This website is dedicated to a remarkable map of the world by Dutch cartographer Willem Janszoon Blaeu, one that is as much a work of art as it is a geographical reference. Funded by a Mellon Summer grant, this site gives you the chance to explore this map in a dynamic interactive format through the sources of subject matter for twenty-two images arranged around the border. Other tabs present background on the project, the map’s artistic sources, and the historical context of the Dutch “Golden Age” of cartography.
To view the map as part of the Gettysburg College’s GettDigital Collection from Special Collections and College Archives, click here.
As this site specifically highlights in the “Explore” section, the borders of the map relate to universal themes and bear several compositions based on famous subjects and works of art, like Leonardo da Vinci’s Leda and the Swan.
The top border of Blaeu’s map depicts allegorical representations of the sun, moon, and the five known planets at the time: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The celestial bodies are placed in order according to the Ptolemaic conception of the universe.
The left shows the four elements: fire, air, water, and earth.
The right shows the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Along the bottom are seven vignettes showing the seven ancient wonders of the world: the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Statue of Jupiter at Olympus, the Temple of Diana, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Pyramids of Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Every image is drawn from two Dutch painters and printmakers: Maarten van Heemskerck and Hendrick Goltzius. To read more about these Northern Mannerist artists, please view the “Art Historical Context” page.
Blaeu’s world map is one of the foremost examples of ornamentation and decoration made during the Golden Age of Dutch cartography. It is celebrated as one of the supreme examples of the map maker’s art.
The world is represented on Mercator’s projection, which was first introduced in 1569.
In Rodney Shirley’s Mapping of the World, the differences between the states of the Blaeu world map are extremely detailed:
“State 1: Lacks engraver’s signature, and is possibly a proof. Rhumb lines radiate across the surface of the map.
State 2: With signature of Josua van den Ende. Rhumb lines are partly erased.
State 3: As state 2, but Terra del Fuego is now an island and Fretum de la Maire has been added. Probably issued in 1617, as a companion map of Europe bears this date. Rhumb lines are completely erased.
A few examples have been reported of a late state with the date 1659 apparently engraved to the right of Van den Ende’s signature. It is not clear whether these are maps from a facsimile plate or represent a state 5 of the original” (Shirely 255).
This specific map in the Musselman Library will be re-dated. While originally conceived to be a 1630 print of a 1606 original, the map can safely be placed as a 1643 print of the 1606 original. The fourth state Blaeu world map with French text on the verso, with page numbers in Roman numerals parallels with descriptions of the world map featured in the first volume of a 1643 edition of Blaeu’s Le theatre du monde, ou, Novvel Atlas. This atlas was revolutionary in its intent: Blaeu wanted to be the first cartographer to create an international edition of a world atlas. In 1634 an Amsterdam newspaper wrote:
“At Amsterdam is now being printed by Willem Jansz. Blaeu the large book of maps, the Atlas, in four languages: Latin, French, German, and Dutch. The one in German will appear about Easter, the ones in Dutch and French in the month of May, or early June at the latest, and the one in Latin shortly thereafter. All editions on very fine paper, completely renewed with newly engraved copperplates and new, comprehensive descriptions.”
The fourth state of Blaeu’s world map was the first to be used in Blaeu’s Atlas Appendix, starting in 1630 and continuing to 1658. Printed text exists on the map of all editions of the map from 1635 onward. States 1-3 are extremely rare, considering they only existed in the forms of sheet maps, where they were far more vulnerable to weathering in comparison to the ones kept in an atlas. This map’s influence was great, considering it inspired some of the most famous Dutch cartographers like Van der Keere and Jansson to try and compete with Blaeu’s grand ornamentation.
In the current map-collecting world, the fourth state of this Blaeu world map is valued between $3,000 and $4,000. The map remained in circulation for fifty years, until his son, Joan Blaeu added a double-hemisphere map of the world in 1662 to be put in his Atlas Maior.
The map was a gift to Gettysburg College in the 1930’s from Mary Stuckenberg, the wife of John H.W. Stuckenberg. The gift included just under 500 sheet maps including Blaeu’s. The gift also included 3 atlases, 3000 books, a desk and a secretary, artwork, and Stuckenberg’s papers. John was born in Germany in 1835, and came to America as a small boy. He frequently traveled back to Germany, and the map is believed to have been purchased when he was in Germany in the mid to late nineteenth century. Dr. Stuckenberg had a lifelong interest in maps. To read more about Dr. John H.W. Stuckenberg, click here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.