Blaeu North & South America


Willem Janszoon Blaeu.  “Americae nova Tabula.  Auct: Guilielmo Blaeuw.”  Amsterdam: W.J. Blaeu, 1631.  Third state.  16 x 21 5/8.  Engraving.  Early hand color.  Some minor chipping at edges of good margins; professionally reinforced and filled on verso.  One chip in lower right extends just to border.  Light creases along centerfold.  Overall, very good condition.  Latin text on verso.  Burden 189.

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One of the most sought-after and decorative maps of North and South America, a gem by Willem (Guilielmus) Janszoon Blaeu.  Willem Blaeu (1571-1638) was the progenitor of the famous Blaeu cartographic firm of Amsterdam.  He studied astronomy and sciences with Tycho Brahe, and in 1599 established a globe and instrument making business which soon expanded to include cartographic and geographic publishing.  This firm was to go on to become the largest and most important cartographic publishing firms in the world, run by his sons Cornelis (until his death in 1642) and Joan.  The maps issued by the Blaeu firm are known for their fine engraving, coloring and design, and have been called “the highest expression of Dutch cartographical art.”

This lovely map of North and South America is typical of the work of Willem Blaeu, with an up-to-date topographical depiction surrounded by decorative borders.  The geographical image is fascinating, with accuracies and inaccuracies combined in a mix that reflects the best available knowledge of the day.  The general picture is very good, but many cartographic myths are represented including the fictional islands of Frisland and Brasil and the famous non-existent city of gold, El Dorado.

Decoratively, the map is one of the most beautiful of the golden age of Dutch cartography.  Along the top are nine vignette views of the major cities on the continent, while ten pairs of figures line the sides illustrating the dress of the local inhabitants.  The decorative features continue within the map area, with numerous sailing ships and sea monsters plying the waves, as well as vignettes of natives in South America.  With its intricate flourishes, fascinating ethnological and historic detail, lovely original color, this is a superb item of seventeenth century art and cartographic history.