One of the Most Important Seventeenth-Century New World Histories & Among the Earliest to Focus on America

Foundation Maps of America by Hessel Gerritsz

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203. LAET, Joannes de. Novus orbis, seu Descriptionis Indiæ occidentalis libri XVII. Authore Ioanne de Laet Antverp. Novis Tabulis Geographicus et variis Animantium, Plantarum Fructuumque Iconibus illustrati. Cum Privilegio. Lvgd. Batav. [Antwerp] apud Elzevirios, Ao. 1633. [32], 1-104, 205-69, [18, index & note to reader] pp. (text complete), copper-engraved title page within classical architecture (includes portraits of Dutch generals, shells, weapons, ships, flora, fauna, mythological beings, Native American in feathered headdress riding an armadillo and presenting America to a Flemish woman, etc.), 14 folded engraved maps, many woodcut text illustrations (flora, fauna, and inhabitants of the Americas), wood-engraved head- and tail-pieces, decorative initials. Folio (34 x 23 cm), early full calf, gilt superlibros on upper and lower covers, spine with raised bands and original brown gilt-lettered morocco label, edges tinted red. Spine chipped at head, moderately worn, joints cracked but strong; other than light uniform browning, interior very good, maps very fine. Overall a fine, complete copy. With early ink manuscript ownership inscription of the Jesuit College, Paris, on title page and pressmarks on front pastedown.


Note: The maps in this 1633 edition are exactly the same as those in the 1630 edition. The engraved titles used in this edition, however, change the language from Dutch to Latin. All maps are approximately neat line to neat line: 28 x 36 cm. The maps are attributed to Hessel Gerritsz (see Johannes Keuning, Imago Mundi, Vol. VI, 1949, pp. 48-66). In 1617 Gerritsz was appointed as cartographer of the East India Company, over Blaeu, showing how highly he was esteemed. In 1628, Gerritsz’ interest in the New World led him to take a voyage there (see p. 63 of Keuning’s article), and some of the coastlines in the following maps are from his own first-hand observations. Keuning assesses Gerritsz as follows (p. 66):

Gerritsz...was a very versatile man; we meet him as designer and engraver of maps, prints, and portraits, as a scientific geographer and cartographer, as author, publisher, printer, and bookseller, even as bookbinder. He was unquestionably the chief Dutch cartographer of the XVIIth century, a worthy successor of the founder of the Dutch colonial cartography, Petrus whose authority he owed so much.... His interest in describing anything unknown, or little known regions, was great. The coasts and islands of the Arctic Sea, the northeast and northwest passages to the strait of Annian and India, the routes thither around South America, the Pacific and Australia. With great care he delineated his maps. The progress of the cartography of the world, not only during his lifetime, yet long after him, owes a great deal to his work.... Any of his maps are jewels of the art of engraving.... Most of his maps are soberly executed, without any decoration.

Most of Gerritsz’ work exists only in manuscript, and these maps published by de Laet, are among the only printed Gerritsz maps available to the collector and institution today.

[1]  America sive Indiæ Occidentalis Tabula Generalis [title within strapwork cartouche at lower left]. Precedes introduction. North and South America, and a small section of far western Africa are shown. The west coast of North America is delineated to upper California (Mendocino), with Baja California attached to the mainland. One of the most accurate maps of the time in not showing California as an island. Burden, The Mapping of North America 229n (citing the 1630 edition, which is the same as the present map): “The best west coast delineation to date”; and “For the cartographic work he [de Laet] had much to call on, being a director of the Dutch West India Company in charge of all Dutch interests in America.... He also drew upon the fine talents of Hessel Gerritsz, the official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company since 1617.” Jackson, Flags along the Coast, p. 9 (discussing the Gulf Coast and Gerritsz’ map): “Thus did scholarship and statecraft merge, giving Europeans one of the best portraits available of the New World.” Wagner, Cartography of the Northwest Coast, Vol. I, p. 94: “The sanest map of the northwest coast produced in the seventeenth century”; Plate XIX, p. 95, No. 309 (christened by Wagner as the “Laet type”): “Much the best printed map printed up to that date [1630].”

