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Blaeu's stunning first terrestrial atlas, with 99 maps beautifully coloured by hand

BLAEU, Willem Jansz.
Appendix theatri A. Ortelii et Atlantis G. Mercatoris, continens tabulas geographicas diversarum orbis regionum, nunc prima editas, cum descriptionibus.
Amsterdam, Willem Jansz. Blaeu, 1631. Super Royal folio (48 x 33 cm). With engraved title-page, 99 engraved maps (2 multi-sheet folding, 96 double page and 1 half page), 3 engravings in text and woodcut initials and tailpieces, all beautifully coloured by a contemporary hand, the engraved title-page highlighted with gold (also the letters in the first 5 lines of capitals) and some occasional use of gum arabic on the maps. Contemporary gold-tooled vellum, gilt edges.
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Beautifully hand-coloured copy of the second edition (both 1631) of Blaeu's famous Appendix theatri, in the original Latin, an expanded version of his first terrestrial atlas, originally published in 1630 as Atlantis appendix, without text and with only 60 maps, initially intended as a supplement to the atlases of Ortelius and Mercator. It quickly took pride of place as an independent atlas in its own right and proved to be the forerunner of Blaeu's many further famous atlases. For the first edition of the Appendix theatri, Blaeu expanded his atlas to almost 100 maps and added letterpress descriptions to each map. He published the present second edition in the same year, with the maps in a different order and the text reset. We have located one other coloured copy in the Library of the Institute of History CAS, Prague.
After the engraved title-page, the atlas opens with a detailed world map, followed by maps of each of the continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and America) all within decorated borders, single maps of Iceland, the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Iberian peninsula, 7 maps of Italy, 25 of France, 18 of the Low Countries, 27 of the German states (with Moravia and Bohemia), 2 of Lithuania, 10 of the Americas, 1 of the Moluccas and 1 of the Holy Land.
Blaeu began his career as a globe maker around 1596, moving to Amsterdam in 1599 when he probably began copperplate printing as well. He quickly expanded into separately published maps (especially nautical charts) and into pilot guides that often included a collection of nautical charts. But when Johannes Janssonius published a pirated edition of Blaeu's Het licht der zeevaert in 1621, Blaeu may have decided to compete with Janssonius and his brother-in-law Henricus Hondius in the production of terrestrial atlases. He started gathering maps for his own atlas and when Jodocus Hondius junior died in 1629 Blaeu apparently bought the copperplates for his atlas maps. This enabled him to bring out his own modest atlas in 1630, the Atlantis appendix. This publication would usher in a period of fierce competition in the cartographical community, culminating in the magnificent Atlas major of Blaeu's son Joan. But the present 1631 atlas, with its large size and the high quality of its maps, immediately established him as the great atlas publisher.
Slightly browned (mostly from the green pigment used for the colouring), all leaves (text and maps) attached to later stubs, some occasional minor wormholes in the foot margins (not affecting the maps), a small burn hole in the map of the Low Countries, a couple marginal tears and restorations (mainly in the folds), a tear in the green border between the map of the Dnieper River and the cartouche below it, and the folding map of Lithuania damaged, but most of the maps in very good condition. Cat. NHSM, p. 91; J. Keuning, "Blaeu's atlas", in: Imago mundi XIV, pp. 74-89; Koeman, Bl 3; V.d. Krogt, Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici 2:022; cf. Shirley T.BLA-1b (variant 1631 ed.).
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