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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Maps of the Day: Set of Continents by William Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638)

Four large engraved wall maps with original outline color
Each with paper size: approx. 47 1/2” x 67”; framed size: 54” x 74”
Amsterdam, ca. 1608 (Bologna: Pietro Todeschi, 1673)

Nova et acvrata totivs Americae tabvla  [A New and Accurate map of all of America]
References: W.W. Ristow, “America and Africa: Two Seventeenth-Century Wall Maps” in A la Carte (Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1972): 62-75; R.V. Tooley, The Mapping of America (London: The Holland Press, 1985): 296, pl. 168; T. Suarez, Shedding the Veil (Singapore: World Scientific, 1992) No. 36, col. pl. XVI; P.D. Burden, The Mapping of North America (Rickmansworth: Raleigh Publications, 1996) 156; G. Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica (Aphen a/d Rijn, 1996) Volume 5.

One of the most influential maps of America ever made. The map is as geographically accurate as possible for the period, although the west coast still ventures too far west. On the east coast, a definitive Nova Scotia is apparent most probably based upon the 1604 voyages of Samuel de Champlain and Pierre du Gua de Monts. The map contains two inset maps, one depicting the North Pole and concentrating on the North West Passage, the other the South Pole. This configuration was copied by mapmakers for over seventy years. The map itself is profusely decorated with ships and sea monsters, neptunes, mermaids and compass roses. At the lower right is another title cartouche headed AMERICA and surrounded by portraits of Columbus and Vespucci. Below are arranged portraits of the four circumnavigators of the world: Magellan, Drake, Cavendish and van Noort. The map was first published in 1608 but there is no known surviving copy. It was re-issued in 1612, 1624 by Henricus Hondius, and before 1652 by C. V. Visscher. 

Nova et acvrata totivs tabvla Asiae [A New and Accurate map of all of Asia]
Reference: G. Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica (Aphen a/d Rijn, 1996) Volume 5.

In the seventeenth century Dutch and English ships were present in respectable numbers, so cartography of the area was no longer derived solely from Portuguese and Spanish sources. The Dutch were a powerful presence; in 1602 the Dutch East India Company was established, and geographical information funneled back to Amsterdam's cartographers.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu’s large map of Asia is based on that of Gastaldi. He brought the topographical detail for Arabia up to date. Most of the city plans and views on the Asia map are derived from Braun and Hogenberg, while others are from Linschoten, and the Jerusalem is from another source, the Laicksteen-Sgrothen plan. Among the figures are representatives from Japan, China, and several from the prized Spice Islands. The diagram and text on the left side of the Asia map explain how with a compass the user would be able to calculate the distance between two points on the map, demonstrating both its practical use as well as decorative value.
Nova et acvrata totivs Evropae tabvla [A New and Accurate map of all of Europe]
Reference: G. Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica (Aphen a/d Rijn, 1996) Volume 5.

Nova et acvrata totivs Africae tabvla [A New and Accurate map of all of Africa]
References: J. Denuce, “Les sources de la carte murale d’Afrique de Blaeu, de 1644 (Amsterdam)” in 15th International Geographical Congress, Comtes rendus, vol. 2, Sect. IV, Geographie historique et histoire de la geographie (Leiden, 1938): 172-174; W. W. Ristow, “America and Africa: Two Seventeenth-Century Wall Maps” in A la Carte (Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1972): 62-75; G. Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica (Aphen a/d Rijn, 1996) Volume 5.

It is of little surprise that this early map of Africa was produced in the Netherlands, where Antwerp and Amsterdam were centers of world trade, and particularly of commerce with Africa during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Blaeu derived his cartography of north and northwest Africa from Ortelius and Dutch sources were used to draw the coastal regions south of Sierra Leone. The geography of South Africa was also based on Dutch sources, but was added after Blaeu’s state one of the map. The place names reflect Dutch colonization of the region after 1652. Denuce surmised that the maps made by the Portuguese Lopes and published by Pigafetta in Rome in 1591, were the source the much of Blaeu’s representation of the rest of Africa. In addition, he concluded that the “wall map of Africa seems to have been an original work, independent of the maps in [Blaeu’s] atlas.”

This set of wall maps represents an unparalleled masterpiece by the legendary Dutch cartographer William Janszoon Blaeu. Devoted to the four known continents, they are the only large wall maps by Blaeu in private hands. Blaeu was a pupil of the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, from whom he learned a very scientific approach to the field of cartography, which served to enhance his reputation. His early work concentrated on globe making, but by the early seventeenth century he began producing separately issued maps. Blaeu founded his publishing firm in 1596, and with the collaboration of his sons, Cornelius (1616-1648) and Joan (1596-1673), it was the most productive cartographic establishment in the Netherlands until it was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1672. Appointed mapmaker to the Dutch East India Company in 1633-1634, Blaeu had access to fresh geographical information that was not available to any of his contemporaries. He published his first world atlas, the Atlantis Appendix, with 60 maps in 1630, and continued to produce new maps at such a rate that by 1634, he abandoned the single volume format and announced his intention to publish a new world atlas, entitled the Theatrum, which eventually grew into the monumental 11-volume Atlas Maior, completed by his son Joan in 1662.

This set of four wall maps, however, surpasses even that achievement in terms of rarity and importance. Aside from their high level of geographical accuracy, these maps, embellished in the Baroque style, rank among the most beautiful ever made. Blaeu's maps are immediately recognizable by their distinctive ornamentation. Whereas most sixteenth-century publishers had decorated their maps with strapwork designs in black and white, Blaeu embellished his maps with decorative swags, symbols, coats of arms, city views and large pictorial cartouches. Each of these maps boasts Blaeu's most recognizable decorative flourishes, with sixteen side panels containing costume vignettes and portraits of indigenous peoples, and twelve city views lining the lower margin. The oceans are heavily ornamented with fleets of ships and various sea creatures. Blaeu's maps are further acclaimed for their extremely high production standards. The quality of the engraving, the paper, and coloring are of the highest order, and placed Blaeu's work at the forefront of seventeenth-century cartography.

The mere fact of the survival of this set of wall maps is highly notable. Most maps produced during this period were printed on one or two sheets, and bound into atlases or other books. A very limited number of large wall maps, involving numerous plates to print a certain area, were produced by major cartographic houses for ostentatious public display. The surviving number of these maps is exceedingly scarce. As opposed to their smaller, bound brethren, these maps were mounted on canvas and exposed to light, dirt, and other environmental factors. That not only one individual wall map, but indeed an entire set of four, has survived from this period is partially due to the steady esteem in which they -- and Blaeu himself -- have been held since the time of their production, and partly due to sheer good fortune. This particular set was published by Pietro Todeschi in Bologna, Italy in 1673. Todeschi translated the textual margins into Italian but left Blaeu's masterful cartographic delineations of the continents untouched. This set of Blaeu's wall maps represents an unparalleled opportunity for collectors.

Offered at $650,000
Arader Galleries intends to have the lowest prices on ABE, Alibris, Biblio, AE, and Artnet while maintaining the highest levels of quality in the business for every offering. To inquire or view the complete offering, please contact our curators at info@aradernyc.com or call our 72nd Street NYC gallery at (212) 628-3668.  

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