[2]  Maiores Minoresque Insulæ. Hispaniola, Cuba Lucaiæ et Caribes [title at upper right within decorative cartouche with beautiful scroll featuring, fruit and floral motif, scale below in center, compass rose at lower center]. Precedes first page of text. The Caribbean Islands to Barbados, including South Florida, the island of Cozumel, Central American isthmus, and northern South America.

[3]  Nova Francia et Regiones Adiacentes [title within decorative cartouche at top center, compass rose at lower right, simple scale at lower left]. Follows p. 30. Canada and New England from Nova Scotia to Cape Cod, including the St. Laurence River and west to Lake Champlain. Burden, The Mapping of North America 230n: “This map is one of the foundation maps of Canada. De Laet’s reputation was enough to see the map being followed by Blaeu in 1662, and Coronelli as late as the 1690s. It is the first map to include an accurate Prince Edward Island, and the earliest depiction of a north-south orientated Lake Champlain.” Kershaw, Early Printed Maps of Canada, pp. 86-88.

[4]  Nova Anglia, Novvm Belgivm Et Virginia [title at top left with decorative cartouche with leaves and flowers, two compass roses, simple scale at lower left]; Bermuda majori mole expressa [inset map at lower right]. Follows p. 62. Coast of North America from Nova Scotia to just south of the North Carolina Outer Banks. Burden, The Mapping of North America 231n: “One of three maps that relate to the east coast of North America in de Laet’s work. This is arguably one of the finest descriptions of the Americas published in the seventeenth century. It is a map of extreme importance being the first printed map to use the names Manbattes (Manhattan), and New Amsterdam, or New York.... It is also the earliest to use the Dutch names of Noordt River and Zuyd Rivier, for the Hudson and Delaware Rivers respectively, as well as the Indian Massachusets, for the new English colony. It influenced many later maps in their depiction of the East coast.... [Gerritsz’] depiction of the coastal area between Chesapeake Bay and Cape Cod is by far the finest yet seen.” Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps 35n. McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps 630.1. Schwartz & Ehrenberg, The Mapping of America, p. 105n. See also Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan, Vol. 2, pp. 86-88, 141 & Vol. 6, pp. 261-261.

[5]  Florida et Regiones Vicinae [title at upper right within strapwork frame, compass rose at lower right]. Follows p. 94. Atlantic Coast and interior from South Carolina to roughly Galveston Bay in Texas, showing extensive river systems in Texas and the rest of the interior regions. Burden, The Mapping of North America 232n: “Despite the fact that he drew on a large number of sources for his information, no fresh material had been forthcoming for decades, Hessel Gerritsz, the author and probable engraver of the map, drew therefore on the interpretation by Claesz c. 1602, of the Jacques le Moyne cartography of Florida. Originally thought to be taken from Jodocus Hondius’ map of Virginia and Florida, 1606, this study demonstrates otherwise. One notable area of alteration is the placing of C. Francois further east into the Atlantic Ocean. Florida, as we know it today, is here called Tegesta provinc. This name, applied here for the first time, is that of a tribe of Indians living on the south-west coast. ‘Florida’ was at this time applied to a far larger region. It came to be used solely for the peninsula as Spanish Florida was squeezed south by the expansion of the English.... The map’s influence was quite considerable. Blaeu, Janssonius, and Sanson, all followed it.” Brinton, Notes on the Floridian Peninsula, p. 84 (complaining about the lack of good cartography of Florida in the seventeenth century except): “That inserted by De Laet in his description of the New World, called Florida et Regiones Vicinae (1633), is noteworthy because it is one of the first, if not the first, to locate along his supposed route the native towns and provinces met with by De Soto.” Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps 34n. Jackson, Flags along the Coast (good discussion of the Gulf Coast noting the static cartographical depiction of it until Gerritsz), pp. 7-11: “De Laet reshaped notions of the interior.... His Gulf Coast is a distillation of portolano-type charts produced by the cartographers of many nations (especially Portugal).... Gerritsz, by adopting this coast model, did much to perpetuate it.... Blaeu was not the author of the most influential Gulf map of the seventeen century—Hessel Gerritsz was, a fact that most cartographic historians have overlooked.” Lemmon, et al., Charting Louisiana: Five Hundred Years of Maps, p. 12. Lowery 123n. This map is important and overlooked map in the literature of Texas cartography, other than by Jack Jackson. In the section on the expeditions of Alvarado and De Soto, the author refers to the area they traversed as “Provinciæ nomen de los Vaqueros.”

