of the continents bearing the imprint of Cornelis Danckerts, which had been found in a composite Danckerts atlas.

The Mathysz-Visscher maps of Europe and Asia, which are also in this atlas, are as rare as the maps of America and Africa; we have not been able to trace any other surviving examples of these maps.


Volume 1:

  1. a. [Western Hemisphere]  / b.  [Eastern Hemisphere] 
  2. Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula
  3. Nova et Accurata Poli Arctici et terrarum Circum Iacentium Descriptio
  4. Novissima Islandiae Tabula
  5. Europa
  6. ...Sueciae et Norvegiae nec non Maris Universi Orientalis
  7. Regni Norvegia Nova et Accurata Descriptio
  8. Regni Daniae Novissima et Accuratissima Tabula
  9. Ivtia olim Cimbrica...
  10. Fionia vulgo Funen
  11. Zeelandia Insula Danicarum Maxima
  12. Scania Vulgo Schoonen
  13. Novissima Russia Tabula
  14. Russiae vulgo Moscovia dictae. Partes Septentrionalis et Orientalis
  15. Moscoviae Pars Australis
  16. Tabula Nova Totius Regni Poloniae...
  17. Tabula Prussia...
  18. Typus Generalis Ukrainae...
  19. Ukrainae Pars quae Pokutia...
  20. Ukrainae Pars quae Kiovia Palatinatus...
  21. Ukrainae Pars quae Podolia Palatinatus...
  22. Ukrainae Pars quae Barclavia Palatinatus...
  23. Danubius Fluvius Europae Maximus A Fontibus Ad Ostia...
  24. Totius Regni Hungariae...
  25. ...Hungariae...
  26. Nova et Accurata Transylvaniae Descriptio
  27. Walachia Servia Bulgaria, Romania
  28. Karstia, Carniola Histria et Windorum Marchia
  29. Sclavonia, Croatia, Bosnia cum Dalmatiae Parte
  30. Totius Italiae Tabula...
  31. Insulabum Melitae Vulgo Malte et Gozae...
  32. Regnum Siciliae...
  33. Neapolitanum Regnum
  34. Stato Della Chiesa Con La Toscana
  35. Dominio Fioren Tino
  36. Dominium Venetum in Italia
  37. Stato di Milano
  38. Liguria ò Stato della Republica di Genova
  39. Tabula Generalis Sabaudiae
  40. Montisferrati Ducatus
  41. Pedemontium et reliquae Ditiones Italiae Regiae Celsitudini Sabaudicae...
  42. Ductus Chablasius et Lacus Lemanus...
  43. Tabula Germaniae...
  44. Exactissima Helvetiae Rhaetiae, Valesiae...
  45. Alpinae seu Foederatae Rhaetiae Subditarumque ei Terrarum nova descriptio
  46. De Vallais Waliasserland (?)
  47. Das Wiflispur Gergow...
  48. Zurichgow...
  49. Argow cum parte merid. Zurichgow
  50. Territory Basiliensis Nova Descriptio
  51. Comitatus Tirolensis
  52. Utriusque Alsatiae, ducatus Dupontii, et Spirensis Episcopatus...
  53. Alsatia Superior cum Suntgoia et Brisgoia
  54. Landgratiatus Alsatia Inferioria (?)
  55. Totius Sueviae novissima Tabula
  56. Nova Alemanniae sive Sueviae Superioris Tabula
  57. Bavariae Superioris et Inferioris nova descriptio
  58. Bavaria Ducatus Per Ger Mercatorem
  59. Palatinatus Bavariae
  60. Austria Archiducatus Auctore Wolfgango Lazio
  61. Moraviae Nova et Post Omnes Priores Accuratis Sima Delineato...
  62. Silesiae Ducatus...
  63. Bohemia
  64. Franconia Vulgo Franckenlandt
  65. Nova Et Accurata Moguntini Archiepiscopatus delineatio
  66. Wetteravia die Wetteraw
  67. Rhenus Fluviorum Europae celeberrinus cum Mosa Mosella...
  68. Palatinatus Ad Rhenum
  69. Saxonia Superior...
  70. Marchionatus Brandenburgicus
  71. Marchionatus Brandenburgici pars quae Marchia Vetus vulgo Altemarck dicitur
  72. March Brandenburgici pars quae Marchia Media vulgo Mittesmarck audit
  73. Marchionatus Brandenburgici partes duae, Nova Marchia et Uckerana
  74. Marchionatus Brandenburgici partes duae, Ruppin Comitatus & Prignits Regiuncula
  75. Pomeraniae Ducatus Tabulam
  76. Meklenburg Ducatus
  77. Ducatus Holsatiae Descriptio Novissima
  78. Albis Fluvius Germaniae celebris a Fontibus ad Ostia
  79. Saxonia Inferior
  80. Brema et Ferdae...
  81. Ducatus Lunebur Gensis
  82. Ducatus Brunsvicensis
  83. Thuringia Landgraviatus
  84. Hassia Landgraviatus
  85. Archiepiscopatus Trevirensis
  86. Coloniensis Archiepiscopatus
  87. Ducatus Iuliacensis Cliensis Montensis...
  88. Iuliacensis Montensis Ducatus
  89. Clivia Ducatus
  90. Nova Totius Westphaliae Descriptio...
  91. Westphalia Ducatus
  92. Episcopatus Paderbornensis...
  93. Monasteriensis Episcopatus
  94. Osnabrugensus Episcopatus

