1635 Willem Blaeu Map of America

Americae Nova Tabula. - Main View

1635 Willem Blaeu Map of America


Highly decorative Dutch Golden Age map of America.


Americae Nova Tabula.
  1635 (undated)     16.5 x 22 in (41.91 x 55.88 cm)     44000000


The essential Dutch map of America: Willem Janszoon Blaeu's 1635 carte-á-figures of the western hemisphere. The map is among the most desirable printed maps, encapsulating in one map the most sought after aesthetic qualities of maps from the Dutch Golden Age of Cartography. In particular, it is the prime example of the carte-á-figures, or 'figured map,' displaying in its upper border the most important cities in the mapped region, and in its left and right borders finely-engraved depictions of the peoples native to it. The cities thus depicted are (from left) Havana, Santo Domingo, Cartagena, Mexico, Cusco, Potosi, La Mocha, Rio de Janeiro, and Olinda. The denizens of the Americas here depicted include Greenlanders, Virginians, Floridians, Californians (Specifically, the King and Queen of Nova Albion,) Mexicans, Peruvians, Brazilians, Chileans, and the natives of Magellanica (these last, possibly intended to be the giants reported by the survivors of Magellan's voyage.) The decorative elements of the map are not limited to the borders: the seas are sailed by no fewer than eight ships sporting Dutch flags, and four sea monsters prowl the oceans.

Apart from his world map, this was the only one of Blaeu's folio maps to show all of North America; consequently it had a long printing life. When Willem Blaeu first produced the map in 1617, it not only bore the mapmaker's proper name - Guiljel: Janssonio - but also showed fewer islands in the Pacific, and a more primitive depiction of the Strait of Magellan than is shown here. These geographical elements all reflect the findings of Le Maire and Schouten's 1615-1617 circumnavigation, news of which Blaeu was perfectly aware but was prevented, by the Dutch East India Company's censorship, from printing. (Blaeu's protest that his competitors were already printing the new data led the Company to relent, and he printed the corrected version of his map in 1618.) From this point, the plate remained in use with minor changes, none of which represent changes in geographical knowledge.
Scope and Features of the Map
The engraving covers all of North and South America and the surrounding seas, extending eastward to Europe and Africa, and westward to the unexplored central Pacific. At the southernmost point of South America, Tierra del Fuego is shown as an island separate from the hypothetical Terra Australis Incognita, including both the Strait of Magellan and the Strait of Le Maire. The northernmost regions shown in the main map are Hudson's Bay, the coasts around the Davis Strait and part of the imaginary island of Frisland; an inset map shows the coastline of Greenland in more completeness, a complete rendering of the imaginary Frisland and an accurate depiction of Iceland, whose existence this writer can affirm. The mapping of North America reveals little knowledge beyond the coastline: The Saint Lawrence River appears to take its beginning in an array of small lakes, but no recognizable Great Lakes are shown. The Mississippi does not yet appear, though there are several rivers emptying into the Gulf of Mexico; their watershed is bounded by imaginary mountain ranges. In the North American southwest a proto-Colorado River is shown with its start in a lake surrounded by the legendary Seven Cities of gold. The Pacific Coast shows no sign of an insular California (that canard would not appear on maps until 1624, and Blaeu's map was never updated to include it.)

The east coast of North America includes a rudimentary depiction of the 1591 John White cartography, appearing as an outsized and protruberant Viriginia and Outer Banks. The Canadian Maritimes appear recognizably, but between Virginia and Nova Scotia the geography becomes imaginary. The highlight of this region is the appearance of Norembega, a kind of northeastern El Dorado (El Dorado itself appears in South America.)
Norembega or Nurembega appears in what is today New England. This mysterious land began being mapped with Verrazano's 1529 manuscript chart of America. He used the term, Oranbega, which in Algonquin means something on the order of 'lull in the river'. References to this place, spelled on variations of Nurumbeg, Norumbega and so on, begin to appear in 1542 journals of respected French navigator Jean Fonteneau dit Alfonse de Saintonge, who claimed to find the place in the vicinity of modern-day Bangor, Maine:The river is more than 40 leagues wide at its entrance and retains its width some thirty or forty leagues. It is full of Islands, which stretch some ten or twelve leagues into the sea. ... Fifteen leagues within this river there is a town called Norombega, with clever inhabitants, who trade in furs of all sorts; the town folk are dressed in furs, wearing sable. ... The people use many words which sound like Latin. They worship the sun. They are tall and handsome in form. The land of Norombega lies high and is well situated. Although Roberval's colony lasted only two years, Andre Thevet, writing in 1550, recorded encountering a French trading fort at the site of Norumbega.

