Joan Blaeu’s world map in Amsterdam’s National Maritime Museum

Joan Blaeu’s world map in Amsterdam’s National Maritime Museum

Amsterdam’s National Maritime Museum is to exhibit Joan Blaeu’s world map dating back to 1648. The map has an area of over 2m x 3m and offered the most up-to-date knowledge of the world in its day. This is the only edition in the world of this version, with text by Blaeu and a new map of China.

Joan Blaeu (1596-1673) was the son of Willem Blaeu, also a cartographer. The Blaeu firm was the largest producer of maps in the seventeenth century, basing its work on a combination of earlier cartography, tradition and the latest discoveries. Their business was located on what is now the Damrak in Amsterdam, the proximity to the harbour facilitating collection of information from those arriving from all over the world. Their cartography had a significant influence on the view of the world and the map at the time.

New features of Blaeu’s map included the coastlines of Australia (called Nova Hollandia) and New Zealand, which had recently been ‘discovered’ by explorer Abel Tasman. The map was dedicated to Gaspar de Bracamonte y Guzman, Count of Peñaranda, leader of the Spanish delegation for the peace negotiations which resulted in the Treaty of Münster 1648, and celebrates the end of the Eighty Years’ War between the Dutch Republic and Spain. For this reason the map does not indicate clear territorial boundaries within Europe. Blaeu was the first cartographer to draw his map according to the Copernican world view, thus casting doubt on what was still the prevailing world view in his day.

The map will be on show to the public from 14 April to 31 December 2017 in the exhibition Blaeu’s wereld in kaart | meester-cartograaf in de Gouden Eeuw. For further information see www.hetscheepvaartmuseum.nl.

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