1664 Blaeu Map of the Lesser Antilles with new St. Kitts Detail

Canibales Insulae. - Main View

1664 Blaeu Map of the Lesser Antilles with new St. Kitts Detail


Tracking English and French efforts to establish a Caribbean Foothold.


Canibales Insulae.
  1662 (undated)     16.25 x 21 in (41.275 x 53.34 cm)     1 : 2500000


This is a handsome, first edition example of Blaeu's 1662 map of the Lesser Antilles, in an attractive original color example in superb condition. It appeared only in the four final editions of Joan Blaeu's Atlas Maior; consequently, it is among the scarcest of the Blaeu Atlas maps.
A Closer Look
The map is presented as a chart, embellished with rhumb lines with a fine compass rose at the center. It is oriented to the west, with north to the right hand side of the chart. The orientation allows the presentation of the islands in a graceful arc from Puerto Rico, to Trinidad and Terra Firma. The whole is titled Canibales Insulae, the islands of the cannibals, a reflection of centuries of sensationalistic reports of the Carib people who had settled the islands in successive waves from South America. The chart includes the Virgin Islands, Guadelupe, Martinique, Barbados, and Granada among others, but most significantly St Kitts/ Christopher.
Sources and Improvements
As is the case with many of the Blaeu maps of the Americas, this delineation of the Antilles is derived from the work of Hessel Gerritz, who was the official chartmaker of Dutch West India. Gerritz' geography, which appears to have originated in a 1627 manuscript, would appear throughout the 17th century in the maps of De Laet, Blaeu, Hondius and Jansson, but never before in this form and orientation. Blaeu's delineation here appears to have been chosen to specifically improve on the map of these islands appearing in the competing Jansson/Hondius atlas, Insula S. Juan de Puerto Rico Caribes. That map, oriented to the east, is slightly broader, including all of Puerto Rico and more of Terra Firma. As with Blaeu's work, most of the islands are presented with minimal detail. Jansson's map added new placenames to St. Kitts: Fransche Ree, Jeans' Point, Engelsche Ree, Caerls Cast and Solferberg; on the island itself is a Fransche F(ort) and a salt pan. Jansson's map made little effort (and perhaps was of insufficient scale) to locate these features with any precision. In contrast, Blaeu's map affords enough space to mark the locations of these placenames on the island itself.

The effort to improve the detail for this island in particular reflects its importance as a prize contested over by the European colonial powers: the English began efforts to colonize in 1624, only to find a trio of Frenchmen already there; after a year of the English struggling to maintain their colony, a French ship arrived. By 1627, the English and French had divided the island into quarters with the English controlling the middle of the island and the French the end quarters. The placenames appearing here reflect that situation. Fransch Fort is the French Fort Louis, for example. Carels Cast. is the English Fort Charles. The presence of salt pans and a sulphur mine signal the islands' strategic importance, beyond the tobacco and sugar plantations which European colonizers were trying to establish there. Blaeu probably cribs these details from the 1650 Sanson map of the island, adding them to Gerritz' geography without altering it significantly.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved for inclusion in Joan and Cornelius Blaeu's monumental 1662 Atlas Maior. It was included in only four editions of were published. The Dutch edition, in which this map was included, was printed in 1664. Further publication of the atlas was curtailed by the 1672 fire which put an end to the Blaeu's publishing dynasty. Those maps (such as this) that were produced specifically for it are among the Blaeu family's scarcest maps. We see only nine examples of the present map in institutional collections in various editions; none are identified as belonging to this Dutch edition.


Joan (Johannes) Blaeu (September 23, 1596 - December 21, 1673) was a Dutch cartographer active in the 17th century. Joan was the son of Willem Janszoon Blaeu, founder of the Blaeu firm. Like his father Willem, Johannes was born in Alkmaar, North Holland. He studied Law, attaining a doctorate, before moving to Amsterdam to join the family mapmaking business. In 1633, Willem arranged for Johannes to take over Hessel Gerritsz's position as the official chartmaker of the Dutch East India Company, although little is known of his work for that organization, which was by contract and oath secretive. What is known is his work supplying the fabulously wealthy VOC with charts was exceedingly profitable. Where other cartographers often fell into financial ruin, the Blaeu firm thrived. It was most likely those profits that allowed the firm to publish the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive, Atlas Novus, their most significant and best-known publication. When Willem Blaeu died in 1638, Johannes, along with his brother Cornelius Blaeu (1616 - 1648) took over the management of the Blaeu firm. In 1662, Joan and Cornelius produced a vastly expanded and updated work, the Atlas Maior, whose handful of editions ranged from 9 to an astonishing 12 volumes. Under the brothers' capable management, the firm continued to prosper until the 1672 Great Amsterdam Fire destroyed their offices and most of their printing plates. Johannes Blaeu, witnessing the destruction of his life's work, died in despondence the following year. He is buried in the Dutch Reformist cemetery of Westerkerk. Johannes Blaeu was survived by his son, also Johannes but commonly called Joan II, who inherited the family's VOC contract, for whom he compiled maps until 1712. More by this mapmaker...

Hessel Gerritsz (1581 – September 4, 1632) was a Dutch engraver, cartographer, and publisher active in Amsterdam during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, among the most preeminent Dutch geographers of the 17th century. He was born in Assum, a town in northern Holland in 1581. As a young man he relocated to Alkmaar to accept an apprenticeship with Willem Jansz Blaeu (1571-1638). He followed Blaeu to Amsterdam shortly afterwards. By 1610 he has his own press, but remained close to Blaeu, who published many of his maps. In October of 1617 he was appointed the first official cartographer of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East Indian Company) or VOC. This strategic position offered him unprecedented access to the most advanced and far-reaching cartographic data of the Dutch Golden Age. Unlike many cartographers of his period, Gerritsz was more than a simple scholar and showed a true fascination with the world and eagerness to learn more of the world he was mapping in a practical manner. In 1628 he joined a voyage to the New World which resulted in the production of his seminal maps, published by Joannes de Laet in his 1630 Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien; these would be aggressively copied by both the Blaeu and Hondius houses, and long represented the standard followed in the mapping of the new world. Among his other prominent works are a world map of 1612, a 1613 map of Russia by the brilliant Russian prince Fyodor II Borisovich Godunov (1589 – 1605), a 1618 map of the pacific that includes the first mapping of Australia, and an influential 1630 map of Florida. Gerritsz died in 1632. His position with the VOC, along with many of his printing plates, were taken over by Willem Janszoon Blaeu. Learn More...


Blaeu, J and C., Grooten Atlas, (Amsterdam: Blaeu) 1664.    


Very good. Surface mend to right just entering image with no loss. Few printers' creases. Original outline color.


OCLC 158815184. (1662) Rumsey 10017.649. (1665)