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Atlas van Blaeu
Toonneel des Aerdriicks | Regionaal Archief Leiden

Blaeu’s Atlases, in a World of Their Own

Considering their size and format, atlases are not easy to overlook! Picturae knows all about it, as we have handled hundreds of them. Picturae has also successfully digitised a valuable atlas created by the famous Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu for the Regional Archive of Leiden (RAL). 

Tonneel des Aerdriicx

In 1645, the Dutch city of Leiden received the right to send a counsellor to the office of the VOC in Amsterdam. To keep up with the fast changing developments in international trade, Leiden recognised the need to purchase an extensive atlas, and in 1659, for the "sum of three hundred guilders", the renowned Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu delivered a tailor-made map: the Tonneel des Aerdriicx.

With time, the costly atlas gradually became more fragile, to the point that it could no longer be made available to the public. The Regional Archive of Leiden called in Picturae's help to digitise the books with utmost care, and to provide metadata. Furthermore, Picturae developed a viewer in which it is possible to browse through the atlas online, searching for countries or towns by index. It is now easier than ever to print reproductions of the beautiful maps of Blaeu.

The reproductions are of such high quality due to the extremely high resolution at which Picturae digitised the atlas and because of the special lighting used that makes even the fibre of the paper visible. This important project has made it possible for everyone to enjoy these stunning maps for days to come, and the precious atlas is now safely stored away.

Joan Blaeu

Toonneel des Aerdriicks
Toonneel des Aerdriicks | RAL

Atlases really are in a world of their own. In the Dutch Golden Age - which roughly spans the seventeenth century - an atlas was a representation of status. If a person could afford an atlas, they almost literally had the world in their hands. Due to this, the Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu (1596 – 1673), was incredibly successful.


Every atlas was different to any other, as each was custom-made, and atlases were often later extended. Now, 353 years later, Blaeu's Tonneel des Aerdriicx (New Atlas) can be seen in all its glory on the website of the Regional Archive Leiden. It consists of six parts with hundreds of maps, and is a beautiful example of the way people saw the world in the seventeenth century.


More information?

Browse through Blaeu's famous atlas on the Dutch site of the Regional Archive Leiden.

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