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The Mapmakers’


MARJo t. nURMInen

JoHn nURMInen FoUnDAtIon

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To Noora and Antti

Author Marjo T. Nurminen Editor-in-chief Juha Nurminen Expert advisory panel Peter Barber, Head of Map Collections, The British Library Evelyn Edson, Professor emerita, Piedmont Virginia Community College Günter Schilder, Professor emeritus, Universiteit van Amsterdam Tony Campbell, Map historian, Imago Mundi Ltd Assistant editor and picture editor Maria Grönroos Editors Ilkka Karttunen ja Donald S. Johnson Translation Finnish-English Owen F. Witesman and Erik Miller Graphic designer and layout Olavi Hankimo

The Pool of London Press would like to graciously thank the team at Finland’s Nurminen Foundation for their superlative support and considerable skill, knowledge, dedication and resource required to create a volume of such ambition. Special thanks are due to Marjo Nurminen, Juha Nurminen, Annamari Arrakoski-Engardt, Maria Grönroos and Olavi Hankimo. The Press would also like to thank Christopher Westhorp for his role in editing the English language text.

This edition published in Great Britain in 2015 by The Pool of London Press A Division of Casemate Publishers 10 Hythe Bridge Street Oxford OX1 2EW, UK and 908 Darby Road, Havertown, PA 19083 USA

Printed in Finland by Lönnberg painot, Helsinki 2015 Text © Marjo T. Nurminen 2015 Volume © John Nurminen Foundation 2015 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the publisher in writing.

A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978-1-910860-00-7

The Pool of London Press is a publisher inspired by the rich history and resonance of the stretch of the River Thames from London Bridge downriver to Greenwich. The Press is dedicated to the specialist fields of naval, maritime, military as well as exploration and cartographic history in its many forms. The Press produces beautifully designed, commercial, nonfiction volumes and digitial products of outstanding quality for a dedicated readership featuring strong narratives, magnificent illustrations and the finest photography. To find out more please visit and to receive regular email updates on forthcoming Pool of London titles, email info@ with Pool of London Updates in the subject field. For a complete list of Pool of London Press and Casemate titles, please contact: CASEMATE PUBLISHERS (UK) Telephone (01865) 241249 Fax (01865) 794449 Email: CASEMATE PUBLISHERS (US) Telephone (610) 853-9131 Fax (610) 853-9146 Email:

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Contents Preface and Acknowledgements from the Editor-in-Chief 7 INTRODUCTION: MAPS AS IMAGES OF THE WORLD – A Thousand Year Journey with the European World Map 11 I THE MEDIEVAL WORLD IN MAPS – The Church and Seafaring Define the Borders of the World 25 How Did a Seafarer’s Chart End Up in a Clergyman’s Book? 25 Scholarship in the Middle Ages: Christian Doctrines and Classical Learning 29 Holy Geography – Maps as Appendices to Early Christian Books 32 Ancient Cosmography and Geography in the Macrobius Maps 37 Roman Influences in Early Medieval World Maps 38 Al-Idrisi – the Arabs as Pioneers of Medieval Cartography 44 Encyclopedic Mappae Mundi – Hanging the World Map on the Wall 50 Tales of Antiquity: Strange Peoples and Animals in the Mappae Mundi 55 Maps as Guides for the Earthly and Spiritual Journey 55 The Portolan Chart – Medieval Sailing Maps 56 The Portolan Chart: the Direction, Distance, and Scale in Maps 60 Pietro Vesconte – Professional Cartographer 62 The World of the Catalan Map Masters – Trade at the Ends of the Earth 65 The Atles Català – a View Toward the Riches of the East 70 The “Book About the Locations of the Shores of our Sea the Mediterranean and its Shape” 74 Marino Sanuto – the Christian World Must be Saved 76 In Conclusion: Three Different Images of the World 78 II THE WORLD MAP IN TRANSITION – Ancient Geography Rises from Oblivion 81 A Forgotten Hybrid Book – The Renaissance Intelligentsia Travel through Time to Antiquity 81 Maximus Planudes’ Great Discovery – Ptolemy’s Theory of Mapmaking Rises from the Dust 84 Coordinates and Projection 88 Florentine Humanists Study Ptolemaic Geography 90 The Study of the Geography of Antiquity Gains a Foothold in France 92 Status Symbols of Princes 98 Medieval Map Production: Parchment, Ink, and Quill 104 Andrea Bianco – the Three Worlds of a Venetian Mariner 106 Ancient Views on the Distribution of Lands and Seas Around the Globe 110

