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Willem & Jan Blaeu: Nova Hispania et Nova Galicia

Map: WIND2542
Cartographer: Willem & Jan Blaeu
Title: Nova Hispania et Nova Galicia
Date: c. 1650
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: WIND2542
Fine Dutch Golden Age map of west-central Mexico charting the territories owned by Spain and France. Omitting the north-west and north-east of Mexico and encompassing the west-central modern day Mexican states of Sinaloa, Durango, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, Puebla, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi. The map illustrates the western coastline from modern day Mazatlán to Acapulco and from the Sierra Madres south to Tehuacán, detailing the major settlements as Mexico City, Santa Catarina Mechoacán and Compostela amongst others.

The title cartouche is adorned with the Spanish Royal Coat of Arms. To the west of the cartouche, a peppering of diamond-shape symbols – these are that of silver mines “Argenti minerae”, with an annotation just north of the area saying “the largest silver mountains ever dug” [his montibus maxima argenti copia effoditur] .

French text description on verso (image available on request). Coloured. [WIND2542]

The Blaeu Family

For much of the 17th Century the firm of Blaeu were the dominant mapmakers at a time when Dutch cartography was universally acknowledged to lead the world. Established in 1596 by Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638), 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.

In 1623 they published the "Het Licht der Zeevaerdt" an atlas of sea-charts. In 1629 Willem and his son Jan (1596-1673) purchased 37 engraved plates from the widow of their rival Hondius and the following year they produced their first land atlas, the "Atlantis Appendix" which contained sixty maps. In 1635 this was expanded into the "Atlas Novus" a major world atlas in six volumes. This contained a county atlas of England and Wales and from 1635-59 was published in editions in Dutch, Latin, French, German and Spanish.

After the death of his father, Jan (also spelt Joan or Johannes) Blaeu embarked on one of the most ambitious publishing undertakings of the 17th Century, the printing of the "Atlas Maior". This magnificent work was to contain nearly six hundred maps and, depending on edition, varied between nine and twelve volumes. The exquisite engraving allied with typically lovely hand-colouring make maps from the "Novus" and "Maior" atlases some of the finest ever produced.

The "Atlas Maior" was to be the crowning glory of the Blaeu firm. 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 Jan died and the surviving plates were dispersed.

The period between 1570 and 1670 is known as the Golden Age of Dutch Cartography and it is a measure of the Blaeu’s achievements that they were the dominant cartographers throughout most of this period. Reflecting their contemporary reputations Willem and Jan were in turn both appointed Hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) and their atlases were frequently presented to foreign sovereigns and potentates by the Dutch government.