1662 Joan Blaeu Antique Map of Lesser Antilles Islands - Puerto Rico to Trinidad

Cartographer : Joan Blaeu

This beautiful, original, hand coloured copper-plate engraved antique map a sea chart of the Lesser Antilles Islands (from the Windward & Leeward Isles from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Margarita) one of the new maps of America added by Blaeu to his greatest publication Atlas Major, or Great Atlas, was published in Volume 11 of the 1662 Latin 1st edition of that Atlas.
As this map was only published over a 10 year period and the plates destroyed in the disastrous 1672 fire, that wiped out the Blaeu publishing house, this map is rare and hard to acquire. The original colouring is also extremely scarce, and this colouring is exceptional, along with heavy paper, a strong impression and original margins.

This is another of the new maps which Joan Blaeu produced for the 1662 Atlas. Oriented west to the top of the pale, it shows the sweep of the Leeward & Winward Islands between Puerto Rico at the top and upper right and Trinidad at the bottom.
The new map also appears much plainer than the earlier, more decorative maps in the Blaeu Atlas and even has the apperance being unfinished, especially as the title of the map is without any emellishment in the form of the traditional sea-monsters or sailing ships. Insread, the map has the appearance of a practical navigational chart with its intersecting network of rhumb-lines (also known as loxodromes) or line of constant trus course making non-right angls with meridians. 

The title of the map Canibales Insulae or Islands of Cannibals is somewhat typical of the attitude towards America and the New World. Many of the first European maps of the Americas included warnings of cannibalism, despite no proof of such activity. James Walkers ......From Alterity to Allegory: Depictions of Cannibalism on Early European Maps of the New World...... published earlier this year as Occasional Paper Number 9 from the Philip Lee Phillips Map Society of the Library of Congress, examines how and why the macabre myth endured.
The act of naming something is a powerful element of mapmaking that often contributes both a descriptive and possessive understanding of the person, place or thing being named, Walker writes. ......In this case, the word cannibal was unusual, because it incorporated three meanings or concepts — a people, a practice, and a place....
Reports of cannibalism in the New World date back to Christopher Columbus’s 15th-century voyage, but were secured in cartography by an unmistakable woodcut of a man on a spit in a 1505 report by Amerigo Vespucci (yes, the man for whom the Americas were named believed in human flesh consumption). Throughout the 16th century, maps of North and South America contained illustrations of people roasting arms and legs on sticks as if at a barbecue of the damned. Even with more exploration — which exposed legends like the Blemmyes having faces on their chests or the existence of here be dragons monsters as ridiculously wrong — the cannibals stayed. In a 1570 atlas called Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570) by Abraham Ortelius, the title page features a gruesome severed head held aloft by an allegorical America.
.......What is most revealing during this roughly 150 years or so, is that while geography on maps changes to incorporate the latest explorers’ accounts, the repetition of unchanging imagery of cannibalism contributed to the perpetuation of the stereotype of native people as savage and uncivilized,” Walker explains. “Historian Michael Palencia-Roth observed that …the elaboration and re-elaboration of very little material can go a long way toward creating a pervasive cultural image........
The cannibals finally faded out in the 17th century, Walker says; however, the influence of this imagery endured in the imagination. For example, when the Essex Whaleship was sunk in the Pacific in 1820 following a sperm whale attack (an incident that would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or the Whale), the survivors opted to take a longer route to safety rather than attempt to sail to the nearby Marquesas Islands, where cannibalism was still rumored to be in practice. Alas, they had to resort to cannibalism themselves in order to survive — a cruel, ironic fate.
While cannibalism is not an unknown practice, especially in times of famine, it was never as widespread as shown in these 16th-century atlases. Maps, going back to antiquity, have always been about more than just charting geography; they affirm structures of power, including the control of unseen land, and act as an imperialist tool for reinforcing stereotypes and encouraging fear of the unfamiliar. (Ref: Burden; RGS; Koeman; Tooley)

General Definitions:
Paper thickness and quality: - Heavy and stable
Paper color : - off white
Age of map color: - Original
Colors used: - Yellow, green, blue, pink
General color appearance: - Authentic
Paper size: - 24in x 20 1/2in (610mm x 520mm)
Plate size: - 21in x 16 1/2in (535mm x 420mm)
Margins: - Min 1in (25mm)