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Fra Mauro – the World as Seen from Venice 111 Hybrid Maps – the World Map in Transition 116 The La Sfera-Cosmographia – a Renaissance Merchant’s Armchair Journey 122 Conclusion 130 III TOWARD NEW WORLDS – Sailing and Printing the New Worlds in Maps 133 A Shipwreck Tells a Story About the History of Exploration 133 The First Printed Maps of the World 137 The Art of Printing: A Marriage of Iron, Paper, and Ink 140 Italian and German Book Artisans as Printing Pioneers 143 Fifteenth-Century Portuguese Open Sea Voyages in Maps 144 Francesco Rosselli – Printing the World on Paper in a Small Bottega in Florence 149 Martin Behaim – the German Merchant’s Globe 151 Christopher Columbus – the “East Indies” are Found and the World is Divided into Spheres of Interest 153 Juan de la Cosa – The West Indies in Sea Captain’s Map 157 Johannes Ruysch Redraws the Printed World Map 160 Martin Waldseemüller and Amerigo Vespucci – How did the New World Receive its Name? 162 Piri Reis – an Ottoman Admiral Places the New World in a Map 169 Portuguese Map Propaganda and the Everyday Life of the Cartographer 170 Padrón Real – the Official and Secret Map of the Kings of the Iberian Peninsula 175 Conclusion 186 IV THE WORLD MAP COMES INTO FOCUS – Scientific artisans measure the world 189 Mysterious Messengers and the Renaissance Worldview 189 The Mathematical Cosmography of Petrus Apianus and Gemma Frisius 192 Petrus Apianus’s Book on Cosmography 194 Oronce Finé – a “Heart” for the King 198 Sebastian Münster – the World Opens up to the Common Man 200 The Venetian Interlude: Battista Agnese, Giacomo Gastaldi, and Girolamo Ruscelli 207 Renaissance Maps Engraved in Wood and Copper 220 Norman Sea Cartographers 222 Abraham Ortelius – the Whole World Between Two Covers 224 Gerard Mercator – the Father of the Modern Map Projection 234 Conclusion 246

V THE WORLD ENCOMPASSED – The World of Sea Traders and Map Publishers 249 The Travels of an Adventurer and the Dutch Golden Age 249 Jan Huygen van Linschoten – the Far East Opens up to the Dutch 254 Petrus Plancius – Better Maps for Maritime Traders 260 Jodocus Hondius – Protestant Counterblow with Maps 269 Willem Janszoon Blaeu and Joan Blaeu – the Flourishing Map Dynasty of the Father and Son 278 The World Map as a Sphere 282 Conclusion 300 EPILOGUE: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND EXPLORATION IN EIGHTEENTH- AND NINETEENTH-CENTURY MAPS Juha Nurminen 303 References 323 Literature 328 Picture list 334 Index xxx

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The Medieval World in Maps The Church and Seafaring Define the Borders of the World How Did a Seafarer’s Chart End Up in a Clergyman’s Book?


