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Joan Blaeu

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Joan Blaeu by J. van Rossum

Joan Blaeu (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈjoːɑn ˈblʌu]; 23 September 1596 – 21 December 1673; also called Johannes Blaeu) was a Dutch cartographer born in Alkmaar, the son of cartographer Willem Blaeu.


In 1620, Blaeu became a doctor of law but he joined in the work of his father. In 1635, they published the Atlas Novus (full title: Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive, Atlas novus) in two volumes. Joan and his brother Cornelius took over the studio after their father died in 1638. Blaeu became the official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company like his father before him.

Blaeu died in Amsterdam on 21 December 1673.[1] He is buried in the Amsterdam Westerkerk.


Americae Nova Tabula, 1614
Discussion of the acquisition and preservation of Archipelagus Orientalis by the National Library of Australia (2013)

Blaeu's world map, Nova et Accuratissima Terrarum Orbis Tabula, incorporating the discoveries of Abel Tasman, was published in 1648.[2] This map was revolutionary in that it "depicts the solar system according to the heliocentric theories of Nicolaus Copernicus, which show the earth revolving around the sun.... Although Copernicus's groundbreaking book On the Revolutions of the Spheres had been first printed in 1543, just over a century earlier, Blaeu was the first mapmaker to incorporate this revolutionary heliocentric theory into a map of the world."[3]

Blaeu's map was copied for the map of the world set into the pavement of the Groote Burger-Zaal of the new Amsterdam Town Hall, designed by the Dutch architect Jacob van Campen (now the Amsterdam Royal Palace), in 1655.[4]

Blaeu's Hollandia Nova was also depicted in his Archipelagus Orientalis sive Asiaticus published in 1659 in the Kurfürsten Atlas (Atlas of the Great Elector), and was used by Melchisédech Thévenot to produce his map, Hollandia Nova—Terre Australe (1664).[5] He also published the 12-volume Le Grand Atlas, ou Cosmographie blaviane, en laquelle est exactement descritte la terre, la mer, et le ciel. One edition is dated 1663, in folio 540 mm × 340 mm (21 in × 13 in), which contained 593 engraved maps and plates.

Around 1649, Blaeu published a collection of Dutch city maps named Toonneel der Steeden (Views of Cities). In 1651, he was voted into the Amsterdam council. In 1654, Blaeu published the first atlas of Scotland, devised by Timothy Pont.

Fiercely competitive with his contemporary Johannes Janssonius as to which of them could make an atlas with a higher quantity of maps, Blaeu in 1662 published the Atlas Maior, it had 11 volumes and included 600 maps. This atlas became a status symbol for those who owned it and was the most expensive book of the 17th century.[6] A cosmology was planned as their next project, but a fire destroyed the studio completely in 1672.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Joan Blaeu". www.biografischportaal.nl. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  2. ^ Brian Hooker, "New Light on the Mapping and Naming of New Zealand", in The New Zealand Journal of History, 6 (2). 1972, pp. 158–167, p. 159.; William Eisler and Bernard Smith, Terra Australis: The Furthest Shore, Sydney, International Cultural Corporation of Australis, 1988, pp. 67–84, p. 80; Glyndwr Williams and Alan Frost, Terra Australis to Australia, Oxford University Press in association with the Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1988, p. 103.; Byron Heath, Discovering the Great South Land, Rosenberg, 2005, p. 117.
  3. ^ Brotton, Jerry. A History of the World in Twelve Maps. London: Allen Lane, 2012, p. 262.
  4. ^ National Library of Australia, Maura O'Connor, Terry Birtles, Martin Woods and John Clark, Australia in Maps: Great Maps in Australia's History from the National Library's Collection, Canberra, National Library of Australia, 2007, p. 32.; this map is reproduced in Gunter Schilder, Australia Unveiled, Amsterdam, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1976, p. 402.; and in William Eisler and Bernard Smith, Terra Australis: The Furthest Shore, Sydney, International Cultural Corporation of Australia, 1988, pp. 67–84, p. 81. Martin Woods, "New Holland’s Birth Certificate", National Library of Australia, Mapping our World: Terra Incognita to Australia, Canberra, National Library of Australia, 2013, p. 138.
  5. ^ Melchisedech Thévenot, Relations de divers Voyages curieux qui n 'ont point esté publiées, Paris, Thomas Moette, IV, 1664.
  6. ^ "'Atlas maior' by Blaeu - Special Collections - Utrecht University". www.uu.nl. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  7. ^ "Blaeu Atlas Maior, 1662-5 - Maps - National Library of Scotland". maps.nls.uk. Retrieved 25 November 2022.

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