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This early Americana engraving is from Johannes de Laet’s Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien. The work was published in Leiden by Elzevier in 1630. It is one of the best, early American works and the most important work of Dutch geographer Johannes de Laet. This is from the second, expanded edition (the first was published in 1625).
“It is arguably the finest (atlas) published in the seventeenth century.” (Burden) The work was an excellent culmination of previous authors findings on America enriched with the best research from Europeans on America, its natural history, and the morality of Americans. It covered the areas of West Indian Islands, Canada, Virginia, Florida, Mexico, New Galicia, Guatemala, North Coast of South America, Americas, Peru, Chile, Magellan Route (Strait), Argentina, Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela.
Johannes de Laet was one of the founding directors of the Dutch West India Company, appointed in 1619. Laet studied philosphy in Leiden, obtained denizenship in London, but returned to Leidden in 1608. Here he made a fortune in overseas trade and land investments including New Netherland.
“Johannes de Laet also wrote on the subject. As the author of “the Nieuwe Wereldt” (New World) and as a director of the WIC, he was rather eager to convince his readers of the justice of Dutch claims to the territory. His book was published in 1625, by which time it had become increasingly important to know for sure who the territory belonged to, as it was also being claimed by the English. That De Laet, as a director of the WIC, was eager to promote the Company’s interests is evident from this passage: ‘The territory was first explored at the expense of our Dutchmen and a few years later it was navigated by others and provided with some forts and settlements of the Dutch, under a special charter and under the authority of the High and Mighty Members of the States General of the United Provinces’
“De Laet tried to persuade his readers that the Dutch had met with all the requirements for a proper claim to the territory. it was first discovered by Dutchmen and not by other Christians. Later the Dutch exploited it and then took up residence there. These were the rules, and in the correct order, that were adopted in the Dutch Republic for taking possession of newly discovered land.” (Martine Gosselink, Rijksmuseum, Hoofd Geschiedenis / Head of the History Department). Borba de Moraes 1:384; “European Americana” 630/88; JCB(3)II:229; Sabin 38555; Willems 327. Catalogued by Kate Hunter
Provenance: The work was previously owned by Hanno Beck (1923-2018), professor of the history of natural sciences and geography in Bonn.