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1661 Elzevir / Cluver Compass Roses and the Cardinal Directions

[Untitled diagrams of Compass Roses, Naming the Cardinal Directions.] - Main View

1661 Elzevir / Cluver Compass Roses and the Cardinal Directions


Ancient and modern directional names explained.


[Untitled diagrams of Compass Roses, Naming the Cardinal Directions.]
  1661 (undated)     8.5 x 58.5 in (21.59 x 148.59 cm)


This is an attractively-engraved plate comparing four different conventions in naming the cardinal directions. It was printed in a 1661 Elzevir edition of Philipp Cluver's introduction to geography. Cluver's work appeared in editions by several different houses, and with maps of wildly differing characteristics. Presented here are four separate diagrams, each exemplifying a different, common convention for directional toponomy.
Latin Conventions
To the upper left, resembling a zonal map (in that it shows the equator and the tropics) is a diagram showing the classical Latin names for the directions; Septemtrio, Ortus, Meridies and Occasus and their intermediate terms. These names are typically based on astronomical observations: Septemtrio refers to the seven stars of the little dipper, the constellation containing the North Star. Meridies refers to the position of the midday sun, as seen in the northern hemisphere. These were in common use by the 1st century CE, but since Latin remained the scholarly language well into the eighteenth century, the terms persisted on maps throughout the history of early printed maps. Furthermore, the debt owed Latin by French and Italian would mean that the similar terms (Septentrionale, or Settentrionale) would commonly appear on maps printed in the vernacular. But as the meanings of these terms were based on observations possible only in the northern hemisphere, they began to lose their relevance once mariners crossed the Equator.
The Anemoi
The lower diagram on the left, designed on a similar model to the one above it, is used to illustrate the winds as named after the classical Greek gods, the Anemoi. These wind gods, each assigned a cardinal direction from which their wind came, were the progeny of Eos and Astraeus, and all were subject to the god Aeolius. The Anemoi appear on many early maps as wind heads.
Mediterranean Model
On the upper right is an elegant, sixteen-point compass rose showing the traditional Italianate names for the eight winds and their intermediate derivatives. The names here were invented by medieval (mainly Genoese, Venetian and Provençal) seafarers working the Mediterranean. These traditional names of the eight principal winds - Tramontana, Greco, Levante, Scirocco, Ostro, Garbino, Ponente, and Maestro - were references to winds in a direct context to the Mediterranean. The Tramontana blew from the North, 'across the mountains' of the Alps. Greco blew from the direction of Greece, and so on. These directional terms, while meaningful for sailors of the Mediterranean, retained little relevance for navigators outside these waters.
North, South, East, West
The 32-point compass rose shown in the lower right uses the now-familiar convention of North, South, East and West, with intermediate stages marked as 'north by east.' 'northeast by north' and so on. In this instance, the terms are written in Dutch - after all, this was an Amsterdam printing. These directional terms were divorced from fixed geographical or astronomical reference points, and thus were relevant anywhere on the globe. These standard terms for navigators throughout the world.
A Mystery Engraver? A Woman?
None of the plates appearing in the Elzevir edition of Cluver's Introductionis in universam geographiam are signed by an engraver. For a miniature map, this is not unusual - very often this work was executed by journeyman engravers, who would not have the right to apply an imprint. However, it is very possible that the matriarch of the Elzevir firm - Eva van Alphen - did this work herself. She is known to have been an accomplished engraver, having been credited with a beautiful Dutch Bible map after Visscher (Orbis Terrarum Tabula Recens Emendata et in Lucem Edita per N. Visscher). When their edition of Cluver was produced, Eva's husband Jean was in failing health and upon his 1661 death she took over direction of the firm. The excellent work here may well be hers.
Publication History and Census
The plate was engraved for inclusion in Philipp Cluver's Introductionis in universam geographiam, as early as 1659. Though he did not live to see it in print, Cluver's text became one of the most popular of the seventeenth century, printed in many editions from 1624 through the 18th century. This example appeared in a 1661 edition, published by the house of Elzevir. This edition of Cluver is noted in 15 examples in OCLC although the separate plate is not catalogued.