Volume 2 (Begins at Image #206):

  1. Provinciarum Germaniae Interior
  2. Belgium Foederatum
  3. Frisiae Orienta Lis
  4. Frisiae Groningae et Territorii Emdensis
  5. Groningae...
  6. Drentia Comitatus
  7. Dominii Frisae Tabula...
  8. Transisalania Provincia...
  9. Ducatus Geldria et Zutphania Comitatus
  10. Ducatus Gelriae pars prima quae est Neomagensis
  11. Ducatus Gelriae pars fecunda quae est Ruremundensis
  12. Ducatus Gelriae pars Tertia quae est Comitatus Zutphaniensis
  13. Ducatus Gelriae pars Quarta quae est Arnhemiensis siue Velvavia
  14. a. [Ultraiectini Domini Tabula...] / b. [Ultraiectini Domini Tabula...] / c. [Ultraiectini Domini Tabula...]
  15. Comitatus Hollandiae Tabula Pluribus Iocis Recens Emendata a Nicolao I. Visschero
  16. 'T Hoogh-Heemraetschap Vande Uyt Waterende Sluysen in Kennemerlant Ende West-Frieslant
  17. Rhenolandia Amstelandia...
  18. Delflandia, Schielandia et circumiacentes Infulae ut Voorna, Overflackea, Goerea, Yselmonda...
  19. Hollandiae pars Heridignalior vulgo Zuyd-Holland...
  20. Comitatus Zelandiae
  21. Noordt
  22. Belgii Regii
  23. Tabula ducatus Brabantiae continens Marchionatum sacri imperii et dominium Mechliniense
  24. Prima pars Rabantia cuius capur Lovanium
  25. Secunda Pars Brabantiae cuius urbs primaria Bruxeliae
  26. Tertia pars Brabantiae qua continetur Marchionat SRI horum urbs primaria Antverpia
  27. Quarta pars Brabantiae cuius capur Sylvanducis
  28. Mechlinia Dominium et Aerschot Ducatus
  29. Limburgi Ducatus et comitatus Valckenburgi
  30. Leodiensis Episcopatus...
  31. Flandriae Comitatus...
  32. Vlaenderen (?)
  33. Flandriae Tevtonicae ars Orientalior
  34. Flandriae partes duae quarum altera Proprietaria altera Imperialis
  35. Flandria Gallica Continens Castellanias...
  36. Flandriae pars Occidentalis...
  37. Cominatus Hannonia et Archiepiscopatus Cameracensis
  38. Ducatus Lutzenburgi Novissima et accuratissima Delineatio
  39. Comitatus Namurci
  40. Geographica Artesiae Comitatus Tabula
  41. Nova Totius Angliae, Scotiae, et Hiberniae
  42. Scotia Regnum
  43. Anglia Regnum
  44. Hibernia Regnum vulgo Ireland
  45. Gallia vulgo la France
  46. Picardia vera et Inferior
  47. Normandia Ducatus
  48. Le Gouvernement de L'Islende France
  49. Champaigne et Brie, etc.
  50. Lotharingia Ducatus
  51. Utriusque Burgundiae, tum Ducatus tum Comitatus, Descriptio
  52. Comitatus Burgundiae
  53. Duche de Bretaigne...
  54. Pictaviae Ducatus Descriptio vulgo Le Pais de Poictov
  55. Nova et accurata descriptio Delphinatus vulgo Davphiné
  56. Comte et Gouvernement de Provence
  57. Languedoc
  58. Description du Guienne
  59. Hispania et Portugalliae Regna
  60. Biscaia et Guipuscoa Cantabriae veteris pars
  61. Arragonia Regnum
  62. Accuratissima Principatus Catalonia et Comitatus Ruscinonis et Cerretania Descriptio
  63. Valentia Regnum
  64. Veriusque Castillae
  65. Galliaecia Regnum
  66. Portulgalliae et Algarbiae Regna
  67. Andaluzia continens Sevillam et Corduram
  68. Granata et Murcia Regna
  69. Africa
  70. Barbaria
  71. Fezzae et Marocchi Regna Africa
  72. Insuliae Canariae, olim Fortunata Dictae
  73. Insuliae Promontorii Virdis, Hispanis Issas de Caro Verde belgis De Soute Eylanden
  74. Nigritarum Regio
  75. Mar di Ethiopia vulgo Oceanus Aethiopicus
  76. Guinea
  77. Aethiopia Superior vel Inferior vulgo Abissinorum...
  78. Regna Congo et Angola
  79. Aethiopia Inferior vel Exterior
  80. Insulia S. Lavrentii vulgo Madagascar
  81. Nova Aegypti Tabula
  82. America
  83. America Septentrio Nalis