or nearly ten years, the Italian geographer and map historian Roberto Almagià (1884–1962) studied the medieval map treasures of the Vatican’s papal library. The Second World War, the persecution of the Jews, and postwar shortages did not discourage this dedicated Jewish professor. The first volume of the Monumenta Cartographica Vaticana series was completed in 1944 and the last one appeared in 1955. At the very beginning of his research, Professor Almagià made a surprising discovery. Upon receiving some old parchment folios, he realized at once that the elaborately illustrated manuscripts had been untouched for centuries. Closer examination revealed that this nearly two hundred-page work had been compiled in the High Middle Ages by a little-known Church scribe and illuminator, Opicinus de Canistris (1296–ca. 1353).1 Some of Opicinus’ manuscripts were known as early as the eighteenth century, but his work did not arouse much interest among researchers in medieval art, literature, or map history until recently.2 The work of Opicinus remains a curiosity of his time. His literary accomplishments do not raise him to the stature of his famous contemporaries, Dante Alighieri (1265– 1321), or Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374). He has no claim to being a major chartmaker like Pietro Vesconte (active 1311–ca. 1325)3, a Genoese cartographer influential in Venice, and he did not have wealth and influence like the learned Venetian merchant and chronicler, Marino Sanuto (ca. 1270–1343). But there is something else extremely interesting about Opicinus: he was original and innovative. Opicinus’ originality and ability to combine the knowledge of his day in a new way are exhibited in a fascinating style in the maps he drew. These allegorical maps are part of his extensive

illustrated autobiography, in which he pondered both his own faith and the spiritual state of the whole of Christendom. From the perspective of the history of cartography, the Opicinus maps are extremely interesting because they show the first influences of the geographically precise maps of seafarers (so-called portolan charts) upon the work of scholars in the Church. Scribes serving the Church in the fourteenth century were not generally aware of seafaring charts. So, where could a clergyman, such as Opicinus, familiarize himself with sea charts? Opicinus de Canistris, who came from Pavia in the Lombardy region of Italy, worked as a scribe for the papal “penitence court”, the Apostolic Penitentiary in Avignon, France, during the period (1309–1377) when the papacy was resident there. Avignon attracted the most prestigious scholars, merchant seafarers, and craftsmen of that time. It was also where three men of very different backgrounds might have met: the modest ecclesiastical official, Opicinus de Canistris; the rich Venetian chronicler, Marino Sanuto; and the first professional portolan chartmaker in history known to us by name, Pietro Vesconte. Although they may not have met in person, there was an exchange of ideas, as evidenced in Opicinus’ autobiographical writing, which he illustrated with a number of maps. Roberto Almagià investigated for years how the practical wisdom of the medieval seafarers came to be known to Church scholars. More recently, this issue has been addressed by French medievalist Patrick Gautier Dalché and Catalan map researcher Ramon J. Pujades.4 The question is interesting because instruction in seafaring was not a part of a priestly education, either in the Middle Ages or at any other time. Seafarers’ sailing charts were not based on a knowledge of the Bible or holy texts


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Encyclopedic Mappae Mundi – Hanging the World Map on the Wall Christian world maps took on new features in the thirteenth century. World maps from the era of the crusades differ from earlier world maps that appeared as illustrations and appendices to books in that they were designed and made for public presentation. In these encyclopedic mappae mundi, such as the Hereford World Map,42 the Ebstorf Map,43 and the London Psalter Map,44 an attempt was made to convey the Christian European culture of the High Middle Ages along with the wisdom of antiquity in its entirety. The maps also reflect a Christian cosmography, where earth, inhabited by humanity, is in the center of the universe, and Jerusalem is at the center of the known world. East was placed at the top of the map, because symbolically it was the most important direction in Christian doctrine. The written text and images in encyclopedic mappae mundi about Christian doctrines and the world’s ancient wisdom complement each other, and the information that they contain is carefully structured. An enormous amount of geographical, political, and natural history information was included in encyclopedic mappae mundi, provided that it was not inconsistent with the stories of the Bible. These maps were made in praise of God, and as instruction for Christians, therefore they symbolically present the most important events for Christians, including the Creation, the salvation brought by Christ, and the Final Judgment. Encyclopedic mappae mundi of the High Middle Ages can be compared to modern computer Geographical Information System (GIS) programs in which different data related to a time and place can be viewed simultaneously on the same platform. The time dimension of the Christian explanation of the world appears in the Hereford mappa mundi as a comparison of worldly and celestial time. The earthly, temporally limited sojourn of man occurs within the map’s circular perimeter. Everlasting life – eternity – is depicted on the edges of the map, where man meets either salvation or eternal damnation. Encyclopedic mappae mundi were almost without exception oriented to the east. Inside the sphere, Paradise, or the Garden of Eden created by God according to the Bible, was situated at the top of the map, with Taprobane, the island of wonder, below it. Following the rising of the sun from the east, one’s gaze moves toward the center of the map to Jerusalem; along the way are the locations of some of the most important stories of the Old and New Testaments: Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat, the Tower of Babel in Babylon, and the road to Damascus on which Paul was converted to Christianity; the locations of key episodes in the life of Jesus: Nazareth, Golgotha, and the Sea of Galilee; and the most important pilgrimage sites of the day: Rome, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and Sabaria (Savaria) in Hungary. Researchers of medieval encyclopedic mappae mundi emphasize that these maps must be considered as complete pictorial and textual works, not as illustrated sections of some

