Riding the wave


The seventeenth and the East India Company

The Dutch call the seventeenth century the 'golden age' for a combination of favorable socio-political circumstances that fostered prosperity and cultural renaissance and, therefore, impressed a great impulse to typography. The field of geography and cartography boasted a number of authors - pupils and followers of each other, often related to each other by marriage - whose beautiful engravings, enhanced with mythological and allegorical, often framed by "cartoons" depicting costumes national and local scenes or detailed views of major cities in the world, are superb examples of graphic art.

Among them were prominent representatives Plancius Petrus, official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company and influential advocate of the Dutch commercial and maritime development, and then Blaeu, Hondius him, the Visscher and Jan Jansson, which is flanked known as engravers, For example, Peter van den Keer, brother of Jodocus Hondius. However, Holland had given birth to Mercator (Gerard Kremer, 1512-1594), disciple - University of Leuven - the famous mathematician and sfereografo Gemma Frisius in turn a pupil of Peter Apian. Mercator, which was called cartographic collections under the name Atlas , the mythological Titan condemned for eternity to support the sky not to fall on Earth, but then depicted in the legend subsequently distorted, with the globe on his shoulders.

In nautical atlas frontispiece entitled Zeekarten of de Wit, Frederick (1671), the titan Atlas holds up the sky, according to the original version of the legend (Birmingham Central Library )

In the amended Act, Atlas supports the world on his shoulders. Here is reproduced the "Farnese Atlas" statue from the Hellenistic period.
(Naples Archaeological Museum ).

Already in 1583 Jodocus Hondius, collaboration continued the work of Mercator, had founded a cartographic laboratory, building specific skills gained in London, where he contributed to the English editions of the atlas portolano-countryman Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer . Early seventeenth century and bought enriched arrays Mercator atlas, to counter competition from the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Ortelius, and that his work was later continued by his sons, in cooperation also with Jan Jansson (1588-1664), son by Jodocus.

Abraham Oertel (1527-1598) has been called "father of modern geography" in 1570 for having published the first systematic collection geographical, reissued until 1612 in several European languages. His Theatrum included 66 special cards in Europe, Asia and Africa, and general map for each continent, including the Americas. In 1575 he was appointed cartographer of State, thus gaining free access to information of Spanish and Portuguese explorers , so it was that, in 1595, the final edition of the Theatrum could give the known world, the image updated with the latest discoveries.

The Americas in a beautiful card Ortelius (Courtesy J.-M. Urvoy )

Atlas, published in 1570, helped the German Franz Hogenberg, who recorded most of the tables and then - together with compatriot George Braun - published between 1612 and 1618, a world atlas in six volumes, entitled civitates Orbis Terrarum. This is a collection of multi-colored engravings that illustrate the major cities of the world at the end of the sixteenth century.

On the tables appear human figures and scenes that provide interesting information on dress and customs of the countries described, which often appear in the arms, while the views are preceded by a brief history of the cities represented.

Work of Braun and Hogenberg was inspired by Pieter van der Aa (1659-1733), enterprising engraver and publisher of Leiden: in 1729 they realized Agreable La Galerie du Monde ..., the largest theater in the city "unpublished, limited edition of one hundred copies, consisting of 66 volumes with over 2500 tables of maps, plans and views of the city, largely derived from arrays purchased from other publishers in the Netherlands.

Jan Jansson , however, the death of Hondius in 1611, he waited with his son, Henricus, updating Mercator-Hondius atlas, released several editions and increased in 1638, finally produced its own Nouvel Atlas ou Theatre du Monde comprenant les cartes & descriptions de l'Espagne, Italie, Grèce, Asie, Afrique & Amerique. On the death of Henricus, in 1650, bought the Atlantic Charter of Hondius and added to its Nouvel Atlas - that the final edition of 1658 reached the 11 volumes - while performing various other geographical works, including the Theatrum Urbium 's Orbis maritimus el' Atlas contractus.

