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1650 Blaeu View of New Amsterdam (the earliest obtainable view of New York City)

Nieuw Amsterdam op t Eylant Manhattans. - Main View

1650 Blaeu View of New Amsterdam (the earliest obtainable view of New York City)


The earliest obtainable view of New York City (New Amsterdam). Features full Blaeu watermark.



Nieuw Amsterdam op t Eylant Manhattans.
  1650 (undated)     3 x 12 in (7.62 x 30.48 cm)


A remarkable discovery, this is the earliest published view of New York City. Issued around 1650 by the Dutch cartographer Johannes Blaeu, this view details the southern tip of Manhattan, then New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam), as it appeared in 1648 under the Peter Stuyvesant's Dutch (VOC) corporate governance. There is some debate regarding the image's original author. Although certain scholars refutes this, our research suggests it is most certainly derived from a 1648 watercolor illustration of New Amsterdam (New York) discovered in the Albertina Collection of Vienna in 1991. The Albertina watercolor is probably the work of Augustin Herman (c. 1621 – 1686), a cartographer and illustrator of Bohemian descent who settled in New York (New Amsterdam) in the 1640s. Blaeu engraved and published the view independently as Nieuw Amsterdam op t eyland Manhatttans around 1650 – which corresponds to this example. Later it was adopted by another Dutch cartographer, Nicholas Visscher, who used it to illustrate his influential 1651 (first state) map of the Middle Atlantic and New England entitled Novi Belgii. Despite lacking in significant cartographic innovation, Novi Belgii is an enormously significant map for its widespread popularization of Blaeu's historic view. To this day Nieuw Amsterdam op t eyland Manhatttans is commonly, if somewhat erroneously, referred to as the 'Visscher View.' This is a nearly but unobtainable view and a once in a lifetime opportunity for the serious Manhattan collector.

The present example is exceptional in that it features the full Blaeu owl shaped watermark. Since all examples of this view are cuttings - that is, several different images etched onto a plate, printed onto one sheet, and then cut into individual prints, thus lacking plate marks - not all examples of the view feature the watermark in part or full, see image at right. This example, featuring a remarkable full watermark is extraordinary. As noted by de Koning in his July/August 2000 Mercator's World article, 'Origins of the Visscher View,'
All known copies of the Blaeu cutting are printed on watermarked Blaeu paper, on which he also printed his famous Town Book of 1648. In 1672, a year before Blaeu's death, a fire destroyed his entire printing business and reduced his paper inventory, plates, and presses to ashes. No available blank Blaeu paper since has been found.


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 Novus, 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.


Very good condition. Light soiling upper left corner and right margin. Else very clean.


Mercator's World, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Jul/Aug 2000), pp 28-33. Stokes, I. N. P., The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909, pp 25ff, cf. pl. 9. Burden, P. D., The Mapping of North America: A List of Printed Maps, 1511-1670, #315 and #317. Checklist of Engraved Views of the City of New York in the New York Public Library, no. 10518.