Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Northern China by van Keulen

Cartographer

van Keulen

Title

Paskaart van den vaarweg tusschen Formosa en Japan

Published

Amsterdam, 1753

Size

50.1 x 57.0 cms

Technique

Copper engraving

Stock number

17669

Condition

excellent

Price

$ 27500

Description

A highly important map, and one of the first accurate maps of these waters.

From an extremely rare sea atlas by Johannes (II) van Keulen, the Zee-Fakkel Part VI, issued in 1753, the so-called secret atlas of the Dutch East India Company, of this atlas only a few copies have survived.

For many regions in Asia and Africa, the printed maps from this atlas are the first, the best and the only accurate early maps.

These maps are never in the market, and they are beyond doubt the non plus ultra of printed maps of the East Indies and the Indian Ocean.

For two centuries, from 1602 to 1799, the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) ruled the waters of Asia and Africa. Accurate charting of these waters was essential for succesful and safe navigation.

The VOC had their own mapmaking office. During the first 150 years, only secret manuscript charts were used, to minimize the risk of spreading the knowledge to competitors. But from 1753 onwards, a printed atlas was used, the van Keulen Zee-Fakkel Part VI, with printed charts to navigate the waters from South Africa to Japan.

There was a variety of reasons for printing the VOC maps:

First, in the course of 150 years the knowledge of these waters had leaked out to other European nations and secrecy was of less importance.

Second, printed maps were more accurate and less prone to errors than manuscript copies.

Third, loose maps were impractical and sometimes lost despite the strict
policies of use.

Fourth, in the course of 150 years the knowledge of these waters had leaked out to other European nations and secrecy was of less importance.

And last, but not least, printed maps were cheaper to (re-)produce than manuscript maps.

The atlas is known as the secret atlas of the East India company, because it was not sold to third parties and only used on board of VOC ships. For this reason it is extremely rare, and only few have survived. Further, the number if charts in the atlas is often limited because ships that did not sail to India / Ceylon or China / Formosa / Japan were given versions of the atlas that did not contain the charts of these areas, making many of the maps even rarer.