[6]  Nova Hispania, Nova Galicia, Guatimala [title at lower left within cartouche with scrolls and face, below which is a large scale, compass rose at center below]. Follows p. 220. Mexico from the far upper northwest section at Sinaloa south to Honduras and Costa Rica. The Rio Grande in Texas is shown by its old name, “R. Escondido.” Bornholt, Cuatro Siglos de Expresiones Geográficas del Istmo Centroamericano Plate 50n p. 98 (noting the similarities to the later maps of Ogilby and Montanus). Burden, The Mapping of North America 215n: “Although many maps had been produced of New Spain, few extended north into the area of present-day Texas. The Rio Grande [sic: i.e., Soto la Marina] is here still named the R. de Palmas. The B. del Spiritu Santo possibly represents the Mississippi River. Some authorities have questioned this usual assumption. On the west coast of Florida we find the landing place of Juan Ponce de León. The delineation of the coastlines, particularly of the Gulf of Mexico and the north-west coast of Mexico, was the most accurate to date. The map appeared in Dutch, 1630, Latin 1633 [present edition], and French, 1640.” See Jean Delanglez, El Rio del Espíritu Santo: An Essay on the Cartography of the Gulf Coast and the Adjacent Territory during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York: United States Catholic Historical Society, 1945).

[7]  Terra Firma item Nuevo Reyno De Granada atque Popayan [decorative cartouche at lower right with droll face, flower, large leaf, and strap work, scale below, compass rose at center left]. Follows p. 346. Northern and northwestern area of South America, including Colombia, with extensive development of the interior areas.

[8]  Peru [decorative cartouche at top left with droll face and incorporating fancy scale, compass rose]. Follows p. 396. Coastline and well-developed interior areas. North is to the left. Included is “Viticos,” the last capital of the Incas. Although abandoned after the conquest, Vitcos was noted by Mercator and other mapmakers until around 1740. In 1911, Hiram Bingham and the Yale Expedition rediscovered the ruins of Vitcos in the Vilcabamba Valley region, but he then went on to find Machu Picchu, which so entranced him that he left Vitcos to oblivion. Today it has become an “off-the-beaten-track” destination for visitors.

[9]  Chili [decorative cartouche at top left with face, fruit, and ribbons, large scale at top right, scroll with place names at center, compass rose at upper center]. Follows p. 470. Coastline with little interior detail. North is to the left.

[10] Provincia Sitæ Ad Fretum Magallanis itemque Fretum Le Maire [decorative cartouche at upper right, scale on scroll at lower left, compass rose below center]. Follows p. 500. Coastline and Strait of Magellan from Tierra del Fuego to southern Argentina. North is to the right.

[11] Paragvay, Ó Prov. De Rio De La Plata: cum adiacentibus Provinciis. quas vocant Tvcvman Et Sta. Cruz De La Sierra [decorative cartouche with face, fruit, and vines, with scale above, compass rose]. Follows p. 520. Rio de la Plata region of Brazil west to the Chilean coast and north to Peru.

[12] Provincia de Brasil cum Adiacentibvs Provinciis [very fancy cartouche with two faces and botanical motifs at top center, scale on scroll below, compass rose]. Follows p. 540. Eastern and northern coastline of Brazil. North is to the right. Primarily coastal towns and islands are shown. The Dutch got busy and in 1629 succeeded in colonizing Brazil. The present map is the same as appeared in the 1630 edition, and it is informative to compare the changes that were made for the French edition of 1644 (see JCB Image 3502-1), which has a plethora of interior locations added.

[13] Guaiana siue Provinciæ intra Rio De Las Amazonas atque Rio De Yviapari siue Orinoqve [title within floral cartouche at top right, scale at lower left]. Follows p. 624. Northern coastline of South America from roughly the Amazon River to Trinidad Island.

