A superb 1687 Johannes van Keulen nautical chart or maritime map of the coasts of Honduras, Belize, Mexico, and Cuba. It is one of the first, if not the first printed chart to focus on the Yucatan Peninsula.
A Closer LookThis southern-oriented chart illustrates the essential shipping lanes passing landward of Cuba. Place names appear in Spanish, indicating that Van Keulen's sources for his map were Spanish in origin. Cape Camaron and Cape Honduras are marked on the coast, which is broadly named 'Honduras' (at the expense of Guatemala, whose claim to the coast does not appear here.) The coastal islands of Guanaja and Utila are named. The island later known as Ruatan is here named Guayana. East of the Yucatan Peninsula the island of Cozumel, with surrounding shallows, is apparent. Several of the islands along the coast of Mexico and Belize are named. Quintana Roo appears as the island of Quitaxvenho. The Islands and Bay of Chetumal appear more recognizably. Other place names - Isla Pantoja, Isla Zaratan - appear to have disappeared in modern cartography.
Further Historical Context Despite the vagaries of 17th century toponymy, Van Keulen included much intended to be useful. Throughout the chart, shallows and rocky areas are noted and important coastal approaches are accompanied with simple coastal views. The chart is decorative as well, with an attractively rendered ship, two compass roses, rhumb lines and a beautifully engraved cartouche with two putti, one coiling a plumb line, and one clambering up the cartouche to pick a flower.
Publication History and CensusAlthough they are not dated, Van Keulen's charts can generally be associated with years of publication based on typographical changes. First states of the charts from the fourth volume of Keulen's Zee-Fakkel lack page numbers and these are dated 1684. Second states, dated 1687, have a page number added to the lower left corner: this corresponds to the present example. The 1695 third state has page numbers in both lower corners. OCLC only reveals two examples in institutional collections, in later states. Several examples of the chart have appeared at auction and in dealer's catalogs over the past ten years, although most of these have proven to be of the 1695 edition of the chart or later.
Johannis Van Keulen (1654 – 1715) was a Dutch cartographer active in Amsterdam during the late 17th century. Keulen was the son of Lucas van Keulen. Keulen's firm, ‘In de Gekroonde Lootsman' (In the Crowned Pilot), was founded in 1678 and registered with the Amsterdam bookseller's guild as 'Cross staff-maker and bookseller'. The cross-staff is a nautical instrument used to determine latitude. Two years later, in 1680, they obtained a patent from the States General of Holland and West Friesland to publish nautical charts and atlases. Together with his partner, the cartographer Claes Janz Vooght, Van Keulen published numerous atlases and nautical charts, including the Zee Atlas and Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel. The term, Zee-Fakkel translates to 'Sea Torch.' It was a massive five volume atlas containing more than 130 nautical charts. The Zee-Fakkel established the Van Keulen firm as the pre-eminent maker of Dutch sea charts in the late 17th and early 18th century. In 1714, one year before Johannis Van Keulen death, his son, Gerard van Keulen (1678 - 1726), took charge. Gerard continued to update and republish the Zee-Fakkel until his own death in 1726. The firm was later passed on to Gerard's son, Johannes II Van Keulen (1704 - 1755), who significantly updated the atlas, especially with regard to Asia, issuing the 1753 4th Volume, known as the 'Secret Atlas'. The final editions of the atlas were published by Gerard Hulst van Keulen (1733 - 1801), Joannes II's son. The final true Van Keulen edition of the Zee-Fakkel was published posthumously in 1803. It is noteworthy that though ostensibly controlled by the Van Keulen men, it was the Van Keulen widows who maintained and managed the firm in the periods following their husbands' deaths. After the death of Gerard Hulst Van Keulen's son, Johannes Hulst Van Keulen, ownership of the family plates and business fell into the hands of the Swart family who continued to publish until the company closed its doors 1885, ending cartographic legacy spanning nearly 207 years. More by this mapmaker...
Claes Jansz Vooght (1638 – 1696) was a Dutch astronomer, mathematician, teacher, surveyor and cartographer active in Amsterdam during the 17th century. Vooght described himself as a 'surveyor and teacher of mathematics and the art of navigation' and published extensively on these subjects. His is known to have been a surveyor for the Council of Holland and co-authored several books with Rembrantsz Dirck van Nierop. Though little is known of Vooght's life, his most important cartographic work appeared in conjunction with the prominent Johannes Van Keulen firm, with whom he partnered in 1680. Vooght was responsible for creating and compiling most of the maps in Van Keulen's seminal Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel, with many early editions bearing only his name. Learn More...
Keulen, J. van, De Nieuwe Groote Lichtende Zee-Fakkel, Part IV, (Amsterdam) 1687. Also in: Keulen, J. van, Zee-Atlas, (Amsterdam) 1687.
Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel was the premier Dutch nautical atlas of the late 17th and 18th century. First introduced in 1681, over the course of its more than 100 years in production, the Zee-Fakkel expanded to six volumes. The first five volumes were published in Amsterdam by Johannes van Keulen (1654 - 1715). His son, Gerard van Keulen (1678 - 1726), reissued it in several editions with minor updates.
Grandson, Johannes II van Keulen (1704 - 1755) expanded the atlas in 1753 with Volume VI, illustrating Asian waters. This was a revolutionary addition. For three generations the Van Keulen's were the official cartographers of the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie / United Dutch East India Company). Until 1753, to protect their long-standing trade monopoly, the VOC jealously guarded their hydrographic data on East Asian waters, refusing the allow charts to be printed and requiring oaths of secrecy from the Van Keulens (and Bleaus before them). This led to dangerously inaccurate often contradictory charts. Thus, in 1744 Jan Harmenszoon de Marre (1696 - 1763), the VOC's Amsterdam Examiner, was instructed to work with van Keulen to publish compile, compare, and resolve the VOC's hoard of jealously guarded manuscript charts of East Asian waters. Johannes II and de Marre published the sixth volume of the Zee-Fakkel, focusing on Asian waters - if only for internal VOC use.
This was likely an attempt to consolidate and improve the general hydrography. Previously, VOC charts in manuscript were disseminated to ship captains on an as-needed basis, to be returned upon a voyage's completion. They were rarely compared or amended. A study of several VOC manuscript charts issued between 1720 and 1760 reveal striking disparities, likely resulting either from the charts being updated or copied from earlier less accurate charts. Such led to avoidable navigational and thus trade risks. A printed nautical atlas, whose hydrography was built upon the most recent and up-to-date charts, reassessed by the greatest chartmaker of the age, was a natural solution.
The new atlas, ostensibly an extension (Volume VI) of the existing commercially issued Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel, was intended only for VOC use, and so became known as the 'Secret Atlas'. The printing run was extremely small, and access tightly controlled. VOC ship captains navigating to the Far East were given a copy on departure and expected to return it in good condition on return. Even so, the maps of the 'Secret Atlas' were disseminated, perhaps by the van Keulen's themselves. We note evidence of 'secret' Dutch hydrography in charts of the English Pilot as well as in other Dutch charts. Nonetheless, original maps from 'Secret' Zee-Fakkel volume VI remain of the utmost rarity.
The firm passed to great-grandson Gerard Hulst van Keulen (1733 - 1801) under whose imprint the final 1803 van Keulen edition was published posthumously.
Very good. Some unobtrusive spotting. Centerfold reinforced at top.