The Medieval world in maps

The Hereford Cathedral Mappa Mundi The Hereford World Map is the only largeformat medieval wall map that has been preserved in its original condition. The map was completed in the early fourteenth century and placed in Hereford Cathedral, England, where it is still on display. The map and its borders consist of many different narrative levels. The circular border forms a great circle of fate, a familiar allegory in the Middle Ages for the randomness and impermanence of life. Within this circumference are the letters M O R S, spelling the word, “death.” Life on earth may lead inevitably to death, but eternal life or eternal damnation awaits man in the afterlife. A reminder of this is found in the image at the upper edge of the map in which people are being divided into the saved and the damned at the Final Judgment. In the lower right corner a horseman is riding away from the corner to the real world. Underneath the image are the words “passe avant,” (“go forward”). The map contains a total of about 1,100 images and inscriptions, based on sources ranging from biblical stories and ancient geographical writings, to the more recent crusades. The map shown here is the definitive restored facsimile reproduction of the original created by the Folio Society. The Hereford Mappa Mundi Trust and the Dean and Chapter of Hereford Cathedral



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scholars north of the Alps in France and Germany. Foremost, there was the French instrument maker, Jean Fusoris (ca. 1365–1436) with Guillaume Fillastre.18 He was the son of a pewterer and grew into a scholar of many talents with a uniquely fortuitous combination of professional craftsmanship and scientific curiosity. Despite his humble artisan background, this accomplished boy was accepted to study at the University of Paris. He established contacts in the scientific circles of his home town of Reims and became acquainted with the previously mentioned Cardinal Guillaume Fillastre, who was a generation older than Fusoris, and his geographical writings. At the University of Paris, in addition to medicine and theology, Fusoris studied astronomy, which became his greatest passion. In his treatise on astronomy, Fusoris compared the armillary sphere to the astrolabe, and described the utility of these astronomical instruments in the making of maps. In the 1410s Fusoris established the first known workshop and store for scientific instruments in Paris, which made astrolabes, terrestrial and celestial globes, and a variety of other devices for measuring time. In his work he combined the artisanship inherited from his father with the theoretical knowledge acquired at the university in a way that was very unusual at the time. Scientific instruments had, of course, been made before but the names of the makers of these early instruments are unknown. Jean Fusoris worked during a time when the market for scientific instruments was slowly beginning to grow, and he found a large number of customers all over Europe.Astronomers employed by the Church needed astrolabes for making calendars and correctly timing movable feasts. University professors were increasing their use of a variety of instruments, such as terrestrial and celestial globes, and armillary spheres, for instructional purposes. Jean Fusoris provided services to a growing number of professionals in astronomy and geography. A total of thirteen examples of the many instruments produced in his Paris workshop have been preserved in the museums of Europe. Although there are no globes among the remaining instruments, we know from the previously referenced written sources that Jean Fusoris did make maps on spherical surfaces.

Status Symbols of Princes The great Florentine pater patriae, Cosimo de’ Medici (1389– 1464), commissioned a Latin manuscript of Ptolemy’s book on geography for his well-equipped palace library sometime in the 1440s. His purpose may have been to outdo his political rival, Palla Strozzi, who was known to have been a great admirer of Ptolemy, by ordering himself the most handsome copy of the book available. Nevertheless Ptolemy’s work rose to great popularity among the princes of the Renaissance, becoming a sought-after object. Over the next fifty years it appeared in dozens of luxury regal manuscripts, which spread to courts all over Europe.