Aden, 1657
From the first volume of the Nouvel Atlas ou Theatre du Monde by Jan Jansson is a card that is at the top, with views to "bird" of the city of Aden, and below, views of Mombasa, Quiloa and mullets.
(Palermo Heritage Office Library for Western Sicily)
Pernambuco, 1657
From the same first volume of the Theatrum Jansson comes the paper depicts Pernambuco in Brazil: the top view of the city - whose conspicuous places are listed in the cartouche on the left - is animated by a multitude of smaller ships and boats that crowd the choppy waters. Below shows instead a view to "bird" of the coast, on which figure - according to the custom of the time to enrich maps with scenes of local life - a box which is a workshop for the manufacture of cane sugar .
(Palermo Heritage Office Library for Western Sicily)

But for the entire seventeenth century Dutch cartography scenario was dominated by the dynasty of which he was founder Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) who, after an apprenticeship at the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe observatory of Hven, opened in 1596 to Amsterdam laboratory: first gained fame as a manufacturer of instruments and terrestrial globes and then as a producer and publisher of maps.

In 1604 he published a map of Holland and the following year a globe in 18 tables and a map of Spain, while in 1606, created in a cylindrical projection map of the world and soon many wall maps and atlases. Among these the Zeespiegel - the mirror of the sea "- that is a guide into two sections, devoted to sailing in the northern seas of East and West, translated into English and French, and republished in the 30s on a larger scale. Subsequently produced the Licht der Zeevaerdt, namely the "torch of navigation, for the Mediterranean: from then to apply a custom to devote the third volume of the monumental portolans folio to that basin.

His reputation earned him the appointment as a cartographer of the East India Company - Vereenidge Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) - or the government agency that controlled the promotion and territorial expansion and merchant in the Levant countries. Also in this prestigious office succeeded by his son Jan, who is appointed cartographer of the East India Company in 1633.

The fruitful activities of his workshop was, in fact, as collaborators and then successors, his sons Cornelius, who died prematurely in 1648 and Jan (1596-1673), under whose management the company produced masterpieces.

Among the most important works are known Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Sive the Atlas Novus, whose first edition appeared in 1635 in two volumes, in subsequent editions, became six.

Famous is the 'Atlas Maior sive Cosmographia Blaviana, published in several languages and in Latin between 1662 and 1665, in twelve volumes worldwide coverage, including the Mediterranean with the Aegean and Black Sea is composed of a total of six hundred cards large format, hand-painted, wonderful for decorations, scrolls, emblematic images of places and customs of the countries represented, and had much more success for her beauty than for its scientific content.

A beautiful 'Blaeu's atlas of Flemish cities is Toonneel der Steden 1652, part of which is on the net to page
http://www.computergenealogie.org/kaarten1600/toonneeldersteden/ .

The series of large maps of continents, the work of Blaeu, rare and limited edition of these papers, published in Rome by de Rossi, are preserved at the Vatican Library. Similar collections are at the ' Military Geographic Institute of Florence and University of Perugia.

<- The title of the opulent Theatrvm Terrarvm Orbis ..., six vol., 1648-58, deluxe edition in limited use of illustrious clients from Bernardo Mendel Collection at the Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington, ( Courtesy J.-M. Urvoy )
Charter of Blaeu's "world famous Moluccas islands, explored by Magellan in the sixteenth century, first occupied by the Portuguese and then by the Dutch, which were imported spices in Europe.
(Birmingham Central Library )

The work of Blaeu ended dramatically in February 1672, when a fire destroyed the company. Only a few branches and stored elsewhere survived previous editions, which were auctioned off: among the last buyers Pierre Mortier, who bought the master of Italian cities, and Frederick de Witt , who instead bought those for Dutch cities, and the globes were sold to Johannes van Keulen .

These arrays also acquired by Hendrick Doncker (ca 1626-99) who, with his son Hendrick II (c. 1664-1739), led for nearly fifty years in Amsterdam as a thriving publisher of atlases and nautical books for browsing, appreciated because accurate and constantly updated.