Margins: - Light age toning
Plate area: - Light age toning
Verso: - Light age toning

Atlas Major or Great Atlas - During the early hours of the 23rd of February 1672, a fire broke out and engulfed a building on Gravenstraat, in the centre of Amsterdam. Such an event at the time was unremarkable, until it was recognised that the fire had brought to an end of one of the greatest publishing houses of all time. Dr Joan Blaeus family were responsible for printing and publishing some of the most important maps, atlases, religious and philosophical books, that are recognised even today, as remarkable. The fire was described in suitably vivid terms in the annual review publication, De Hollandtse Mercurius for 1672-1673
.............the disaster occurred at 3.30 on the morning of the 23rd of February because of the dryness of the timbers, or perhaps the carelessness of the apprentices; the magnificent establishment caught fire, and with it printing type, presses, plates and paper, were all burnt and sparks were sent flying as far as the Tol-heck (Toll Gate). One report put the financial cost of the damage at fl. 27, 000 for the buildings and some fl 355,000 for the plate-stock in the printing works and shop premises, to give total estimated losses of fl. 382, 000 (or about $25milUS in modern terms) together with some four or five thousand reams of paper, five or six thousand sheets, 88 thousand kg. printing type and so on...................
The fire precipitated the end of a publishing house established over 40 years before, and very probably contributed to the death of its proprietor, Alderman Dr Joan Blaeu, a year later, effectively ending the reign of one of the greatest producers of printed maps and atlases in publishing history. Only 10 years previously, in 1662, the house had reached its zenith with the publication of its greatest achievement, the Atlas Major or Great Atlas, containing 11 volumes with geographical detail reflecting many of the achievements of the Golden Ageof the United Netherlands. 

Joan Blaeus 11 volume Atlas Major is considered by many to be the greatest atlas ever published, both in its own time and even today. It excels in comprehensiveness, engraving, color, and overall production. The first Latin edition was published in 1662 and was subsequently published in French, Dutch, German, and Spanish.
Most of the surviving copies of the Atlas Major are bound in what might be termed as Standard bindings, in other words, uniform cream-coloured vellum with gilt tooling and lettering. Wealthy clients for the atlas could commission a binder to bind their sets in morocco or even velvet, embellished with their crests of other decorative devices. Such bindings were carried out by the celebrated binder Albert Magnus, who flourished in Amsterdam from the 1660s to 1680. As it appears that Joan Blaeu had no bindery on his premises, it is very likely that Magnus also bound copies in the standard binding. 
Colour was also a very important consideration. Although the atlas was published in black and white, and could be bought so (without hand colouring) many clients buying the atlas for display in their houses proffered their copies illuminated with rich hand colouring and sometime with gold high lightening. This of course was considerably more expensive, and there were in Amsterdam at the time artists who carried out such work. One of these was Dirk Janszoon van Santen who coloured and gilded maps and atlases to order, examples of which have survived and may be seen in institutional collections.
Blaeus atlas was the most expensive printed book in the 17th century. Blaeus catalogue of 1670, his Catalogue des Atlas, Theatre des Citez, quoted prices for the 12 volume French Text edition of the atlas at fl. 450 for a coloured set, and fl. 350 for a black and white set. This is the equivalent of paying around $70,000 today (although to purchase today at auction could be well over $250,000)

The original 11 volumes of Atlas Majorcontained the following contents: 
v 1. Arctica --Europa, liber 1-2:. Norvegia. Dania. Sleswic
v. 2. Europa, liber 3-7: Suecia. Russia. Polonia. Regiones orientales ultra Germaniam circa Danubium. Graecia
v. 3. Europa, liber 8: Germania
v. 4. Europa, liber 9-10: Belgica regia
v. 5. Europa, liber 11: Anglia
v. 6. Europa, liber 12-13: Scotia. Hibernia
v. 7. Europa, liber 14-15: Gallia. Helvetia
v. 8. Europa, liber 16: Italia
v. 9. Europa, liber 17: Hispania. Africa
v. 10. Asia 
v. 11. America.