Philipp Clüver (also Klüwer, Cluwer, or Cluvier, Latinized as Philippus Cluverius and Philippi Cluverii) (1580 - December 31, 1622) was a German geographer and historian active in Leiden in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Clüver was born in the Royal Prussian city of Danzig (Gdansk), then a province of the Kingdom of Poland. He study of law at the University of Leiden before turning his attention to history and geography. Cluver traveled, mostly by foot, extensively throughout Europe, spending time in Germany, England, Scotland, Holland and Italy. On returning to Leiden he was given a special appointment as geographer and put in charge of the university's library. Cluver is best known for his general study of the geography of antiquity. A popular Enlightenment era field of study, antiquarian geography attempted to resolve place names known from classical literature but, by the time of the Renaissance, geographically confused. Cluver based his research not only on classical literary sources, but — and this was his primary contribution to the genre — also his extensive and local inspections of sites. Today he is considered one of the founding fathers of historical geography. Cartographically Cluver's most prominent works include his edition of Ptolemy's Geographia (based on Mercator's edition of 1578) and for miniature atlases that were reprinted for most of the 17thand 18th centuries. Cluver was also known as Klüwer, Cluwer, or Cluvier, Latinized as Philippus Cluverius and Philippi Cluverii. He died in Leiden in 1622. Learn More...

The house of Elzevir (active c. 1600 - 1712) were a celebrated family of Dutch booksellers, publishers, and printers of the 17th and early 18th centuries; their specialty tended to be small - format 'duodecimo' books. The firm came to prominence with the work of Lodweijk, or Louis, Elzevir (1546-1617) who got his start as a bookbinder in Leuven and after some years became a bookseller and publisher in is own right in Leiden. Louis published about 150 works during his lifetime. He had seven sons, five of whom carried on their father's trade. Of these, Bonaventura Elzevir (1583–1652) is the most celebrated. He began publishing in 1608, joined in 1626 by his nephew Abraham Elzevir (1592-1652). In 1617 another nephew, Isaac Elzevir (1596–1651), acquired a press allowing the family business to take over the production end of the publishing process. Abraham's son Jean Elzevir (1622-1661) joined the partnership in 1647; he would carry on the Leiden business until his death in 1661. Jean's wife, Eva van Alphen Elzevier (active 1651-1663; died 1681) then became head of the business, producing work of a very high quality. Bonaventura's son Daniel. (1626-80) would join his cousin Louis' press in Amsterdam in 1654, but many of their productions were actually manufactured at Eva's press in Leyden. It is likely that the quality work of this period can be credited to her: it dropped sharply after her death in 1681, at which point the business fell into the hands of her feckless son Abraham, whose incompetence brought the company to an end with his own death in 1712. Learn More...

Petrus Bertius (November 14, 1565 – October 12, 1629), also known as Peter Bardt and P. Bertii, was a Flemish theologian, historian, and cartographer. Bertius was born in Beveren (Alveringem), a son of the preacher Pieter Michielszoon Bardt. The Bardt family fled to London at the outbreak of the Dutch War of Independence in 1568, fleeing both religious and political strife. When the political situation in the Netherlands stabilized in 1577, Bertius returned to study at the University of Leiden. He supported himself by tutoring until 1593 when he was appointed subregent of the Leiden Statencollege. This was probably a nepotistic post as, in the same year, he married Maritgen Kuchlinus, the daughter of Johannes Kuchlinus, then regent of the Statencollege. Bertius himself succeeded Johannes, becoming regent in 1606. Through his marriage, Bertius associated with Flemish cartographers Jodocus Hondius and Pieter van den Keere, both of whom were in-laws. Bertius first began publishing cartographic works in 1598 when, working with Barent Langenes, he published a the miniature Latin language atlas Tabulae contractae. In 1618, publishing with his brother-in-law Jodocus Hondius, he issued the atlas Theatrum Geographiae Veteris, which impressed Louis XIII of France sufficiently that he relocated to Paris to take position as court cosmographer to the King. Two years later he converted to Catholicism and took a position teaching rhetoric at the Collège de Boncourt, in Paris. In 1622, Louix XIII granted him a chart in mathematical sciences at the royal college and the honorarium of royal historian. Bertius remained in Paris until his death in 1629. Learn More...


Clüver, P., Philippi Cluverii Introductionis in Universam Geographiam, (Amsterdam: Elzevir) 1661.    


Very good. Original folds. Few marginal mends, reinforced at juncture of folds. Lightly toned.