November 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Blaeu's Greatest Atlas Reached $882,249 at Sotheby's

Joannes Blaeu's first edition of Atlas Major (1662)--"the greatest and finest atlas ever published"--sold for an impressive £581,000 ($882,249) yesterday at Sotheby's London, more than double its low estimate. Comprised of eleven large folio volumes, Atlas Major is one of the true masterpieces of Dutch cartography. Its 594 engraved maps, plans, and views detail the geographic scope of the known world in the seventeenth century.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 12.37.04 PM.pngThis hand-colored copy had belonged to the late Paul Fentener Van Vlissingen, a Dutch businessman and philanthropist who was ranked as the richest man in Scotland shortly before his death in 2006.  

Fine Books' map columnist Jeffrey S. Murray wrote about the Blaeu family of mapmakers in our spring 2013 issue. Joannes (Joan) Blaeu succeeded his father Willem, who had studied instrument and globe making under Tycho Brahe, as the head cartographer of the Dutch East India Company. Of the Atlas Major Murray wrote:

The atlas was a remarkable achievement, one that is widely credited as having ushered in what modern collectors like to call "the golden age of Dutch cartography." With a list of patrons that included European royalty--among them the Emperor Leopold I of Austria, King Louis XIV of France, the French controleur génèral des finances Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, the prince of Salé (Morocco), and the sultan of Turkey--Atlas Major was fit for a prince.
Image via Sotheby's.