Regiones Sub Polo Arctico…
Willem Janszoon Blaeu & Joan Blaeu
Published (1638) c.1645, Amsterdam
Size: 21.5" X 16"
This beautiful map originally published by Jan Jansson with its vivid use of colour to depict the North Pole and the surrounding regions, that was first published in the Appendix of the Latin edition of Novi Atlantis in 1637 by Henricus Hondius. This particular example is the second state issued by the firm associated by Willem Janszoon Blaeu that was transferred to his son Joan following his death in 1638.
The second state can be identified by the charming dedication to Guiliemo Backer with his coat of arms on the left hand side of the map.
The Hondius/Jansson/Blaeu map was a new drawing of the polar region that followed Mercator’s famous 1595 map of the North Pole. The importance of this maps lies with the incorporation of new discoveries by explorers to the polar region in their quest for the Northwest and Northeast passages. That being said, much of the north-western part of North America is left entirely open as this region was still very much unexplored. Jansson’s map would in effect serve as a template for many polar maps in the years following its first publication.
Also of interest is the incorrect drawing of Forbisher’s Strait that continued to appear in maps of the era. This resulted from the erroneous rendering of Martin Forbisher’s expeditions between 1576-78, so as to suppress the location of Meta Incognita and the possible entry to the Northwest passage. The mistaken strait, located in the Southern part of Groen Landt, would eventually be corrected following Charles Francis Hall’s exploration to the region in 1861. It is worth noting that Jansson’s map limits the possibility of a Nortwest passage altogether by the use, most likely, of information stemming from Captain Jame’s exploration of Hudson’s bay in 1631-32 and later recounted by him in The Strange and Dangerous Voyage of Captaine Thomas James. London, 1633. As such, Groenland and the lands north of Hudson’s bay are drawn as being joined thus leaving little hope of the much wished for Northwest passage. The quest for the Northwest passage would only resume in 1719 with the Hudson’s Bay Company’s governor and explorer, James Knight.
This map is also famously embellished by the use of multiple sets of intriguing curved rhumb lines emanating from the centre of the North Pole. It is argued that “while common on more traditional maps, incorporating rhumb lines into a polar map is a logistical challenge due to the curvature of the earth. The present example solves this by replacing the traditional straight rhumb lines with a series of elaborately curved rhumbs – producing an impractical though highly decorative effect.”