Barent Langenes:
An unrecorded miniature atlas

by Ashley Baynton-Williams

Recently the London dealer, Graham Franks of J.A.L. Franks acquired an untitled edition of Barent Langenes' miniature atlas, which contained a number of supplementary maps performed by the English engraver Benjamin Wright, that I had never seen (or more importantly, perhaps) heard of.  As I am currently working on a carto-bibliography of maps by British and Irish mapmakers and publishers, it was clear that additional research was required, as representing a substantial, and very interesting addition to his known corpus.
A preliminary examination showed three groupings of maps: the majority were from plates used in the 1598 and later editions of Langenes' Caert-Thresoor, the second those engraved by Wright (who worked in Amsterdam circa 1596 to circa 1603, and perhaps later) and a smaller number of maps engraved in a later, mid-seventeenth century style.

Two initial clues presented themselves.  Two maps, of the World and Germany, were signed by Claes Jansz. Visscher, while both world maps had been re-engraved to show the discoveries of Tasman in Australia, in the 1640's.

Fortunately, the British Library's Map Library was at hand.  In their vast collections is located the only example cited by Koeman of Visscher's Tabularum Geographarum Contractarum (published in 1649) (Atlantes Neerlandici, vol. III, Vis. 4).  There the atlas is described, without collation, as "A reissue of, most probably, the original basic text, with the old plates of the Caert-Thresoor by Langenes. For this edition, Visscher engraved new title pages, and enlarged the number of plates".

The atlas is composed of eight books, without text, lettered a to h. Five are devoted to Europe (a with 29 maps; b, 40 maps; c, 29 maps, d, 28 maps and e, 34 maps). F, with 37 maps, is devoted to Asia, g (20 maps, not 29 as given by Koeman) devoted to Africa, and h (25 maps) to the Americas.  In total, the atlas contains 10 engravings (title-pages etc) and 242 maps and views.

A cursory examination showed that the Franks atlas was a second example of three of the eight books (a, b and e), albeit issued without the preliminary material, and the celestial map.

While the initial intention was to collate the Franks copy, it became clear that the number of very interesting and important maps in the other five books made collating the entire atlas a priority.  However, it should be noted that all the illustrations accompanying the collation are taken from the Franks copy.  While not ideal, I could discern no difference in the maps, or indeed, in the strength of impression, between the two examples.

As a preliminary conclusion, it would seem that, by 1649, Visscher had come into possession of the original Langenes plates, which were owned by Cornelis Claesz, the Amsterdam publisher, before passing to his business successsor Hendrick Laurentsz, who re-printed the atlas in 1609 and 1612.  Their whereabouts after this date is uncertain. Of the maps engraved by Wright, I have, so far, traced only one in a contemporary publication, (map no. 12 in the collation), in the 1603 edition of Lucas Jansz. Waghenaer's Den Grooten Dobbelden Nieuwe Spieghel Der Zeevaert, conveniently also published by Claesz (and also conveniently in the BL's Map Library).   This map is one of 12 miniature maps engraved by Wright found  printed set in the text.  The similarity of style and engraving between the two groups is so close as to lead to the conclusion that they were engraved as one series, perhaps for the Caert-Thresoor, but perhaps also for the Spieghel der Zeevaert, as the majority of the maps have a maritime theme.

The final group of engravings were presumably prepared by Visscher to supplement the existing plates.  The only changes that Visscher seems to have made to the existing plates were to re-engrave the two world maps, and add volume and plate numbers to each of the maps.  In this state, they are only rarely found described in the standard regional carto-bibliographies, such as Rodney Shirley's Mapping Of The World.

If Wright's engravings date from circa 1603, which seems plausible, they include very early delineations of parts of Mauritius, Borneo and the Philippines, of Havana harbour, Puerto Rico, the island of Sta. Margareta (to the west of Trinidad), the coast of Venezuela, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, and the Magellan Straits.

However, the two most important items are to be attributed to Visscher. Map 196, 'T' LAND VAN / DE EENDRACHT' is a map of Australia (or rather such parts known at the time) and is the earliest printed map of that Continent known to the writer, and which is not noted, inter alia, by Gunter Schilder in his 'Australia Unveiled'.  The second, map 197:  'Anthoni van Diemens Landt...' depicts the coast of South Australia, and Tasmania (although only the southern coast is marked), and again much pre-dates anything else the writer knows of.

The writer would like to acknowledge the kindness of Graham Franks in allowing his atlas to be collated and illustrated.


Langenes / Visscher, Tabularum Geographicarum Contractarum: BL, Maps C.39.a.10.

Waghenaer, Den Grooten Dobbelden Nieuwe Spieghel Der Zeevaert, BL, Maps C.8.b.8.


Koeman, Dr. Ir. C., Atlantes Neerlandici Bibliography of terrestrial, maritime and celestial atlases and pilot books published in the Netherlands up to 1880, vol. III (Amsterdam: Theatrvm Orbis Terrarvm Ltd., 1969)

Shirley, Rodney W. The Mapping Of The World Early Printed World Maps 1472-1700 (revised edition: London, New Holland (Publishers) Ltd, 1987)

Schilder, Günter, Australia Unveiled The Share of the Dutch Navigators in the discovery of Australia (Amsterdam, Theatrvm Orbis Terrarvm Ltd, 1976)

*A Langenes Collation