[14] Venezuela, atque Occidentalis Pars Novæ Andalusiæ [title within cartouche with three faces, one with wings, scale at lower right within strapwork border, compass rose at lower center]. Follows p. 666. Coastline of Venezuela with little interior development.

     First edition in Latin (first edition in Dutch, 1625, expanded and improved in 1630, also in Dutch, with four regional American maps and other material not in the 1625 edition). This work is “one of the most famous contemporary descriptions of the natural history of the New World” (Streeter Sale 37) and one of the early atlases to focus exclusively on America after Wytfliet’s atlas of 1597 (see herein) and Herrera’s 1601 atlas (see herein). The present edition was translated, probably by the author, from the Dutch edition published in Leyden, 1630. The first edition (Leyden, 1625) had only ten maps. The maps added to subsequent editions are very important for North American cartography (see individual maps above and text below). Asher 3. Borba de Moraes, p. 451: “Graesse affirms that this Latin translation was made by the author himself.” JCB I (2, 1600-1658), pp. 246-247. European Americana 1633/65. Field 849 (citing Dutch 1640 edition). Hough & Hough, Lesser Antilles 31. Palau 129560. Phillips, Atlases 1149: “Maps like the edition of 1630.” Pilling 2162. Rahir, Les Elzevier 367. Rodrigues 1352. Sabin 38557. Streeter Sale 37. Streit II:1619. Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers Revised Edition, Vol. II, pp. 158-159. Vail 84. Willems, Les Elzevier 382. Winsor IV, p. 417 (referred to as the “standard seventeenth-century work on New Netherlands” and “the map Nova Anglia is one of the first to use the name Manhattan”).

     Laet’s work is one of the most important seventeenth-century New World histories. Laet had access not only to published sources but also to Company documents, private correspondence, and other materials. Laet systematically discusses early exploration and settlement of various European colonies in the Caribbean and North and South America (including the Spanish Southwest, Cabeza de Vaca, Oñate, Espejo, et al.; Francis Drake’s voyage to California; etc.) and provides extensive notes on the natural history, anthropology, and languages of Native Americans. (Certain of the author’s remarks on the origin of Native Americans in this work involved him in a famous controversy with Grotius.) He gives an extensive bibliography of sources consulted (pp. [14-15]), including Herrera, Ercilla y Zúñiga’s epic poem, Ramusio, López de Góngora, Lescarbot, John Smith, and Ximénez. (If he actually owned a copy of each book listed, he had an enviable Americana library.)

     The maps for the original edition of 1625 were made by Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz (1581-1632), former apprentice of Willem Blaeu, and Blaeu’s predecessor as chief cartographer of the Dutch East India Company. The four maps added to the 1630 and subsequent editions were: America Sive Indiae Occidentalis; Nova Francia; Nova Anglia; and Florida et regiones vicinae. These four maps served as prototypes for the mapping of North America through the seventeenth century. The map of New England is the first printed map of New Netherlands, and the first to name New Amsterdam and Manhattan (“Manbates”); it was probably the prototype for Visscher’s landmark Novi Belgi, and it has been conjectured that the depiction of the Chesapeake area was copied by Champlain in his map of 1632 (Schwartz & Ehrenberg, p. 103, Plate 57; Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps 35; Heidenreich, Explorations and Mapping of Samuel de Champlain, Cartographica #17, p. 92).The influential Newfoundland outline in the New France map (with numerous French and Portuguese place names) was utilized by Coronelli and Visscher (O’Dea, The Seventeenth Century Cartography of Newfoundland, Cartograpica # 1, pp. 20-21). The Florida map includes one of the earliest appearances of the word ‘Teguesta” for Florida and shows the “Bahia del Espiritu Santo” (Cumming 34); Sanson utilized this depiction in 1650 and 1656 (Delanglez, El Rio de Espiritu Santo, pp. 81-87). The western hemisphere map, based on the account of the Cabrillo expedition published by Herrera in 1615, is considered by Wagner to be “the sanest map of the of the northwest coast produced in the seventeenth century” (pp. 94 & 306, Plate 309), but given the hold of imaginary cartography, little advantage was taken of the map until Delisle borrowed from it about the year 1700.


Sold. Hammer: $10,000.00; Price Realized: $12,250.00.

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