  84. Extrema Americae versus Boream, ubi Terra Niva Nova Francia
  85. Novi Belgii...
  86. Mar del Nort
  87. Insulae Americanae in Oceano Septentrionali ac Regiones Adiacentes
  88. Hispanolia et Cubae
  89. Nova Hispania et Nova Galicia
  90. Yucatan conventus Iuridici Hispane Novae Prs Occidentalis, et Guatimala Conventus Iuridicus
  91. America pars Meridionalis
  92. Guiana fiue Amazonum Regio
  93. Accuratissima Brasiliae Tabula
  94. Peru
  95. Mar del Zur Hispanis Mare Pacificum
  96. Terra Australis Incognita
  97. Asia
  98. Turcicum Imperium
  99. Greacia
  100. Insula Candia olim Creta
  101. Nova Persiae Armeniae Natoliae et Arabiae
  102. Terra Sancta, sive Promissionis, olim Palestinia...
  103. Tabula Tartariae et majoris partis Regni China
  104. Iaponia Regnum
  105. Imperii Sinarum Noba Descriptio
  106. Xantung, Sinarum Imperii Provincia Quarta
  107. Pecheli, sive Peking Imperii Sinarum Provincia Prima
  108. Xensi Imperii Senarum Provencia Secunda
  109. Xensi Imperii Senarum Provencia Tertia
  110. Honan Imperii Senarum Provencia Quinta
  111. Nanking sive Riangnan Imperii Senarum Provencia Nona
  112. Chekiang Imperii Senarum Provencia Decima
  113. Fokien Imperii Senarum Provencia Undecina
  114. Kiangsi, Imperii Senarum Provencia Octava
  115. Huquang, Imperii Senarum Provencia...
  116. Suchuen Imperii Senarum Provencia...
  117. Iunnan Imperii Senarum Provencia Decimaquinta
  118. Queicheu, Imperii Senarum Provencia...
  119. Quangsi Sinarum Imperii Provencia Decimatertia
  120. Quantung Imperii Sinarum Provencia...
  121. Indiae Orientalis nec non Insularum...
  122. Mar di India
  123. Insularum Moluccarum Nova Descripto
  124. Insula Borneo et occidentalis pars Celebis
  125. Insula Iavae cum parte insularum Borneo Sumatrae
  126. Sumatrae
  127. Magni Mogolis Imperium
  128. Sinus Gangeticus vulgo Golfo de Bengala
  129. Insula Zeilan olim Taprobana nunc incolis Tenarisim
Condition Description
2 volumes. Large folio. Contemporary tawny calf, covers framed in gilt-tooled borders, interior border cornered with gilt double-headed eagle device, large gilt-tooled device at the center showing Atlas carrying an armillary sphere surrounded by foliate motifs. Covers with old (19th or early 20th century) inventory or sale labels ("1451/179 2 vols"); spine in 9 compartments separated by raised bands, titled in the second on red morocco label, numbered in the third on green morocco label. Some maps slightly browned in volume 2. Some of the folding maps with reinforced oxidation breakages.
See Koeman III, page 172. AC
Nicolaes Visscher II Biography

Nicolaas Visscher II (1649-1702) was a prominent Dutch cartographer and publisher during the late 17th century. He was the grandson of Claes Janszoon Visscher and the son of Nicolaes Visscher I, both of whom were also renowned cartographers in their own right. After his father's death in 1679, Nicolaas Visscher II took over the family's map publishing business.

In 1680, he married Elizabeth Verseyl from Gouda, and in 1682, he obtained a new privilege from the States of Holland and West Friesland to protect his maps and publications from being copied. Visscher II continued the family tradition of producing high-quality maps, atlases, and globes, often with elaborate and decorative elements. He maintained the Visscher family's reputation for accuracy and craftsmanship in the competitive world of Dutch cartography until his death in 1702. After his death, his widow, Elizabeth, and later his son, also named Nicolaas, continued the business until around 1726.