By: Johannes van Keulen
Date: 1695 (Published) Amsterdam
Dimensions: 20 x 23 inches (51 x 58.4)
Oriented west, this superb sea chart by Johannes van Keulen depicts the Orkney archipelago off the northeast coast of Scotland. One small island and a portion of another of the Shetlands are also depicted. Referred to in ancient classical literature as the Orcades, Emperor Claudius is said to have added them to the Roman Empire during his reign. No Roman settlements are known in the Orkneys, but artifacts of Roman origin have been found, lending credence to the claim.
The group consists of approximately seventy islands, twenty of which are inhabited and have been for millennia, some since the Neolithic era. Remains of those civilizations are abundant in places, and those on the island of Mainland are a designated UNESCO world heritage site which includes underground dwellings, standing stone circles and earthen houses. Norsemen arrived in the 8th century CE and began to colonize the islands.
Despite its fragmentation, the archipelago is a prosperous agricultural area with small owner-occupied farms which average about 35 acres in size. Modern farming methods and machinery are used and crop yields are high. Each year additional farming acreage is claimed from the moor land, which is typical of much of the topography of the islands.
This chart shows detailed information for navigational purposes. Rhumb lines radiate from a large number of points. Arrows indicate the direction in which the wind blows. Water depths and safe anchorages are indicated in places, areas of shallows which extend along the coast of Scotland, and underwater hazards are included. Place names and cities are noted. The chart shows the area in great detail, with the hazards it presents to navigation of these waters carefully delineated.
The chart is embellished with an ornamental compass rose, and a lovely title cartouche featuring putti with various astronomical instruments, and a sword. Two magnificent sailing ships are shown are shown at full sail. The distance legend in the lower left is in four languages.
Johannes van Keulen, a Dutch cartographer of the late 17th and early 18th century founded a family firm which became known as one of the finest publishers of sea charts in all of Europe of that time. He founded his firm in 1678, registering with the Amsterdam bookseller’s guild as ‘Cross staff maker and bookseller’ and in 1780 was granted a patent from the States General of Holland and West Friesland to publish nautical charts and atlases. One family member became the official Hydrographer to the East India Company, and until the opening of the Dutch Hydrographic Office, the firm produced what were considered the official sea charts for the Dutch government.
Condition: This map is in very fine condition. Some soiling mostly confined to margins. Paper and impression slightly weakened in places due to having been a working sea chart.
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