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Stock# 95349

First Sea Atlas of North America, The Spanish Main & Part of South America

Fine example of the first Sea Atlas of North America, offered here with the imprint of Jacobus Robijn shortly after his acquisition of the atlas.

Arent Roggeveen published the first sea atlas of American coasts, a work drawn largely from the secreted nautical charts of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and Dutch West India Company (WIC). Extending from the Canadian Maritimes, East Coast of North America, Gulf of Mexico and the Dutch "West Indies", a term then interpreted much more broadly than today, including not only the entire Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and Central America, Roggeveen's atlas was a work of monumental importance, treating in fine detail regions which had previously only received broad and relatively cursory regional coverage in the prior sea atlases of Dudley, Goos, Donckers, and Van Keulen. 

Arent Roggeveen (c.1628-1779) first came to notice in Middelburg as a teacher in 1658. Trained in mathematics and land-surveying, and with an interest in astronomy, he undertook the study of navigation.  Middelburg was an important center for both the VOC and WIC, and many of Roggeveen's students worked in the two companies.  Around 1670, the Middelburg VOC administrators asked Roggeveen to secretly draw nautical charts for them as a surveyor.

In 1668, with the encouragement of the Middelburg WIC Chamber, Roggeveen decided to undertake his own work on Atlantic navigation, rather than wait for Blaeu or other Amsterdam mapmakers. Using his connection as  gained access to the VOC's trove of Spanish and Portugese manuscript sea charts that the companies had captured, copied by espionage, or commissioned (some American place names in Roggeveen's atlas still retain their Spanish forms). These stores of charts had been closely guarded national secrets during the Dutch war of independence from Spain and were still closely guarded, as it gave the Dutch merchants of the VOC and WIC an important commercial advantage. This access gave Roggeveen a remarkable cache of unpublished material to produce more accurate and more detailed sea charts than had ever been published before.

The first edition of Roggeveen's atlas was published in 1675 by Pieter Goos.  A second edition was published until 1680, by which time the plates had been acquired by the chart dealer Jacobus Robijn. Robijn went on to republish the a third edition in 1689, with a fourth edition in 1698. The atlas was relatively successful, with editions published with Dutch, English, French and Spanish text.


We are unable to trace an institutional example of this edition, with the date of 1690 on the title page. Koeman records six institutional examples of the 1680 Spanish edition.

This would seem to be the only surviving example to bear the imprint of Robijn.

Condition Description
Folio (450 x 280 cm). Seventeenth-century Spanish pig skin. Title, privilege, [2]p. description of the earth, 67pp., 34 engraved charts (all double-page apart from the chart of Catalina).
Arent Roggeveen Biography

Arent Roggeveen was a land surveyor, mathematician, poet and teacher of navigation. Born in Delfshaven, he later moved to Middelburg where both the Dutch East and West India Companies were based. He was employed by both companies as a teacher in the art of navigation. He also helped maintain their collections of hydrographic manuscripts and charts, including Spanish portulanos of the West Indies. In the mid-1660s, Roggeveen compiled a series of large scale charts of the North American coastline, West Indies and later, West Africa. His Het Brandende Veen or The Burning Fen represented a landmark in the coastal charting of North America, with a number of regions mapped in a larger scale than in any previously printed work. Roggeveen arranged for Pieter Goos, one of the leading engravers and publishers of maritime books in Amsterdam to publish the collection. The completed work was the first Dutch pilot that was focused on select areas of the American coastline. Previously, all printed maps and charts that dealt with this coastline were on a much larger scale.

Roggeveen died in 1679. Goos' widow sold the plates to Jacob Robijn, who reissued the maps with his name added to the title, but otherwise unchanged, in 1680. Both examples of the map are extremely rare. The atlases were undoubtedly published in limited quantities. Working sea charts and pilots from the 17th Century are inherently rare due to the nature of their use aboard ships. The vast majority of them were either destroyed by use or destroyed intentionally when new updated versions were obtained.