Joan Blaeu

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Joan Blaeu , painting by J. van Rossum
Joan Blaeus' French-language catalog (front side), c. 1670/71

Joan Blaeu (German Johannes Blaeu ; * 1596 in Alkmaar , Netherlands , † December 28, 1673 in Amsterdam , Netherlands) was a Dutch cartographer and engraver . In 1654 he created the first atlas of Scotland . His eleven-volume Atlas Maior , first published in 1662 , was one of the most elaborate and expensive European atlases of the 17th century .

life and work

Origin, education and first edition of the Novus Atlas

Joan Blaeu was born in Alkmaar in 1596 as the son of Willem Janszoon Blaeu , a pupil of Tycho Brahe , and came to Amsterdam around 1603, where his father founded a company specializing in the manufacture of earth globes and maps.

All that is recorded about Joan Blaeu's education is that he obtained a doctorate in law in 1620. On the other hand, there are no written certificates about his activities during the next few years of his life. The mention of his name on the edition of the Atlantis Appendix published in 1631 suggests, however, that he participated in his father's business after completing his studies.

In 1636 the first edition of the Novus Atlas appeared (full title: Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive Atlas novus ), the further revisions of which were to establish Joan Blaeu's fame as a cartographer.

Takeover, further editions of the Novus Atlas

When Willem Janszoon Blaeus died in 1638, Joan and his brother Cornelis took over the management of the Amsterdam company and at the same time was appointed the official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company as his father's successor . In 1640 a three-volume edition of the Novus Atlas was published . After the death of Cornelis in 1642, Joan continued to run the company alone. In 1651 he was elected to the Amsterdam City Council, making him the first cartographer to fill this office.

In the years 1645 and 1654 further supplementary volumes to the Novus Atlas appeared . The fourth volume (1645) contained maps of English counties and with the fifth volume (1654) Blaeu created the first atlas of Scotland . In 1655 Blaeu completed the Novus Atlas with a volume of maps on the countries of the Far East.

The theater of the cities

Around 1649 (dating after the privilege), Blaeu's City Book of the Netherlands was published, initially in 3 Latin editions with little change as Novum ac Magnum Theatrum Urbium Belgicæ Liberæ ac Fœderatæ or Novum ac Magnum Theatrum Urbium Belgicæ Regiae ; thereafter the first Dutch edition appeared under the title Toonneel der Steden van de Vereenighde Nederlanden on the Republic of the United Netherlands (corresponds to today's Netherlands ) and Toonneel der Steeden van 's Konings Nederlanden on the Spanish or Royal Netherlands (corresponds to today's Belgium and Luxembourg ). It also includes some German cities that were then part of the Netherlands.

With the exception of the special case of the city of The Hague, which never received formal city ​​rights , the fortified city walls are particularly striking from today's perspective. The representation of the houses and important buildings, which seem to protrude towards a viewer hovering over the map, is remarkable in terms of drawing.

The Atlas Maior

After completing the Novus Atlas , Blaeu embarked on an even more ambitious project. On the basis of his earlier maps, Blaeu created the Atlas Maior , an initially eleven-volume atlas, first published in 1662 with almost 600 maps and a total of 3000 pages of Latin text. This atlas was supposed to be the preliminary stage to a cosmography , which Blaeu never realized.

The large-format volumes were printed on high-quality paper and the cards were decorated with elaborate ornamentation. At the buyer's request, the original single-color cards could be colored in Blaeu's workshop, which further increased the value of the individual volumes. Their possessions reflected the wealth of the buyer and it is believed that the Atlas Maior was one of the most expensive publications of the time. Nevertheless, the work was granted an extraordinary success. Later editions appeared in French, Dutch and German.

The fire of 1672

The planned Spanish-language edition of Atlas Maior remained a fragment after Blaeu's workshop was completely destroyed in the devastating Amsterdam fire of 1672. Printing presses, copper plates, books and paper were lost in the fire.

The death of Joan Blaeu in the following year is attributed to this severe blow. The company founded by Willem Janszoon Blaeu was finally dissolved in 1698.

Facsimile editions

  • The third centenary edition of Johan Blaeu Le grand atlas: ou cosmographie Blauiane - Facsimile of the Amsterdam 1663 edition in 12 volumes, Amsterdam Vol. 1 (1967) to Vol. 12 (1968) and Introduction (1970)
  • Novus Atlas Sinensis: 1655. Facsimile from the magnificent edition of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel . Edited by the Volkswagenwerk Hannover Foundation. With contributions by Hans Kauffmann and Yorck Alexander Haase, Stuttgart 1973 - Volume 6 of the Novus Atlas

The editions of Taschen are not really facsimile editions, but edited versions (edited by Peter van der Krogt):

  • Atlas Maior . Taschen, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-822-83125-5 - Reprint of an original copy from the Austrian National Library, Vienna. Also available in the Dutch original ( FAZ review )
  • Atlas Maior - Anglia, Scotia et Hibernia (2 volumes). Taschen, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8228-5104-3
  • Atlas Maior - Gallia . Taschen, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8228-5105-1
  • Atlas Maior - Germania, Austria et Helvetia (2 volumes). Taschen, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8228-5102-7
  • Atlas Maior - Hispania, Portugallia, America et Africa . Taschen, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8228-5106-X
  • Atlas Maior - Hollandia et Belgica . Taschen, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8228-5103-5
  • Atlas Maior - Italia . Taschen, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8228-5107-8

Digitized editions

  • Novus Atlas, that is the description of the world . Blaeu, Amsterdami 1641


  • Blaeu - The Great Atlas: The World in the 17th Century. Introduction, texts and selection of cards by John Goss, foreword by Peter Clark. Edited in collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society, Vienna 1990, ISBN 3-701-40304-X .
  • Joan Blaeu, Bert van 't Hoff: Toonneel der steden van de Vereenighde Nederlanden met hare beschrijvingen. Elsevier, Amsterdam 1966.

Web links

Commons : Blaeu  - album with pictures, videos and audio files