An exceptional pair of Blaeu Table Globes


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A very rare set of globes, 9 inch / 23cm, with an overall height of 38 cm, Amsterdam, dated 1602, but published after 1621.

In their original stands with circular wooden horizon rings, covered with printed paper, supported by four legs and brass meridian rings supported by a single column. The terrestrial and celestial globes are made up of a set of 12 engraved gores, heightened in gold and Arctic ice caps, printed on paper and mounted on a plaster sphere of papier maché. Each sphere is mounted in a graduated brass meridian ring, with the production number stamped on the back of the ring. The hour circles are renewed. Both globes are mounted on four-legged ebonized oak Dutch stands, which support the horizon ring. The legs are connected by two crossbeams, which support a circular base plate with central support for the meridian ring. The horizon rings are covered with printed paper. With usual defects: paper equinoctial tables present gaps that are filled and restored; small splits along gores; several partially deleted entries; on the globe, the date 1602 and the text of the cartouche in America, are illegible ; small scattered spots, but in general in good condition for such an early globe pair, of which presently only 19 pairs are recorded.

These 9-inch globes are among the rarest since very few copies of them are known to exist, in comparison with the smaller or larger globes of Blaeu (4, 6, 13.5, and 26 inches). Blaeu’s terrestrial globes were highly valued and were much in demand, because of the care with which they had been prepared, because of the efforts to give the latest information on discoveries, and because of the loxodromic lines that made them of special value to navigators. Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571–1638) started “one of the most successful publishing houses of the seventeenth century” (Dekker). Originally trained in astronomy, he quickly became a leading maker of maps, atlases and instruments. At the time the Low Countries hosted the best cartographers in Europe, and Blaeu produced ever more accurate and more beautiful globes, spurred by his rivalry with fellow Dutch cartographer and publisher Jodocus Hondius. Blaeu’s globes were luxury items for wealthy and intellectual merchants and nobility, who benefited from Blaeu’s access through the Dutch East India Company to the latest navigational discoveries and geographical information.

Willem Jansz Blaeu collected information that Dutch mariners gathered from around world and brought back to Amsterdam. Crews were instructed to record information about the lands they visited and the skies they saw. Blaeu incorporated these observations in maps and globes. Through his web of contacts and assiduous research, he was also able to obtain the most recent information about the latest discoveries in the western hemisphere and the South Pacific, where Dutch explorers were particularly active at the time. Since the globe was published after 1618, Blaeu was able to include the discoveries made by Henry Hudson in his attempt to find a passage to the East Indies. He also included recent Pacific discoveries of the celebrated voyages of Willem Cornelis Schouten and Jacob Le Maire, who both traversed the South Pacific and the Atlantic. The findings of Schouten and Le Maire in the Tierra del Fuego region are also incorporated. The Strait of Le Maire is drawn and the hypothetical southern continent is labeled “Terra Australis Incognita Magalanica”. Olivier van Noort’s track is drawn and labelled. His route is indicated with a broken line and the words: “Navigationis Olivierij ductus” (several times). There are various decorative features, such as animals on the different continents, many ships on the high seas and allegorical and mythical figures around the cartouches. The nine-inch globe is not just a smaller version of the one published in 1599. Drawings of animals and people do often correspond to those on the earlier globe, but Blaeu made several significant changes. The west coast of North America is drawn differently, and the river system of Brazil is altered. The hypothetical southern continent is labelled: Terra Australis Incognita Magallanica. There are nine ocean names in handsome curling letters: Mare Congelatum, Mare Atlanticum, Oceanus Aethiopicus, Mare Arabicum et Indicum, Mare di India, Oceanus Chinensis, Mar del Zur, Mare Pacificum, Mar del Nort. Willem Blaeu, always eager to display the latest discoveries, traced the route of Van Noort’s route with a broken line. The findings of the voyage of Schouten and Le Maire in the Tierro del Fuego region are included, despite the 1602 date (names: Fr. Le Maire, Mauritius, Staten Landt, C.Hoorn, I.Barneveltij).

Publication : According to Peter van der Krogt, the following states are known:
Terrestrial, First state: 1602 (no known examples). Second state, c1618-1621 (no known examples). Third state: 1602, but c1621 (the present example). All the states are dated 1602 but the second state must have been published after 1618, since it includes the discoveries of Schouten and Le Maire (1615–1617), but not the name “Blaeu”. Elly Dekker makes no distinction between the different states. The third state can be divided into states 3a and 3b. All globes have a different production number, some of which are illegible today. This terrestrial nine-inch globe is marked with “fabr. nr. 4”.
Celestial: First state: 1602 (known in a catalogue record but no known example surviving). Second state: presumably published after 1621. All 30 known celestial globes are in the second state, as is this one, which is marked with “fabr. no. 12”. Rare: there are 19 recorded pairs, of which 14 are in institutions.

Bibliography: Van der Krogt, Globi Neerlandici BLA III. Dekker GLB0152, GLB0083 (terrestrial) and GLB0151 (celestial).


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