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An important early map of the Western Hemisphere by Willem Blaeu from Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, one of the most significant atlases of the golden age of Dutch cartography. This example is from Le Grand Atlas, a French edition. The cartography of the Americas is flanked by illustrated top and side panels; native people of Greenland, Virginia, Florida, California, and South America are shown in ten vignettes on the left and right, and oval bird's-eye views of nine New World cities, including Havana, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Cusco, Cartagena and Santo Domingo are depicted along the top. The map, one of only a few by Blaeu to show North America, is richly decorated with clipper ships and sea monsters in the oceans as well as with forests, mountain ranges and indigenous peoples in the land masses. A sliver of the coast of Spain and Africa is included on the east side of the Atlantic Ocean and a small inset map at the top shows Greenland and Iceland. French text printed on the back of the map tells the story of Christopher Columbus' historic voyage in which he discovered parts of the West Indies.
This was the most prominent map of America to retain the peninsular theory for California during the period when most maps adhered to the configuration of California as an island. Though the peninsular configuration was of course the correct one, this map had it simply because it had become dated, not because the Blaeu firm dismissed the island theory. The first version of the map included the coastline of Terra Australis Incognita extending from the east side of the cartouche to the tip of South America. For some unknown reason, although he updated the map to remove that portion of coastline, Blaeu did not remove the name.
The original editions of Americae nova Tabula were separately issued and appeared in Latin between 1617 and 1621. In 1635, Willem Blaeu and his son Joan Blaeu incorporated it, along with other maps, into the atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive, Atlas Novus. German, Dutch and French versions of this atlas were published through about 1667. The firm was destroyed in a fire in 1672, which apparently ended production of this map. The example of Americae nova Tabula offered here is marked verso with the signature “j a,” which dates it to the French edition that was published in 1663 and 1667 (Burden).
The Blaeu family of cartographers, founded by Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) in about 1604, became the largest printer in 17th century Europe and the leading cartographic publisher during the golden age of Dutch map making.Read more about them and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive, Atlas Novus in our Guide to Globe Makers.
Cartouche and inscription lower left: Americae nova Tabula. Auct: Guiljelmo Blaeuw. Cum privilegio decem annorum.
Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of North America: A List of Printed Maps 1511-1670. Herts, England: Raleigh Publications, 1996. 189.
Fleet, Christopher. "Joan Blaeu." Pont Maps Biographies. National Library of Scotland. 2000. http://www.nls.uk/pont/bio/blaeu.html (17 September 2002).
Tooley, R.V. Maps and Map-Makers. 4th Ed. New York: Bonanza Books, 1970. pp. 33-34.
van der Krogt, Peter and Erlend de Groot. "The Atlas Blaeu--van der Hem." Universiteit Utrecht. 27 August 2008. http://cartography.geog.uu.nl/research/vanderhem.html (28 December 2012).