For many years, in addition, Doncker collaborated with Pieter Goos and Anthonie Jacobsz production dell'altante-portolano De Zeespiegel.

The West Indies, two centuries after the discovery of Columbus , in a beautiful card Doncker (Courtesy J.-M. Urvoy )
A dramatic sea battle at the bottom of the English title opulent De Zeespiegel P. Goos (Courtesy J.-M. Urvoy )
World map in the beautiful De Zeespiegel P. Goos (Courtesy J.-M. Urvoy )

Frederick De Witt is the name of three members of a family of cartographers, father, son and grandson, the first of which (1616-1698) founded in 1648 in Amsterdam mapping workshop that took his name after his death. The Company produced a series of atlases land famous for cards of cities, a nautical atlas around 1675, one of Belgium and, apparently, to 127 regional maps, 27 charts of a large wall maps. In 1706 the factory was purchased by Pierre Mortier. From 1677 to 1711 he worked for the De Witt family of Reiner.

Equally famous were the atlases and pilot books of Jacob Aertsz Colom and his son Arnold, who were translated into major European languages, and even in Latin until 1669. The Colom de la Mer ... MEDITERRANEE, 1650, also made on behalf of the Society for the Dutch Indies - the VOC - consists of ten "proofs", each complete with one or more charts, describing the coasts of Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Alexandria of Egypt, and is preceded by an introduction that provides a comparison between the Italian and Dutch cartography, and a description of the principal methods and tools for navigation.

The function of the pilot book-atlas to represent a "pillar of light" for the boater is expressed by the emblematic frontispiece, depicting a lighthouse that lights up a fleet of ships, while below, a group of learned men consider terrestrial globes and instruments water.

The p. 72 gives instructions for sailing in the Gulf of Venice, inserting the text to the profiles - also made from crude woodcuts - the coast described in a style common to portolans Dutch era. It 'obvious similarity with the third volume of the corresponding portolano-atlas van Keulen , and throughout their monumental work in six volumes worldwide coverage.
(Venice, Museo Correr )

In the development of cartography thus exerted a crucial role the Dutch East India Company (Compagnie Vereenidge Oostindische) founded in 1602, followed in 1621 a similar company in the West Indies. At your service operated the most famous hydrographers and cartographers of the time, including the Blaeu that were handed down from father to son for these duties. From 1730 onwards, the VOC made use of the work of van Keulen that in a few years, they got the exclusivity of supply ships. Their duties were in fact over the sale of the cards, to ensure the completion of pilot books, updating the current mapping - based on information supplied by the same sea captains - and maintenance of equipment on board: the functions therefore absolved then became the prerogative of hydrographic services.

A map of the atlas of Mercator-Hondius (1633), kept at the Central Library in Birmingham, shows the home, founded in Amsterdam in 1606, the Dutch East India Company.

Ships not operated on behalf of the VOC was forbidden to carry on trade in the seas that fall under the monopoly of the Merchant Company, which protected his cards by imposing an obligation of confidentiality to their captains.

So there is a cartographic production parallel to the unique portfolio of VOC, reserved for the use of sailors "independent." Cartographic production itself is flanked by a wide range of views of coast and plans of ports, of which today are preserved collections in libraries in particular Italian and Dutch.

In mid-1700 the total production of VOCs and publishing nautical general purpose - each is distinguishable because the card bears the name of the ship is to hydrography - offered a map coverage and virtually portolani multilingual world, thus giving Holland the undisputed primacy and nautical cartography.

(A comprehensive profile of the VOC, the rise in decline, was published by Carla Unhinge in Maritime Magazine , January 2002, p.95-107, ill.)

Utrecht Research Program in the History of Cartography : a glossary of atlases and pilot books published in Holland until the end of the nineteenth century, variously located in the world

The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Ortelius to (new window)"> specific page of the Library of Congress.