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A map of Brazil by Johannes Blaeu (1596-1673)


Brasilia, Generis nobilitate armorium et litterarum. Scientia prestant. mo Heroi. CHRISTOPH: AB ARTISCHAV ARCISZEWSKI. nuper in Brasilia per triennium Tribuno militum Prudentiss. Fortiss. Feliciss. tabulum hanc prono cultu D.D.D. Johannes Blaeu. Excudedat Johannes Blaeu.

First published in Amsterdam 1642, the present edition is from Blaeu’s 1663 Atlas Maior.

H. 38 x W. 49 cm

Joan Blaeu’s second map of Brazil, oriented with west at the top, shows the coastline with many details but the inland is highly conjectural and mostly empty. Originally the copper plate was acquired by Willem Blaeu, Joan’s father, from the Hondius stock of copper plates, in 1629. It was later considerably updated by Joan. Willem Blaeu (1571-1638) left his prosperous business to his sons Joan and Cornelis. After the premature death of Cornelis in 1642, Joan completed the work of a six-volume atlas in 1655. Immediately he started to work on the even larger work of The Atlas Maior, which reached publication in 1663 in eleven volumes, containing six hundred double-page maps and three thousand pages of text. This was, and remains, the most magnificent work of its kind ever produced.

At the time of the first appearance of the map of Brazil in 1642, the Dutch were actively attempting to colonise the northeast coastal regions of Brazil. Dutch attempts to establish a colony in South America began in 1624 with an unsuccessful attack on Bahia, the natural harbour of Bahia de Todos os Santos. In 1630 they were successful, this time at Olinda de Pernambuco (Recife), further north near the northeasternmost point of Brazil. In 1642 the Dutch West India Company’s power was at its height. Under the leadership of Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, a large part of the Brazilian coast was controlled by the Dutch and most of the lucrative sugar trade of north-east Brazil was in Dutch hands. However, the West Indian Company never succeeded in attracting enough Dutch Protestant settlers to replace the Roman Catholic Portuguese settlers who would always remain Portuguese in heart, and would ultimately revolt against the Dutch, eventually leading to the expulsion of the Dutch from Brazil in 1654.

The map is dedicated to Christoffel Arciszewski (1592-1656), a Polish nobleman, vice-governor, military commander, engineer, cartographer, and ethnographer in Brazil, second in command under Johan Maurits.