The Cosmographia, which contained colorful maps based on ancient sources, represented everything that a fashion-conscious European prince of the Renaissance could hope for to grace his library. Although the beautifully decorated Cosmographia was, above all, a status symbol for the wealthy upper classes of Europe, it was also the first systematic description of the geography of the known world, making its contents of extremely great interest. The spirit of the Renaissance was reflected in the emphasis of the wealthy upper class of the Italian city-states in the fifteenth century on architecture, art, and literature. The interest of this class, which owned the cities of the era, in the ideals of

The world map in transition

Le Petit Ptolomeo Numerous manuscripts of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia were produced in the fifteenth century. This manuscript is known as Le Petit Ptolomeo (“The Small Ptolemy”), the name referring to the exceptionally small size of the book (26.5 x 14.5 cm). The work is beautifully illustrated throughout using the skillful technique of miniaturization. It is still a sought-after work of book art, and new facsimile editions are produced regularly. The original manuscript is one of the treasures of the National Library of France. Bibliothèque nationale de France

antiquity arose out of their commercial activities. The Medicis, the greatest merchant family of the republic of Florence, grew wealthy from their interests in the very productive textile and mining industries, as well as their skillful banking activities. The family’s commercial activities extended almost throughout the entire known world. Wool from sheep that grazed on the Scottish moors was transported to Florence, where it was dyed and woven into fabric in the city’s numerous small workshops. The textile industry flourished, and finished fabrics were sold for large profits all around Europe. The wealthiest part of the population of the cities dressed themselves in fine silk fabrics, which were brought from China through Constantinople along the Silk Road via many intermediaries along the way.

The princes’ chilly stone castles were decorated with Flemish tapestries embroidered with gold thread, and the cold floors of the halls were covered by elaborate oriental rugs. The Medicis also invested in the mines of western Europe, which produced silver, copper, iron, and other important ores for the making of metal weapons and other implements; these were transported onward to the Levant and Syria. The wars waged between the princes of Europe ensured that the banking business of the Medicis flourished. As early as 1252 the Florentine florin, a small, beautiful gold coin, was accepted as payment throughout Europe. Branches of the bank owned by the Medicis were established all over Europe, and roads were constructed to connect the branch offices. The most famous of these roads was the “Bank Road” between Florence and Bruges in Belgium. Through their banks the Medicis funded the wars of the European princes. These wars not only took a heavy toll in human lives, but the entire hardearned property of the enemy was destroyed and burned to the ground whenever the opportunity presented itself. But the Medicis, the most skilled of capitalists, always succeeded in times of war as well as in times of peace. As he browsed his Ptolemy atlas, Cosimo de’ Medici could take satisfaction in the knowledge that his own commercial business enterprises and influence covered nearly the entire known world. And indeed, the Renaissance princes of the Italian city-states wished to see themselves as the heirs to the Roman Empire. Ptolemy’s Cosmographia symbolized this continuity for them: the reawakening of the spirit and material greatness of antiquity in their own influence, lifestyle, values, and commercial ambitions.



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toward new worlds

The 1482 Ulm Edition – Carving the World in Wood The third print edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia appeared in the German city of Ulm in 1482. The atlas was based on the famous manuscript of Donnus Nicolaus Germanus, in which ten years earlier Scandinavia had been presented for the first time in a Ptolemaic map (see Ch. II). The Ulm edition was the first atlas produced with wood engraving techniques, and its beauty is increased by the coloration added to the maps. A second printing of this popular atlas was produced in 1486. This detail is from that printing. Juha Nurminen World Map Collection, Helsinki

Ptolemy’s World Map in the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493 In 1493, Hartmann Schedel created his own version of the Ptolemaic world map for his famous work known as the Nuremberg Chronicle. The map does not aspire to geographic precision but is instead more of a map sketch combined with visual elements from stories of antiquity, medieval travelogues, and the Bible. The borders of the map are decorated with pictures of the sons of Noah – Ham, Shem, and Japheth. According to the Bible, all the peoples of the earth descend from them. Next to the map (on the left of the border) is a depiction of the strange peoples living at the edges of the earth, whose existence was based on ancient sources and medieval travelogues, although this obviously calls into question the biblical story of the lineage of men and beasts. Juha Nurminen World Map Collection, Helsinki

