The largest and the most expensive publication of the 17th century: a spectacular conclusion to the Golden Age of Dutch cartography

Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem

Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem

Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem

  1. The final version of the 1635 *Atlas Novus* by Joan Blaeu (1596-1673), created between 1662 and 1672 in Amsterdam

  2. A special edition was created at the behest of Laurens van der Hem (1621-78), a discerning connoisseur of maps

  3. One of the most highly coveted cartographic works in the world, it utilized the most modern methods available at the time

Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem

Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

Between 1662 and 1672, the Atlas Maior, the final version of the 1635 Atlas Novus by Joan Blaeu (1596-1673), was published in Amsterdam and in doing so, Blaeu brought the Golden Age of Dutch cartography to a splendid end. Depending on the translation, the work consists of 9-12 volumes comprising roughly 3,000 pages of text and 594 maps, topographical charts, landscapes, cityscapes detailing harbors and forts, seascapes with battling ships, and relevant information about local politics. A specially colored version was created at the behest of Laurens van der Hem (1621-78), a Dutch lawyer and map collector. His personal copy served as the backbone of a collection comprising 46-volumes of 2,400 maps, drawings, and charts in addition to other supplemental materials, making it by far the most extensive collection of its kind. The historic collection includes contributions from leading artists of the day from both within and without the Netherlands, many of whom personally visited the various locales they so splendidly depicted.

Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem

The Golden Age of Dutch cartography, which was begun by Abraham Ortelius (1527-98) when his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was posthumously published in 1570, came to its spectacular conclusion with the publication of the Atlas Maior, the final version of the 1635 Atlas Novus by Joan Blaeu (1596-1673), between 1662 and 1672 in Amsterdam. The largest and the most expensive publication of the entire 17th century. A special edition was created at the behest of Laurens van der Hem (1621-78), a Dutch lawyer and discerning connoisseur of maps and landscapes. The work not only contains maps, but topographical charts, landscapes, cityscapes detailing harbors and forts, seascapes with battling ships, and relevant information about local politics. It is one of the most highly coveted cartographic works in the world utilizing the most modern methods available at the time.

A Truly Epic Atlas

The final version of Blaeu’s atlas ranged between 9 and 12 volumes, depending on the translation, and included 594 maps and related illustrations adorning some 3,000 pages of text. Bearing the full title Atlas Maior, sive Cosmographia Blaviana, qua solum, salum, coelum, accuratissime describuntur or Grand Atlas or Blaeu's Cosmography, in which are Most Accurately Described Earth, Sea, and Heaven, this already extensive atlas was actually meant to be the first volume of an epic three-part work. The second installment was slated to address coasts, seas, and oceans while the third would map the heavens. However, a fire consumed the workshop in 1672, Joan Blaeu died the next year, and thus the second and third parts were never created. Nonetheless, what was created in the decades before 1672 continues to stand out as one of the most important and refined works of cartography in history. Van der Hem’s personal copy represents the backbone of his 46-volume-collection of 2,400 maps, drawings, and charts in addition to other supplemental materials, making it by far the most extensive collection of its kind. As a synthesis of the refined art of the Baroque period and the foremost methods of the Golden Age of Dutch cartography, this is a work second to none.

A Highly Coveted Personal Copy

Upon publication, an unembellished version was made available for purchase by price-conscious consumers, but Van der Hem had his copy hand-colored by Dirk Jansz van Santen (1637-1708). Van der Hem’s personal copy of the atlas even included a volume of secret maps created by the Dutch East India Company that were never part of the original publication. After being passed down to his wife and then his daughters, Van der Hem’s grandson sold the atlas at auction in 1730 for the price of 22,000 florins. The lucky buyer was no less than Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), a general of the Imperial army and one of the most successful military leaders of modern European history, who rose to the highest offices of the imperial court in Vienna through his victories in service to three Hapsburg emperors. He too had a keen interest in maps and landscapes. Also known as the Eugenius-Atlas as a result, it was through Prince Eugene that the incredible work came into the possession of the Imperial Library, precursor to the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Nearly destroyed in a fire in 1992, it has since been digitized and was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2003.

The Labor of Many Hands

Many of the copperplates featured in the atlas were engraved by Joan Blaeu and his workshop, but dozens more had previously been acquired by his father Van der Hem himself helped to create the images Italy and Sicily. Nonetheless, it would be impossible for one man or even a few to have seen all these places and to record them in such detail. As such, Van der Hem’s massive collection of 2,400 maps and other images originate from a galaxy of Dutch artists including Andries Beeckman, Gaspar Bouttats, Jan Peeters I, Bonaventura Peeters the Elder, Jacques Callot, and Cornelis Gerritsz Decker. Other artists who recorded what they had seen in their travels also contributed to the work, they include Lambert Doomer, Jan Hackaert, Adriaen Matham, Roelant Savery, Willem Schellinks, and Reinier Nooms, also named as 'Zeeman'. Thus, Van der Helm’s personal copy, even more so than the original, is a blend of original creations, refined works already in existence, and a compilation of contributions by leading artists of the day.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem“

Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem
Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)
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Atlas Blaeu - Van der Hem

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Hes & De Graaf Publishers – Houten, 2011
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