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Jan Blaeu: [Set of Six Maps of Brazil]

Map: SAM3060
Cartographer: Jan Blaeu
Title: [Set of Six Maps of Brazil]
Date: 1662
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: SAM3060
This celebrated set of maps was created by Joan Blaeu, regarded as the greatest map-maker of the 16th century.

The publishing house of Blaeu was established in 1596 by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, who had studied as a young man under the great astronomer, Tycho Brahe. It originally produced globes and scientific instruments. However, the firm soon expanded into map making and publishing, and eventually became one of the most important and prolific map producers in Amsterdam and recognised through the world.

In 1623 Blaeu published the "Het Licht der Zeevaerdt" an atlas of sea-charts. In 1629 Willem, now working with his son Joan, purchased 37 engraved plates from the widow of their rival Hondius and the following year they produced their first land atlas, the "Atlantis Appendix". In 1635 this was expanded into the "Atlas Novus" a major world atlas in six volumes and many languages, from 1635-59.

After the death of his father, Joan Blaeu embarked on one of the most ambitious publishing undertakings of the 17th century, the printing of the Great Atlas, the "Atlas Maior". This magnificent work was to contain nearly six hundred maps and was to vary from nine to twelve volumes depending on edition. The exquisite engraving allied with lovely hand-colouring make maps from the "Novus" and "Maior" atlases some of the finest ever printed.

The "Atlas Maior" was to be the crowning glory of the Blaeu firm. Tragically in 1672 a disastrous fire swept through the Blaeu printing house destroying much of the stock and most of the copper engraving plates. The following year Joan died and the surviving plates were dispersed.

The basis for these maps was an impressive nine-sheet copper-engraved wall map by geographer and natural historian Georg Marcgraf and includes illustrations assumed to be by artist Frans Post. Marcgraf (or Marcgrave) was a German astonomer and naturalist. In 1637, he was appointed astronomer of a company being formed to sail to the Dutch colony in Brazil. He accompanied Willem Piso, a physician and the newly appointed governor of the Dutch possessions in that country. Marcgraf later entered the service of Count Maurice, of Nassau, who supplied him with the means to exploring a considerable part of Brazil. He arrived in Brazil in early 1638 and undertook the first zoological, botanical, and astronomical expedition, exploring various parts of the colony to study its natural history and geography.

The maps depict the short-lived Dutch Empire in Brazil. From 1630 onward, the Dutch Republic gained control of a large portion of north-eastern Brazil from the Portuguese. The Dutch West India Company (VOC) set up their headquarters in Recife and the Governor, Johan Maurits, invited artists and scientists to the colony to help promote migration to the new South American colony. However, the Portuguese fought back and won a significant victory at the Second Battle of Guararapes in 1649. On January 26, 1654, the Dutch Republic surrendered and signed a capitulation returning control of the Brazilian colony to the Portuguese.

In 1654, after the First Anglo–Dutch War, the Dutch Republic demanded that New Holland (Dutch Brazil) be returned to their control. Under threat of a reoccupation of the colony, the Portuguese, already involved in a war against Spain, acceded to the Dutch demand. However, the new Dutch political leader, Johan de Witt deemed commerce more important than territory and in 1661 after the Treaty of The Hague saw to it that New Holland was sold back to Portugal for the equivalent of 63 tonnes of gold, to be paid over 16 years.

Original hand colour. Set of six maps framed. [SAM3060]