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Hessel Gerritsz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Hessel Gerritsz's map of The Guianas (1625).
Hessel Gerritsz's map of The Guianas (1625).

Hessel Gerritsz (c. 1581 in Assum, North Holland – buried 4 September 1632 in Amsterdam) was a Dutch engraver, cartographer and publisher. Despite strong competition, he is considered by some “unquestionably the chief Dutch cartographer of the 17th century” [1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Putting Australia on the Map


(Dr. Martin Woods) It’s a great paradox that while Aboriginal people were using maps in practical and spiritual ways in Australia, that at virtually the same moment Europeans were putting their minds to imagining what the Antipodes might be like. This went on for centuries. The early Greeks imagined an Antipodes the idea of South, that there must indeed be a Southern continent to balance the land mass in the North, along with it, the idea that there must be a place where people stand with their feet opposite yours and so the Antipodeans came into being, at least in the ancient European mind. With rediscovery of ancient European mapping sources a thousand years later maps began to appear which showed a vast continent which went by many names Terra Australis, Jave Le Grande, Magallanica were a few. Post-Columbus, people were looking for new worlds to explore and exploit - gold and other precious metals, spices, and it suited some to keep the South Land myth going. In the early 1500s much of this speculation centered on the French port of Dieppe in Normandy where cartographers apparently had access to Portuguese voyage information. In displaying the anonymous work known as The Harleian Map and The Boke of Idrography by Jean Rotz we’re bringing these two maps to Australia for the first time. They were powerful maps in their day. The Rotz Atlas was presented to Henry VIII as demonstration of his skills as a mapmaker. The Harleian Map with its huge land mass south of Indonesia is so reminiscent of Australia’s East Coast that it’s led many to accept it as a product of Portuguese or possibly French voyages long before the Dutch. It is a great pleasure to be able to exhibit the first maps of Australia by the Dutch who eventually charted the coast from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Great Australian Bight. This was mostly a by-product of the spice and commodity trade in the islands to our North, but importantly the Dutch East India Company employed a Chief Cartographer whose job it was to build a store of maps the secret atlas of the Dutch East India Company. This stunning map painted on parchment in the early 1600s, is the work of Hessel Gerritsz, Chief Cartographer of the Dutch East India Company and a key figure in the mapping of Australia. It's hard to appreciate what an important trading power The Netherlands was in the 16 and 1700s, until you witness first hand their great skills in navigating and charting the oceans. Remarkably a few of their onboard navigation charts have survived showing the tracks of successful voyages, and some less so, as they traversed the Indian Ocean to the Spice Islands, occasionally detouring to Australia. Australia wasn’t the main game and turned out to be more a fascinating hazard than a trading opportunity. In adding Australia, or New Holland as it became known for 150 years, the Dutch mapped two thirds of the continent and included it on some beautiful maps. But with several ships lost off the W.A coast and no obvious trading partners, interest waned in Australia as a source of revenue. Soon the Dutch had other East India competitors to worry about and Australia was more or less forgotten for 50 years. [Music plays]


Early career

He started in Alkmaar as an apprentice to Willem Jansz Blaeu, who was ten years his elder. Gerritsz moved with Blaeu’s workshop to Amsterdam, where he married Geertje Gijsberts of Alkmaar in 1607. They had eight children. Geertje would die before 1624, when Hessel remarried. By 1610 he had a printing workshop on his own. Many of his engravings and maps made it into the atlases of Blaeu, Janssonius, and others.

Independent printer

 Walrus and calf, from Histoire du pays nomme Spitsberghe
Walrus and calf, from Histoire du pays nomme Spitsberghe

Gerritsz produced a world map in 1612 that included the discoveries of Queirós and specifically indicated “Austrialia del Espiritu Santo”, now known to be Vanuatu, but for long thought to be part of the “South land”. The map was very influential on Dutch and French representations of the South Pacific in the 17th and 18th centuries, and was together with Queirós' publications influential in establishing the name “Australia”.[2] In 1613, Gerritsz wrote and published a “History of the land named Spitsbergen”, describing the discovery, early voyages and whaling activities on these islands. This volume also showcases Gerritsz's considerable talents as an engraver (see for example his depiction of a walrus with its calf). The same year, he edited a map of Russia prepared by the future Feodor II of Russia as tsarevich, and re-edited it in 1614 with some additions and corrections; it was reproduced by the Blaeu firm until 1665. Another example of an engraving is his often reproduced 1619 posthumous portrait of the playwright Bredero.

Official cartographer of the VOC

His fame as cartographer grew rapidly to the point that on 16 October 1617 he was appointed the first exclusive cartographer of the Dutch East India Company (the VOC), probably the most strategic position a cartographer could have in those days. He got the position on recommendation of Petrus Plancius, chief scientist of the VOC, who did not get along with the senior Willem Blaeu (Blaeu and Gerritsz remained friends). Gerritsz kept this post until his death, after which the position was held by the Blaeu family, starting with Willem Jansz, until 1705.

Hessel Gerritsz's map of 1622 showed the first part of Australia to be charted, that by Willem Janszoon in 1606.[3] It was considered to be part of New Guinea and called Nueva Guinea on the map, but Gerritsz also added an inscription saying: "Those who sailed with the yacht of Pedro Fernandez de Quiros in the neighbourhood of New Guinea to 10 degrees westward through many islands and shoals and over 2, 3 and 4 fathoms for as many as 40 days, presumed that New Guinea did not extend beyond 10 degrees to the south. If this be so, then the land from 9 to 14 degrees would be a separate land, different from the other New Guinea".[4]

All charts and logs from returning VOC merchants and explorers sailors had to be submitted to Gerritsz and thanks to the wealth of new information several breakthrough maps came from his hands. In return Gerritsz’ charts accompanied all VOC captains on their voyages.

