Friday, 6 May 2011


If one was asked today to provide a brief description of the Netherlands, he would talk about a modern society that supports novel approaches in arts, sciences and ethics. Yet, the Netherlands is also a heir to a lucid history of exploration. Back in the 17th century, the Dutch ships were crossing the oceans discovering new lands and weiving a huge mercantile network. Many were the Dutch colonies all over the world at that point, yet most of them were afterwards taken over by the thriving British empire.

However, up to this day, quite enough of the old Dutch toponyms survive to remind us of this period: New Zealand (Zeeland), Johannesburg, Harlem (Haarlem), Brooklyn (Breukelen) and many others. Maybe you already know that New York used to be the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.

View of New Amsterdam, engraving. circa 1670

Thus, it is not surprising that the science of cartography bears a long history in the Netherlands. Among the Dutch cartographers of the past we could mention Jan Jansson, Claes Visscher and Frederick De Witt  who provided some nice pieces of cartographic art and calligraphy:

Frederick de Witt, Map of the North Atlantic. 17th century

Frederick de Witt, World Map (Nova Orbis Tabula in Lucem Edita). 1662

The naval endeavours of the Dutch Golden Era and of the years that followed could not but inspire local artists to portray scenes from sea life in their works.

Willem van de Velde, Dutch vessels close inshore at low tide and men bathing. 1661

Dutch mariners during a whaling expedition. 18th century engraving.

Hendrik Willem Mesdag, Kalme Zee. 1875

Music by Tangerine Dream.
Compass rose image was taken from this nice histologion.