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Willem & Jan Blaeu: Aethiopia Superior vel Interior vulgo Abissinorum sive Presbiteri Ioannis Imperium

Map: AFR5069
Cartographer: Willem & Jan Blaeu
Title: Aethiopia Superior vel Interior vulgo Abissinorum sive Presbiteri Ioannis Imperium
Date: c. 1640
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 19 inches / 49 cm
Height: 15 inches / 39 cm
Map ref: AFR5069
Central portion of Africa depicting the mythical Empire of Prester John in fine original hand-colouring. THE PUBLISHING HOUSE OF BLAEU Willem Janssonius Blaeu (1571-1638) Joan Blaeu (son, 1596-1673) Cornelius Blaeu (son, died c. 1642) For much of the 17th Century the firm of Blaeu dominated Dutch cartography at a time when it was universally acknowledged to lead the world. Established in 1596 by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, who had studied as a young man under the great astronomer, Tycho Brahe, it originally produced globes and scientific instruments. However, the firm soon expanded into map making and publishing, and eventually became one of the most important and prolific map producers in Amsterdam. In 1623 they published the "Het Licht der Zeevaerdt" an atlas of sea-charts. In 1629 Willem and his son Joan purchased 37 engraved plates from the widow of their rival Hondius and the following year they produced their first land atlas, the "Atlantis Appendix" which contained sixty maps. In 1635 this was expanded into the "Atlas Novus" a major world atlas in six vols. This contained a county atlas of England and Wales and from 1635-59 was published in editions in Dutch, Latin, French, German and finally Spanish. After the death of his father, Joan Blaeu embarked on one of the most ambitious publishing undertakings of the 17th Century, the printing of the "Atlas Maior". This magnificent work was to contain nearly six hundred maps and, depending on edition, was to vary from nine to twelve volumes. The exquisite engraving often allied with lovely hand-colouring make maps from the "Novus" and "Maior" atlases some of the finest ever produced. The "Atlas Maior" was to be the crowning glory of the Blaeu firm. Tragically in 1672 a disastrous fire swept through the Blaeu printing house destroying much of the stock and most of the copper engraving plates. The following year Joan died and the surviving plates were dispersed. The period between 1570 and 1670 is known as the Golden Age of Dutch Cartography and it is a measure of the Blaeus' achievements that they were the dominant cartographers throughout most of this period. Reflecting their contemporary reputations Willem and Joan were in turn both appointed Hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and their atlases were frequently presented to foreign sovereigns and potentates by the Dutch government. [AFR5069]