Mapping of Australia

 Hessel Gerritsz - Worldmap of 1612 including the discovery of La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo by Pedro Fernandes de Queirós
Hessel Gerritsz - Worldmap of 1612 including the discovery of La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo by Pedro Fernandes de Queirós
 Hessel Gerritsz, Map of the Pacific, 1622
Hessel Gerritsz, Map of the Pacific, 1622

Hessel Gerritsz published in Amsterdam in 1612 a Dutch translation of the eighth memorial of Quiros, the title page of which includes the words, "'t Land ghenaemt Australia Incognita." This is believed to be "the earliest occurrence in print of the word Australia outside Spain". The publication of 1612 referred to included Isaac Massa's description of Siberia (Samoyeden Landt), his short account of the roads from Muscovy, and the memorial mentioned. It included three maps, one of which was a map of the world by Gerritsz, in which Torres Strait is clearly shown.[5]

Relatio Memorialis, sive libelli fupplicis Majefti Sua oblate per Capitaneum Petrum Ferdinandez de Quir, Super Detectione quartæ Orbis Terrarum parte, cui nomen Australis Incognita, eiusque immensis opibus & fertilitate, Amsterodami : Ex officina Hesselij Gerardi, 1612.[1]
 The Malay Archipelago and Australia by Hessel Gerritsz
The Malay Archipelago and Australia by Hessel Gerritsz

In 1618 Gerritsz produced a chart of the Indonesian islands, far better represented than on earlier efforts, and, for the first time, the (Northwest) coast of Australia. In 1622 he bundled many of his maps in a map book for the VOC. This map book included a 1622 map of the Pacific, probably the "Map of the Great South Sea" that Abel Tasman consulted extensively on his voyage around Australia and to New Zealand in 1642. In 1627 Gerritsz made a map, the Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht, entirely devoted to the discoveries of the West Australian coastline. Australia is called “Eendrachtsland”, a name given by Dirk Hartog after his stay on its coast in 1616, and which would be in use until the end of the 17th century.

In 1628, he added the 1627 charting of Australia’s South coast by François Thijssen to the map mentioned above, making this the first map showing a recognizable outline of Australia .

Later years

Gerritsz’ interest in the New World was so extensive that, unusual for a cartographer in his position, he joined on a 1628/29 voyage to Brazil and the Caribbean. He contributed the maps of Joannes de Laet’s Beschrijvinghe van West-Indiën ("Description of the West Indies”) published in 1630. Especially his map of Florida, based on French and Spanish sources, became influential (e.g. for 200 years after, Florida would be known as “Tegesta” as Gerritsz had named it).

In 1632 Hessel Gerritsz died; he was buried in the Nieuwe Kerk on September 4. Willem Janszoon Blaeu would take his place as cartographer of the VOC in January of the following year.


  1. ^ Johannes Keuning "Hessel Gerritsz" (1949) Imago Mundi Vol. 6, pp. 46-66.
  2. ^ Mercedes Maroto Camino Producing the Pacific: Maps and Narratives of Spanish Exploration, Rodopi Publishers 2005
  3. ^ Martin Woods , "For the Dutch Republic, the Great Pacific", National Library of Australia, Mapping our World: Terra Incognita to Australia, Canberra, National Library of Australia, 2013, pp.111-13.
  4. ^ J.Keuning, “Hessel Gerritz”, Imago Mundi, VI, 1950, pp.49-67, p.58; F. C. Wieder and Abel Janszoon Tasman, Tasman's kaart van zijn Australische ontdekkingen 1644 "de Bonaparte-kaart", gereproduceerd op de ware grootte in goud en kleuren naar het origineel in de Mitchell Library, Sydney (N.S.W.); met toestemming van de autoriteiten door F.C. Wieder, 's-Gravenhage [The Hague], Martinus Nijhoff, 1942, p.12; W.A. Engelbrecht en P.J. van Herwerden , De Ontdekkingsreis van Jacob le Maire en Willem Cornelisz. Schouten in de jaren 1615-1617, 's-Gravenhage , Martinus Nijhoff , 1945, p.152.
  5. ^ Een Memoriael gepresenteert aen den Coningh van Spaengien, belanghende de ontdeckinghe ende gheleghentheyt van't land ghenaemt Australia Incognita, t'Amsterdam, H. Gerritsz, 1612. Relatio Memorialis, sive libelli fupplicis Majefti Sua oblate per Capitaneum Petrum Ferdinandez de Quir, Super Detectione quartæ Orbis Terrarum parte, cui nomen Australis Incognita, eiusque immensis opibus & fertilitate, Amsterodami : Ex officina Hesselij Gerardi, 1612; cited by A. Lodewyckz, "The. Name of Australia," Victorian Historical Magazine (1929), Vol. XIII, pp. 99-115. T D Mutch, The First Discovery of Australia With an account of the Voyage of the "Duyfken" and the Career of Captain Willem Jansz, Sydney, 1942, pp.25-26.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 June 2017, at 12:39.
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