Leen Helmink Antique Maps

East Indies, Far East by Willem Blaeu


Willem Blaeu


India quae Orientalis dicitur, et Insulae Adiacentes.


Amsterdam, 1634


41 x 50 cms


Copper plate engraving

Stock number





$ 2750


One of the best and most famous 17th century maps of the region, from the Golden Age of Dutch cartography. Boldly engraved on a network of rhumb lines, richly embellished with title cartouches, scalebar, compass roses, cherubs and galleons. Printed in black ink from an engraved copperplate, then color paint added by hand.

A seminal map stretching from India to Japan, and one of the first printed maps to show parts of Australia as discovered by the Dutch between 1606 and 1623, before the expeditions of Abel Tasman. Strait Torres between New Guinea and Cape York is not known, although the possibility is left open. Korea is considered to be an island. Japan is very inaccurate, although three main islands are acknowledged. The map shows the first relatively accurate depiction of the complex archipelago of the Philippines.

This striking map of South East Asia and the Far East comes from a series of wonderfully decorative maps by Willem (Guilielmus) Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638), the progenitor of the famous Blaeu cartographic firm of Amsterdam. Blaeu 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 firm 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 craftsmanship and design, and have been called ÔÇ£the highest expression of Dutch cartographical art. This map, with its excellent original color and clear and precise detail is a premier example of the Blaeu output.

Among mapmakers of the seventeenth century the house of Blaeu is justly recognized as pre-eminent in terms of art, cartography and engraving skills. Additional to the map's aesthetic qualities is its historical significance for the charting and mapping of the region.

At centre top is a title cartouche held by two male costumed figures dressed in Asian livery. In the lower left corner is a Latinized dedication to Laurens Reael (Lavrentio Real) who had served as Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies 1616-1617. Reael had fought the Spanish in 1617 in the Bay of Manila, the English at Bantam and in the Mollucas, and the Mataram Sultanate at Japara on Java. The dedication is signed by Blaeu and is guarded on the left by Athena, the Greek Goddess and symbol of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, law and justice, mathematics, strength, just warfare, strategy, the arts, crafts, and skill. On the right is an armoured knight, to emphasize the Dutch military strenght, firmness and determination. Several cherubs are depicted along the lower border, playing with maritime instruments, to illustrate the importance of the science of navigation.

Blaeu was the official cartographer to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and as such, was privy to the best available information in the region, long before the information was generally made known to the rest of the map making community. His map of the region reflects his early access to the Dutch explorations in the region during this time period. This map is of utmost importance, as it was the first regional map in an atlas to show the latest Dutch discoveries in the region. Contrary to the Portuguese and Spanish mapmakers, who had no permission to print and publish maps of the new discoveries overseas for reasons of secrecy, the Dutch mapmakers suffered little censorship and enjoyed a large freedom of press.

Hessel Gerritsz, the official cartographer of the VOC, had produced the original copperplate between 1628-1632, but without any decorations or title cartouches. After the death of Gerritsz in 1633, Blaeu took over the position as VOC mapmaker, helped with the appointment by his friend Laurens Reael, who was back in the Netherlands and who was by now one of the VOC directors in Amsterdam.

Iin his new position Blaeu had access to the latest navigational information available from the East Indies, including all ship's logs and charts. Blaeu also got Gerritz copperplate for this map, that had actually been designed as a maritime chart for use at sea by the East India Company. Blaeu changed it from a navigational chart into an atlas map to add to his two volume Atlas Novus of 1634. As a consequence the map is the first accurate atlas map of the region.