Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of the Arctic - the North Pole by Willem Barentsz

Antique map of the Arctic - the North Pole by Willem Barentsz

Willem Barentsz


Deliniatio Cartae Trium Navigationum per Batavos, ad Septentrionalem plagam, Norvegiae, Moscoviae, et novae Semblae.


Amsterdam, 1598


42 x 57 cms


Copper engraving

Stock number





$ 55000


The best map of the Arctic, showing the three attempts of the Dutch to find a route to Asia along the North Pole.

'The most important map of the far northern regions ... [and] the first to show Spitzbergen'


Willem Barentsz made three voyages to the Arctic Ocean. During the first voyage of 1594, he reached the western shores of Novaya Zemlya, and his co-explorer, Jan Huygen van Linschoten, actually managed to enter the Kara Sea at the beginning of August, which was unusually free of ice that year.

The second voyage of 1595 was launched on a much grander scale, with the vision of completing the North-East passage, and included 7 ships loaded with merchandise destined for China. However, this time the approach to was impassable due to ice, and the fleet turned south, landing at Pechora Bay (Pechorskaya Guba).

In 1596 Barentsz undertook a third voyage, the outbound track of which is shown on this map. Barentsz discovered Spitzbergen, and decided to try to enter the Kara Sea by sailing north of Novaya Zemlya. This fateful decision led to the expedition being trapped in the ice and forcing the party to overwinter in a dwelling constructed of salvaged ship's timbers that they named 'Het Behouden Huys' (the safe house), which is shown on the map. In mid-June 1597, the weather permitted the 15 survivors to make their return in open boats along the shores of Novaya Zemlya. Barentsz, already ill, died during the return journey on 20 June. The remains of the hut were discovered in 1871, further relics recovered in 1876, and excavations undertaken in 1993 and 1995.

The detail of the expedition is in the main derived from the journal kept by the ship's carpenter, Gerrit de Veer. Published by Cornelis Claesz in 1598 under the title Waerachtige beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, it was accompanied by 30 copperplate illustrations; this map was published separately.


Willem Barentsz c.1550-1597

Willem Barentszoon was a pilot and Arctic explorer who was convinced by the theorists of the day that it was possible to reach and China and the Far East via a North East passage through the Arctic. On his first voyage in 1594 accompanied by Jan Huyghen van Linschoten he reached Novaya Zemlya but was for back by ice: he failed again the following year. On his third voyage in 1596-97 his ship was trapped in pack ice and, although many of his crew survived in open boats, Barentsz himself died on the return voyage.

He is noted for this 1595 chart book of the Mediterranean, the first of its kind, which was complementary to Waghenaer's charts of the Atlantic coasts, and which is sometimes found bound up with the later editions of Waghenaer.

(Moreland and Bannister)