A few years later in 1562, an English slave ship wrecked in the Gulf of Mexico. David Ingram, one of the survivors, claimed to have trekked overland from the Gulf Coast to Nova Scotia where he was rescued by a passing French ship. Possibly inspired by Mexican legends of El Dorado, Cibola, and other lost cities, Ingram returned to Europe to regale his drinking companions with boasts of a fabulous city rich in pearls and built upon pillars of crystal, silver, and gold. The idea caught on in the European popular imagination and expeditions were sent to search for the city - including that of Samuel de Champlain.

Thereafter variants of the place would continue appearing on maps, reflecting a reluctance to erase so tempting a destination.
El Dorado
Similarly, in South America Blaeu includes El Dorado (Manoa al Dorada) on the shores of a large, imaginary lake in what today Northern Brazil or southern Guyana reflecting the European belief that the legendary city was the equally mythical city of Manoa, first reported by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595 and placed on the shores of the Lake Parima. Raleigh did not claim to actually visit the city but described the city based on indigenous accounts. Parts of the Amazon were, at the time, dominated by a large and powerful Indigenous trading nation known as the Manoa, and rainy seasons occasionally connected the Amazon and Orinoco river systems, affording the Manoans the ability to trade with the Incans in the western Amazon, providing access to gold mines on the western slopes of the Andes. So Raleigh's suppositions may have had some basis in fact.
Publication History and Census
As mentioned above, this map was initially engraved in 1617; it was published separately until it was included in Blaeu's 1630 Appendix: consequently the 1617 first and 1618 second states of the map are exceedingly rare. This present example is the 1621 3rd state from the 1635 French edition of the Atlas Major. The state is identifiable for the change of the imprint to from 'Guiljelmo Blaeuw' from 'Guiljel Jassonio.' There are a total of five states and records of reissues from 1617 to 1663. The Blaeu firm was destroyed by fire in 1672 and no subsequent editions were produced.


Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571 - October 18, 1638), also known as Guillaume Blaeu and Guiljelmus Janssonius Caesius, was a Dutch cartographer, globemaker, and astronomer active in Amsterdam during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Blaeu was born 'Willem Janszoon' in Alkmaar, North Holland to a prosperous herring packing and trading family of Dutch Reformist faith. As a young man, he was sent to Amsterdam to apprentice in the family business, but he found the herring trade dull and instead worked for his cousin 'Hooft' as a carpenter and clerk. In 1595, he traveled to the small Swedish island of Hven to study astronomy under the Danish Enlightenment polymath Tycho Brahe. For six months he studied astronomy, cartography, instrument making, globe making, and geodesy. He returned to Alkmaar in 1596 to marry and for the birth of his first son, Johannes (Joan) Blaeu (1596 – 1673). Shortly thereafter, in 1598 or 1599, he relocated his family to Amsterdam where he founded the a firm as globe and instrument makers. Many of his earliest imprints, from roughly form 1599 - 1633, bear the imprint 'Guiljelmus Janssonius Caesius' or simply 'G: Jansonius'. In 1613, Johannes Janssonius, also a mapmaker, married Elizabeth Hondius, the daughter of Willem's primary competitor Jodocus Hondius the Elder, and moved to the same neighborhood. This led to considerable confusion and may have spurred Willam Janszoon to adopt the 'Blaeu' patronym. All maps after 1633 bear the Guiljelmus Blaeu imprint. Around this time, he also began issuing separate issue nautical charts and wall maps – which as we see from Vermeer's paintings were popular with Dutch merchants as decorative items – and invented the Dutch Printing Press. As a non-Calvinist Blaeu was a persona non grata to the ruling elite and so he partnered with Hessel Gerritsz to develop his business. In 1619, Blaeu arranged for Gerritsz to be appointed official cartographer to the VOC, an extremely lucrative position that that, in the slightly more liberal environment of the 1630s, he managed to see passed to his eldest son, Johannes. In 1633, he was also appointed official cartographer of the Dutch Republic. Blaeu's most significant work is his 1635 publication of the Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive, Atlas Novus, one of the greatest atlases of all time. He died three years later, in 1638, passing the Blaeu firm on to his two sons, Cornelius (1616 - 1648) and Johannes Blaeu (September 23, 1596 - December 21, 1673). Under his sons, the firm continued to prosper until the 1672 Great Fire of Amsterdam destroyed their offices and most of their printing plates. Willem's most enduring legacy was most likely the VOC contract, which ultimately passed to Johannes' son, Johannes II, who held the position until 1617. As a hobbyist astronomer, Blaeu discovered the star now known as P. Cygni. Learn More...


Blaeu, W., Atlas Major, (Amsterdam: Blaeu) French Edition, 1635.    


Very good. Some reinstatement of upper margin not affecting printed image, upper centerfold mend. French text on verso.


OCLC 158753075. Burden, P., The Mapping of North America, #189. Tooley (America) #169.