An extremely rare and unique collector's map of Sumatra, Singapore, the Southern region of Malaysia and the Sunda Strait between Sumatra and Java Islands by the great Dutch cartographer and chart-maker Johannes van Keulen (II). The best and most detailed early chart of the region in excellent condition and with glorious original colour.
The uniqueness of the chart lies in that this chart is a proof stage, showing no engraved cartouche, while the rest of the chart is engraved. Identical charts by van Keulen that were bound into the ‘Secret Atlas’ of the VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie - Dutch East India Company) generally had the cartouche engraved with slightly different wording.
Van Keulen’s Secret VOC Atlas,
For two centuries, from 1602 to 1799, the Dutch East India Company (VOC: Vereenigde Geoctroieerde Oostindische Compagnie) ruled the waters of Asia and Africa. Accurate charting of these waters was essential for succesful and safe navigation. The VOC had their own mapmaking office. During the first 150 years, only secret manuscript charts were used, to minimize the risk of spreading the knowledge to competitors.
From 1753 onwards, a printed atlas was used, with printed charts to navigate the waters from South Africa to Japan. The atlas was produced by Johannes (II) van Keulen, official hydrographer to the VOC, and was officially known as Part VI of the Zee-Fakkel (Sea-Torch). The atlas is known as the secret atlas because it was not sold and only used by VOC ships. For these reasons it is extremely rare, and only a few examples have survived. In addition, the number if charts in the atlas is often limited because ships that did not sail to India/Ceylon or China/Formosa/Japan were given restricted versions of the atlas that did not contain the charts of these areas.
There was a variety of reasons to publish the charts in print:
The maps are never in the market, and many collectors have waited a lifetime to find these, they are beyond doubt the non plus ultra of printed maps of the East Indies and the Indian Ocean. For many regions in Asia and Africa, these printed maps are the best and the only accurate early maps.
The van Keulen family,
The van Keulen family operated a chart-making and publishing firm in Amsterdam for nearly 200 years (1680 – 1885). It was founded by Johannes van Keulen who registered his business as a “bookseller and cross-staff maker in 1678.” By this time, most of the Amsterdam chart makers and instrument makers, like Blaeu, Janssonius, Hondius, Goos, and Doncker, had either closed down or were at the end of their fame. As a result, Johannes van Keulen had the opportunity to obtain copperplates, privileges, and stocks of many of his former competitors. Under his management the Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Faakel (New Shining Sea Torch) was begun in 1681. It was expanded to five volumes, and then finally to six volumes, with the addition of material from the secret files of the East India Company. In 1693 van Keulen acquired the stock of Hendrik Doncker.
Gerard van Keulen, son of Johannes, born 1678, took over from his father in 1714 and continued to expand the flourishing firm. Gerard’s accomplishments include hundreds of manuscript charts, which are now kept in a number of European collections. In 1726, Johannes van Keulen (II), son of Gerard, took over the business and was appointed "Official Chartmaker of the Dutch East Indies Company” In 1743, a title that appeared to be nothing more than a formality since the firm had been supplying charts to the East Indies Company for many years.
Gradually, when a policy of secrecy was no longer of use because English and French charts of Asian waters had already appeared in print, Johannes finished his grandfather's work, by publishing the sixth volume of ZeeFakkel in 1753. This volume contained the previously kept 'secret' cartography of The East India Archipalago collected and used by the V.O.C. Jan de Marre, examiner of the Amsterdam Chamber of the East Indies Company, provided van Keulen with the data for the ZeeFakkel sixth volume. These maps were distributed only within the company and never sold. Merchants were required to return the maps after each journey in order to keep trade routes secret. Until van Keulen II printed the Atlas in 1753, the Dutch East India Company used costly manuscript versions prone to errors. Part VI of Zee-Fakkel is considered by many to be the most beautiful pilot-guide ever published in Amsterdam.