BLAEU, Willem (1571-1638) and Joannes BLAEU (1596-1673). Novvus Atlas, Das ist, Weltbeschreibung... Amsterdam: Joannes and Willem Blaeu, 1649 - 1647 - 1648 - 1654 - 1656.

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6 volumes. Folio. 8 engraved allegorical title-pages, all but the first with printed overslips for the title and or imprint, all with EXCEPTIONAL ORIGINAL HAND-COLOUR HEIGHTENED IN GOLD, PROBABLY BY FRANS KOERTEN AND HIS STUDIO. 404 engraved maps, the majority double-page, seven folding, and some full-page, all with original hand-colour in outline, and all mounted on guards (map of Lithuania in volume one with expert repairs to folds, minor marginal tears to three maps, not affecting the images, pale marginal waterstains to the first third of volume one, volume V - Scotland - very browned, and volume VI - Asia - quite browned). Contemporary Dutch vellum over paste-board, elaborately decorated in gilt, with remains of 12 pairs of silk ties (small chip in backstrip of volume V, extremities a bit scuffed, spines lightly soiled, early bookplate removed from each paste-down).


Provenance: 20th-century manuscript ex-libris on front paste-down of each volume.


The German edition of Joannes and Willem Blaeu's "Novvus atlas", first published as three-volumes in 1641-1642 (world, the continents including fifteen maps of the Americas, northern and eastern Europe, Italy and Greece); they enlarged it to four volumes in 1646 (England); published a new edition with four volumes in 1647; and then enlarged that to five and six volumes in 1654 (Scotland) and 1655 (China) respectively. The Blaeu family firm was founded by Willem Janzoon Blaeu (1571-1638) in 1596. He was eventually joined by his sons, Cornelius (1616-1648) and Joannes (1596-1673). The firm became the most productive cartographic establishment in the Netherlands until it was destroyed by fire in 1672. The elder Blaeu initiated the great series of atlases that culminated in the "Atlas Maior".

Truusje Goedings, renowned expert in Dutch colourists of the 17th-century writes of this copy:

"Contemporary colour in a style very characteristic for the Blaeu atlases before the 'Atlas Maior', ie between ca. 1635-1656, and initiated by Willem Blaeu I. Archival documents reveal that colored copies could be ordered at the Blaeu firm, and were made according Blaeu's instructions from the very start. The underlying principles were the same throughout (including the 'Atlas Maior'): a lavishly coloured title-page, often more or less heightened with gold; a functional colouring of the maps and a contrasting, more extensive treatment of the map decorations. Comparison shows that except for the title-pages, and independent of their degree of luxury, the maps of early copies were coloured more soberly and have a much more open and plain style.

"This large paper copy in typical Dutch gilt vellum atlas bindings has extensively and expertly coloured title-pages, each lavishly heightened with gold especially in the first and fourth volumes, with a lively variety of colours and a careful handling of details such as fruitguirlandes and clothing of figures. The cartography of the maps is executed carefully but soberly, keeping the overall view rather white: the dividing or surrounding borderlines are in general drawn in single lines, in very pale hues of rosa, yellow and green; the detailed engraved mountain- or wooded regions are not worked out but indicated in the same way as the border lines with one very light and transparant (broader) stroke of pale green or umber. Small embellishments such as boats, waves, heraldry were given their special colours, places in the regions have red dots - signs that this colouring had a somewhat more than regular character. The larger decorations, such as legends and cartouches are often remarkably worked out. With a large variety of colours in bright and vivid combinations (see especially the Italy-volume, they produce a lively contrast with the dominant white of the regions). Comparison with one volume (5) of a coloured dedication copy (to Ferdinand of Liechtenstein, to which this edition also was dedicated in print, his signature in ink on title-print UBAmsterdam) yielded that the Arader copy has an equivalent colouring: a colouring estimated by Blaeu fit to present to his official dedicatee.

"Most probably this colouring will have been done by the studio of the famous map-colourist Frans Koerten or, for the de-luxe title-pages by Koerten himself - as he was Blaeu's regular colourist.The colouring of this atlas is much in the style of the illuminator Frans Koerten (1604 - 1668), who was around the middle of the 17th century the most famous Dutch colourist. He must have had a larger workshop for all sorts of colouring, ranging from sober and simple to very de-luxe. The Blaeu firm was a regular customer. One of his assistants was map-colourist Johannes van Keulen (died 1689), who became his son-in-law and took over his business after his death. With documentary evidence a de-luxe Blaeu-edition and some other works could be ascribed to Koerten. He himself will have done the de-luxe work, especially in the later years of his career. His style is characterized by a rich and bright decorative palette, not so much chique but careful and pleasant to the eye. Details as plants, fruitguirlandes etc., are never treated hastily but are worked up decoratively. Red is often contrasted with orange and/or a lighter blue and applied rather thickly. Large legends in cartouches are often kept completely white. Gold is often applied in thin parallel lines instead of flat surfaces. The white of the paper is used and often stressed with a layer of leadwhite - which has oxidized sometimes to grey". (see Koerten and his portrait Kunst in Kaart 1989, esp.p.119 ). Koeman, II, 2.