Italian and German Book Artisans as Printing Pioneers By the end of the fifteenth century, Italian and German book printers, and copper and wood engravers, had begun to dominate the book market. On both sides of the Alps, there was a spirit of international competition, with the artisans of city-states and principalities competing to produce ever more extravagant maps and atlases. German artists primarily used wood engraving; a masterpiece of this technique appeared in Ulm in southern Germany in 1482 with a new edition of the Ptolemaic Cosmographia. The Ulm edition was the first Ptolemaic atlas printed using wood engraving, and was based on the atlas ordered by the Duke of Ferrara Borso d’Este (1413– 1471). Produced by Nicolaus Germanus, it contained many improvements upon the geographic information known in the Greco-Roman world, such as descriptions of Greenland and Scandinavia.10 Engraving on wood or on copper plates was the most laborious and expensive step of producing maps and all other images. In order to print them properly, mirror images had to be



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The world map comes into focus



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The world encompassed

high prices to a Europe which, although exhausted from the Thirty Years’War (1618–1648) and many plagues, was gradually gaining in wealth. Maritime trade with distant lands demanded increasingly precise maps. The blossoming of the map trade in Amsterdam went hand in hand with the rise of merchant shipping in the Republic of the United Netherlands. During the seventeenth century, dozens of famous cartographers worked in Amsterdam, producing more than one hundred different printed world maps.4 As we proceed we will investigate a few of these maps, which illustrate the important influence of Dutch mapmakers on the European worldview and European maps in the seventeenth century. We begin our introduction to merchant shipping and world mapmaking in the Dutch Golden Age with Jan Huygen van Linschoten. Through the eventful life of this young adventurer we first learn of the spiritual and cultural soil from which the Dutch Golden Age gradually grew. Jan Huygen van Linschoten’s story demonstrates how humble North Sea herring fishermen turned with amazing rapidity into lords of the oceans of the world. With van Linschoten we can study the fundamentals of foreign trade and seafaring in the great cities of Seville and Lisbon, and see how the Dutch drew influences from the traders and mapmakers of the Iberian Peninsula. Our journey continues to India and the Portuguese-ruled city of Goa, and from there back to Holland. We will see how this small northern nation grew in less than a century into a unique superpower in world trade and mapmaking. The handsome Baroque maps made by the Dutch cartographers tell their own fascinating story about the competition between merchant shippers and the propaganda wars that raged between Catholics and Protestants at home and around the world, wherever European ships sailed. In this competition for world domination, the pen and the printing press was a more powerful weapon than gunpowder. For the world was ruled by those who had knowledge of foreign lands and the most accurate maps of safe sea routes to the riches of those lands.

Globes and Travel Books in a Vanitas Still-Life Painting Dutch vanitas (from the Latin for “vanity”) still-life paintings included objects to symbolize the impermanence of life, the inevitability of death, and the limitations of human achievement – objects such as hourglasses, broken violin strings, purses, and extinguished candles. During the seventeenth century, globes and travel books began to feature among the objects, indicating the rising supremacy of the nation in international trade. The small piece of paper on the right in this 1662 painting by Evert Collier reminds the reader that all human efforts are ultimately vain: Vanitas vanitatu(m) et omnia vanitas. Sotheby’s



