Leen Helmink Antique Maps

The first maps of Tasmania

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Stock number: 19137

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Claes Janszoon Visscher (biography)
Jodocus Hondius (biography)


Typus Orbis Terrarum & Iehova

First Published

Amsterdam, 1649

This Edition

1649 first and only edition


each 8.5 x 12.5 cms




This Item is Sold


Lacking in every collection: the unobtainable first two atlas maps of the world to show the discovery of Tasmania. It is the first time we see these maps in the market.

Tasman's explorations were first published on Joan Blaeu's 1645-46 updated re-issue of his father Willem Blaeu wall map of the world. That wall map is known in only one example in very poor condition, in Rotterdam Maritime Museum. The Tasman results were then published again on Joan Blaeu's new wall map of the world of 1648, a map that has survived in a few examples. Both of these Joan Blaeu wall maps of the world are unobtainable, as are the two maps being offered here.

In 1649, Claes Janszoon Visscher published a pocket atlas named Tabularum Geographicarum Contractarum. The atlas is only known in a handful of copies and for centuries was believed to have survived only in one single example in the British Library.

A second example of the atlas (lacking the title page) was discovered in 1986 in the State Library of Victoria by Dorothy Prescott, chief curator of the library. She published a now famous article about the atlas in 2007, describing in detail the relevance for the Tasmania and for Australia.

A third example of the atlas is now in the Chicago Newberry Library (Roger Baskes Collection). That example of the atlas lacks one of the maps of the world.

In the two maps of the world, Visscher has removed nearly all of the hypothetical southern continent. Australia has only two toponyms, namely 't Lant van d'Eendracht for the continent and A. van Diemens Lant for Tasmania. Curiously, the world maps here show the discovery of Tasmania, but none of the other Tasman discoveries of his first voyage of 1642/43 (New Zealand, Fiji, etc) and of his second voyage of 1644 (charting the complete north coast of Australia). This suggests that Visscher was not aware of his competitor's wall maps of the world of 1645-46 and of 1648, which is remarkable. Another possibility is the Visscher had engraved his maps prior to the Joan Blaeu wall maps of the world. The maps here were published at least ten years before Joan Blaeu's 1659 Archipelagus wall map of Australia, which was copied by many and disseminated the new Tasman discoveries.

The copperplates are revised versions of world maps were originally engraved in 1598 by Jodocus Hondius for Cornelis Claesz and Barent Langenes. The 1649 publications here are updated to incorporate the recent Tasman results.

By 1649 Visscher was in possession of the original Langenes plates first used in 1598, which were originally owned by the Amsterdam publisher Amsterdam Cornelis Claesz, where Visscher had worked as a young apprentice. H. Laurentsz re-printed the atlas in 1609 and 1612, and the whereabouts of the copperplates is uncertain until they again appear in 1649.

Claes Janszoon Visscher was already at a respectable age of 62 when he issued the Atlas Contractus, but he knew the fifty years old maps by Langenes and Claesz very well, because at a young age he had worked as an apprentice for Cornelis Claesz (c.1551-1609), who had been the stimulator and driving force of Dutch cartography, and who had been the publisher of the Caert Thresoor atlas.

Abel Tasman's discovery of Anthony van Diemens Land

Tasman's first expedition left Batavia on August 13th 1642, first sailing to Mauritius, and from there sailing to high southern latitudes and due east. On November 24 1642 they discover land and Abel Tasman enters in his Journal:

This land being the first land we have met with in the South Sea and not known to any European nation we have conferred on it the name of Anthony Van Diemenslandt in honour of the Honourable Governor-General, our illustrious master, who sent us to make this discovery.


Paper color off-white/ivory. Wide margins all around. Paper restorations, cleaning or imperfections. Dark and even impressions of the copperplate, hardly any sign sign of plate wear, which is remarkable especially for a copperplate that was over 50 years old when this imprint was made. Blank on verso as called for. Excellent collector's condition.


Dorothy Prescott, A Little Master's Piece, The La Trobe Journal, No 79, 2007.
Günter Schilder, Australia Unveiled, pp 198-199.
Peter van der Krogt, Koeman's Atklantes Neerlandici, Volume III, map 8150:341:54.

Claes Janszoon Visscher 1587-1652
Nicolaes Visscher I (son) 1618–1679
Nicolaes Visscher II (grandson) 1649-1702
Elisabeth Visscher (widow of N. Visscher II)

"For nearly a century the members of the Visscher family were important art dealers and map publishers in Amsterdam. The founder of the business, Claes Janszoon Visscher, had premises near to those of Pieter van den Keere and Jodocus Hondius whose pupil he may have been.

From about 1620 he designed a number of individual maps, including one of the British Isles, but his first atlas consisted of maps printed from plates bought from van den Keere and issued as they stood with some additions of his own, including historical scenes of battles and sieges for which he had a high reputation.

Some maps bear the latinized form of the family name: Piscator. After Visscher's death his son and grandson, both of the same name, issued a considerable number of atlases, constantly revised and brought up to date but most of them lacking an index and with varying contents.

The widow of Nicholaes Visscher II carried on the business until it finally passed into the hands of Pieter Schenk."

(Moreland & Bannister).

Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612)
Jodocus Hondius the Younger (son) (1594-1629)
Henricus Hondius (son) (1597-1651)

Jodocus Hondius the Elder, one of the most notable engravers of his time, is known for his work in association with many of the cartographers and publishers prominent at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century.

A native of Flanders, he grew up in Ghent, apprenticed as an instrument and globe maker and map engraver. In 1584, to escape the religious troubles sweeping the Low Countries at that time, he fled to London where he spent some years before finally settling in Amsterdam about 1593. In the London period he came into contact with the leading scientists and geographers of the day and engraved maps in The Mariner's Mirrour, the English edition of Waghenaer's Sea Atlas, as well as others with Pieter van den Keere, his brother-in-law. No doubt his temporary exile in London stood him in good stead, earning him an international reputation, for it could have been no accident that Speed chose Hondius to engrave the plates for the maps in The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine in the years between 1605 and 1610.

In 1604 Hondius bought the plates of Mercator's Atlas which, in spite of its excellence, had not competed successfully with the continuing demand for the Ortelius Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. To meet this competition Hondius added about 40 maps to Mercator's original number and from 1606 published enlarged editions in many languages, still under Mercator's name but with his own name as publisher. These atlases have become known as the Mercator/ Hondius series. The following year the maps were re-engraved in miniature form and issued as a pocket Atlas Minor.

After the death of Jodocus Hondius the Elder in 1612, work on the two atlases, folio and miniature, was carried on by his widow and sons, Jodocus II and Henricus, and eventually in conjunction with Jan Jansson in Amsterdam. In all, from 1606 onwards, nearly 50 editions with increasing numbers of maps with texts in the main European languages were printed.

(Moreland and Bannister)