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Map Maker Biography: Johannes Janssonius (1588 – 1664)

Renowned 17th century cartographer, publisher, engraver and entrepreneur Johannes Janssonius (Jan Jansson in English, Jan Janszoon in Dutch), was born in Arnhem, Holland in 1588 to a family of well-known publishers and booksellers. At the age of 24 he made a brilliant marriage to Elizabeth de Hoondt (Hondius), daughter of Jacobus Hondius, thus becoming a member of one of the most illustrious families of Western European cartographers and mapmakers of his day. On marrying, he moved to Amsterdam and took up the profession of book publishing. Within a few years Jan had joined the ranks of his in-laws and in 1616 began publishing maps himself, his first being of France and Italy.   

In 1627 he became a widower, and following the death of Elisabeth Hondius he married Elisabeth Carlier in 1629. Despite the death of his first wife, he stayed in business with her family and in the early 1930s he formed a partnership with his former brother-in-law Henricus Hondius. The new business venture they formed soon began publishing atlases under the name of  Mercator/Hondius/Janssonius.  Janson was not only a talented publisher and cartographer, but was possessed of natural business acumen and as director of the publishing enterprise the atlases were soon expanded, and renamed Atlas Novus.

By the age of 35 he had begun buying bookstores in western Europe, eventually owning a number of them in cities such as Frankfurt am Main, Danzig, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Königsberg, Geneva and Lyon. The shops were natural sales outlets for his publishing enterprises. The Atlas Novus was published in three volumes in 1638, with one dedicated to Italy alone. County maps of England were the topic of his fourth volume, published in 1646.

Rivalry amongst cartographers was strong, and in his early atlases Janson was sometimes accused of plagiarism of works by Joan Blaeu. However many of his maps are of entirely different regions and actually predate many of those published by Blaeu.

The atlas finally became known as Atlas Major, and by 1660 there were eleven volumes containing contributions by more than a hundred well-known authors and engravers. There was a Townatlas which claimed to describe most of the known cities of the world, an Atlas Maritimus mapping oceans and seas and including 33 maps, and an atlas of the Ancient World, with 60 maps depicting various historical periods and the kingdoms and regimes which ruled over them.

The final volume was a cosmographical supplement called Atlas of the Heavens, containing masterful, beautiful, often stunning cosmographical works by Andreas Cellarius. The atlases were published in various languages, including Dutch, Latin, French, and German. Enjoy some maps from various atlases of Johannes Janssonius.

1636 America Septentrionalis by Jan Jansson

1635 Americae Pars Meridionalis Jan Jansson

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