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Willem Janszoon Blaeu and Joan Blaeu – the Flourishing Map Dynasty of the Father and Son “Willem Janszoon Blaeu” was born in the small Dutch town of Alkmaar in 1571 into the well-to-do family of a herring fisherman and trader, under the given name Willem Janszoon (1571–1638). While little is known about his childhood and youth, his life’s work with maps is much better known. He eventually became one of the most famous and versatile publishers and printers of maps, nautical charts, and pilot guides of his time. Blaeu also manufactured mathematical instruments, as well as terrestrial, and astronomical globes.42 In 1633 he finally received his long awaited and hoped-for position as a scientific advisor and master mapmaker for the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Later in life, he adopted his grandfather’s nickname “Blaeu” to distinguish himself from his strongest competitor, Johannes Janssonius, originally Jan Janszoon (1588–1664).43 Willem Janszoon was interested in mathematics and astronomy and did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a herring trader; instead, he focused on his studies. He worked as an accountant when he was young, but eventually his interest in natural science took him abroad. In 1597 Willem, like many other European young men, was enthusiastic about learning, and sought the instruction of Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), the most famous astronomer of the time. Brahe worked on the small island of Hven located in the Øresund, the strait of water between Denmark and Sweden. Willem Janszoon probably spent only six months on Hven, but it was undoubtedly a very intensive and inspiring period for him. Brahe was a Danish aristocrat who had devoted himself to astronomy and built an astronomical observatory on the island. Brahe dedicated it to Urania, the muse of astronomy and astrology, by naming it Uranienborg, “Castle of Urania”. Brahe’s observatory was equipped with the best instruments

available, including a large mural quadrant, constructed on a frame mounted on a wall, with which he and his students could measure the altitude of the stars, make accurate observations of the heavens, and calculate the movements of celestial bodies. These functions of the quadrant preceded the telescope, which wasn’t invented until 1608, seven years after Brahe’s death. Willem’s son Joan Blaeu (1596–1673) later included a picture of Uranienborg, so important to his father’s education, in his celebrated Atlas maior (1662). In 1599 the twenty-eight-year-old Willem Janszoon, who had recently married and become a father, decided to settle his family in Amsterdam and establish a workshop.The location of their home, well positioned by Op ´t Water, now the west side of the street known as Damrak, allowed him to concentrate on making and selling navigational instruments and globes. Competition was intense in the map and instrument trade in Amsterdam, but there was also a high demand. In the seventeenth century Amsterdam was the world’s principal producer of cartographic material.44 Early on Willem Janszoon realized that in addition to his scientific instruments and globes he would also have to produce high-quality printed world maps designed for a wide audience, as his competitors did. The printed world map market was dominated by the aforementioned Cornelis Claesz, who collaborated closely with Jodocus Hondius and Petrus Plancius. In the late 1620s, when the old masters Claesz, Hondius, and Plancius had all already passed on, Blaeu’s greatest competitor in the map business was Jodocus Hondius’s sonin-law, Johannes Janssonius. Willem Janszoon Blaeu quickly became one of Amsterdam’s most important publishers and printers of books and maps. News of the skilled and industrious book creator and instrument maker, who had a deep understanding of mathematics, astronomy, and the theory of navigation, spread quickly around

The world encompassed

the city and brought him many customers.When the Dutch East India Company (VOC) became Willem Janszoon’s customer in 1603, his success was sealed. But in the early years of the VOC he delivered only globes and instruments, but no sea charts.45 Not until 1633 was he appointed to the position of the VOC’s chief cartographer, and after this it was held by the Blaeu family until 1712. First by Willem Janszoon Blaeu and then for several decades by his son Joan Blaeu (1596–1673), and after his death his son Joan Blaeu Jr.(1650-1712) succeeded his father.46 Willem Janszoon published his first printed world map in 1604, based on Petrus Plancius’s famous map from 1592. This map is better known by the name of its engraver, Josua van den Ende (ca. 1584–ca. 1634), than that of its publisher,Willem Blaeu. Three years later, in 1607, Blaeu published a new world map, which he based on the Mercator projection. Unfortunately, this impressive wall map, with rich illustrations along its borders, was destroyed in the Second World War. It was photographed before the outbreak of the war, however, and fortunately the picture has survived so that we know what the map looked like. It was very large (143 × 204 cm), with almost half of its surface area taken up by impressive borders.47

View of Amsterdam

Portrait of Willem Janszoon Blaeu

Willem Janszoon Blaeu created this impressive cityscape of his new hometown in 1606. The copper engraving was printed on four large sheets measuring more than two meters in length (39 x 215 cm). In this detail from the enormous engraving, we see a section of the bustling Amsterdam harbor and its waterfront buildings, some of which still stand.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu founded his own business in Amsterdam in 1599 and began producing globes and navigation instruments, then later maps and atlases. This commercial enterprise grew into one of the greatest success stories in the history of mapmaking, thanks to his cunning business sense and cartographic knowhow. In this portrait Blaeu is dressed according to the demands of his position and social class in a stylish black sleeveless leather jacket and white collar ruff.

