• Willem Janszoon Blaeu

    1571-1638

    Willem Bleau was born in Alkmaar in the Netherlands in Northern Holland in 1571. He was a surveyor, globe-maker and publisher in Amsterdam. He had two sons Joan (1596-1673) and Cornelis (1610-1648) who both worked with their father.
    Up to 1617 Willem Blaeu used his patronymic name derived from that of a father or paternal ancestor, (usually by the addition of a suffix or prefix meaning “son.”) signing his work Guilielmus Janssonius or Williems jans Zoon. This has sometimes led to confusion with a contemporary Joannes Janssonius. His later work was signed Guilielmus or G. Bleau.

    The achievements of the Bleau firm were remarkable, Their work covered the whole range of Cosmography, Uranography, Hydrography, Chorography and Topography.


    Nova Totius Terrarum Geographica Orbis Ac Hydrographica Tabula

    First published 1606, This is one of the most famous maps from the 17th century. In 1630 it was incorporated into Blaeu's "Atlantis Appendix" and then into the "Atlas Novus" in all subsequent editions until 1658. Its influence was enormous, and it was closely copied by some of the greatest Dutch cartographers, such as Pieter Van der Keere and Jansson. Others, such as Hondius, were forced to produce their own highly decorative maps to compete.

    Geographically, the map was a reduction of Blaeu's large map of the world published in 1605. The charming cartouche in the interior of North America mentions its discovery by Columbus in 1492 and being named after Amerigo Vespucci in 1499. 

    There is some confusion of the landmass of the East coast, as the mapping of the interior the of North America was not complete . California is correctly shown as a peninsula. The Le Maire straits, separating Tierra del Fuego from South America, copied from an earlier map by Hondius, are clearly shown. In the north, a note beside "Nova Zembla" in the Arctic declares that it was reached by Willem Barents in 1596. In the Far East Korea is shown as an island and northern Australia is shown without names.

    Decoratively the most striking features of this map are the magnificent and innovative panelled borders. The upper border shows allegorical figures of the sun and moon and the five known planets; Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Along the bottom border are depictions of the seven wonders of the ancient world; the hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus at Rhodes, the Pyramids, the Mausoleum of Hallicarnansus, the Temple of Diana, the Statue of Jupiter and the Lighthouse at Alexandria. Running down the left hand side of the map are representations of the four elements: Fire, Air, Water and Earth and on the right, the Four Seasons.

    Until the late 1620s, the European market for world atlases was dominated by the Mercator maps published by Jodocus Hondius II. With the growing competition in publishing sea charts and pilot books, The Blaeu business seized its opportunity to publish a grand world atlas: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Atlas novus. Progress on the world atlas was initially slow, and by the time of Willem's death in 1638 only two volumes had been published, although several more were in progress. All these were continually updated and revised as new discoveries were made. 
    Willem Blaeu was appointed mapmaker to the Dutch East India Company In 1633-1634 . He died in Amsterdam at the age of 67 in October of 1638.

    List of Atlases

    1629- Preliminary essay, 17 maps by Blaeu and 37 by Hondius.
    1630- Atlantis Appendix Amsterdam. 60 maps no text
    1631- Appendix Thearei A Ortelii at Atlantis G. Mercatoris, Amsterdam. 117 maps & text
    1634- Novus Atlas 161 maps with german text
    1635 - Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus,2 volumes, four editions with text in Latin, Dutch, German & French.