By: Willem Janszoon Blaeu
Date: 1640 (circa) Amsterdam
Dimensions: 16 x 20.75 inches (40.6 x 52.7 cm)
This is a superb example of Blaue’s important map of the Straits of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego, here labeled as Magellanica, in honor of Ferdinand Magellan. This map was considered a reliable source of information for cartographers and explorers from the time it was published in the seventeenth century on through the end of the eighteenth. It depicts one of the few sea routes between the Atlantic and Pacific before the construction of the Panama Canal, showing in detail the topography and geography of the region as it was thought to be at that time.
Though some topography is inaccurate, the area represented is done in Blaeu’s typical masterful fashion. Blaeu was highly trained in hydrography, globe making, and astronomy, and he was a skilled mathematician. The cartouche in the lower left quadrant typifies his acumen, illustrating by grid scale how latitude lines stretch apart as they approach the poles when using Mercator projection. A smaller cartouche just above the grid scale contains a list of place names of the region, coded alphabetically. Rhumb lines are projected from three compass roses.
In the upper right beneath a heraldic device is Blaeu’s dedication of the map to Constantijn Huygens, Lord of Zuilichem, who was secretary to two princes of Orange. Hyugens’ social milieu included figures such as the French philosopher Descartes to name but one well-known figure, and he was an integral part of the Dutch intellectual network of which Blaeu was also part. Hyugens was a diplomat, a polyglot Renaissance man, a connoisseur, and a fine musician who epitomized the Dutch Golden Age.
The map is embellished with an interesting title cartouche, a splendid coat of arms, seven ships at full sail in the south Pacific, and depictions of indigenous peoples of Patagonia in southern Argentina, including one child and three adults in native attire.
Condition: Map is in excellent condition with a somewhat narrow top and bottom margin that still leaves room for framing. Color is bright and paper is clean.
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