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

RKD, the Hague



the mapmakers’ world

influence was seen in many maps as significant increases in east–west accuracy. Many coastlines were redrawn and islands relocated. ••• The scientific activity of the Age of Enlightenment made its mark on the world maps of the day in many ways. Measurement instrumentation improved and scientific expeditions set out on every ocean of the world. Two seafarers – who were influential even before James Cook made his high-precision surveys – must also be mentioned: William Dampier and Edmond Halley. Both exerted a strong influence on the scientific content of the world map. William Dampier (1651–1715) began his career as a pirate, and hijacked his first expeditionary vessel. Dampier circumnavigated the globe a total of three times and helped improve the mapping of the northern half of Australia. He also became an avid observer of nature.17 Dampier published his studies in A Voyage to New Holland (1703), a pioneering work not only in terms of its descriptions of nature but also its cartography. Included in the book were two world maps drawn and engraved by the Dutch cartographer Hermann Moll.18 One of these maps is interesting in that it is based on the scientific observations Dampier made. Using lines and arrows, this map depicts the major oceanic wind systems: the great trade winds and the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean. Dampier also published this scientific world map separately in an article entitled “Discourse of the Winds” (1699).19 Another seafaring scientist, astronomer Edmond Halley’s (1656–1742) wide-ranging scientific work encompassed astronomy, optics, geophysics, meteorology, magnetism, and cartography.The esteem in which his work was held is attested by the fact that the British Crown named him Astronomer Royal in 1720. He was an internationally recognized celebrity who collaborated with the likes of Jean-Dominique Cassini in his study of comets.20 Nowadays Halley is best known for the comet that bears his name, whose return to our solar system he calculated and correctly predicted to occur in 1758. Halley was also well versed in Newton’s theories, and he explained to King James II (1633–1701) how they accounted for the tides and ocean currents.21 Halley also played a decisive role in the editing of Newton’s Principia. Halley made expeditions in the Atlantic and also personally served as captain of the Paramore. These journeys extended all the way to the Antarctic in the south, their main goal being to determine the nature of the earth’s magnetism and variations in declination in various areas. As a phenomenon, declination – the deviation between true north and the north indicated by the magnetic needle of a compass – had been familiar to seafarers since Columbus. Many attempted to measure declination in various areas in the hope that this would aid in determining longitude. But since declination varies from year to year, Halley understood it would be of little use in this regard.

Portrait of John Harrison John Harrison was a woodworker by trade, but he became one of the most skilled watchmakers of his day. His tireless work was finally rewarded when his famous H4 chronometer passed a demanding test of time measurement under ocean conditions. Harrison developed entirely new clock technology, including balancing systems, self-lubricating wood parts, and metal alloys that eliminated the problem of heat expansion. Science Museum, London

Like Dampier, Halley was also interested in the wind systems of the planet. In 1686, an innovative map depicting the earth’s wind systems appeared in conjunction with an article by Halley in the scientific publication of the Royal Society, Philosophical Transactions. The map is limited to a north–south zone approximately the height of Africa, including the Caribbean and South America in the west and the Spice Islands in the east. Thus the map focuses on depicting the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The wind systems known at the time are illustrated by thin dotted lines depicting the directions of flow of the prevailing trade winds. The Atlantic trade winds were very familiar to Halley.22 Halley’s voyages also produced other important scientific world maps. These were based on the expeditions Halley made


Jean de Beaurain’s World Map Jean de Beaurain’s 1782 world map illustrates how much of the coastlines of the continents had been mapped by the final decades of the eighteenth century. The northern Arctic Ocean shores of the “wild east” of Russia were already complete. However, nothing west of Canada was known of the northern reaches of the Americas. Alaska was also unknown, and it is completely missing from the polar projection pictured here. The straits drawn near the real Bering Strait are only hypothetical guesses. John Nurminen Foundation, Helsinki


The Mapmakers' World