Insulae Indiae Orientalis – East Indian Archipelago

by Jodocus Hondius, Henricus Hondius


Date of first edition: 1606 (Jodocus Hondius)

Date of this map: 1630 (Henricus Hondius)

Dimensions (not including margins): 34,2 x 47,2 cm

Dimensions (including margins): 45,6 x 57,4 cm

Condition: excellent. Sharp copper engraving printed on strong paper.  Nice original coloring. Wide margins, with minor age-toning at the edges. Verso: bottom shows lines of possible previous framing.

Condition rating: A+

Verso: text in Latin

Map reference: Van der Krogt 8500:1A

From: Gerardi Mercatoris atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura, 1630, page 374-375; Van der Krogt 1:105

Item number:
Southeast Asia
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Insulae Indiae Orentalis

This map shows the islands of Southeast Asia: from the Philippines to Timor and from Sumatra to New Guinea. The title cartouche in the upper right corner covers part of Indochina. It refers to both Marco Polo an Francis Drake!

The map was first published in the so-called Mercator-Hondius atlas of 1606, but it was Hondius’ own creation (Mercator had died in 1594). The map is famous for being one of the few to refer to Francis Drake’s presence in these regions during his world circumnavigation. In 1584 Hondius had left the Southern (later Spanish) Netherlands for London where he met Drake. On the south coast of Java he mentions “Huc Fransiscus Dra. appulit”. It is one of the few regional maps to mention Drake’s landings here. The major city on this island is Bantam. Batavia is not listed because it did not exist yet.

Marco Polo had discussed Iava Maior (Jave la Grande) and Iava Minoris (Jave mine) in his travelogue. These islands were identified as Java and Sumatra, respectively.

In his Travels Polo calls Iava Maior (Java) the largest island in the world. We know, of course, that Sumatra (Iava Minoris) is larger than Java. And actually, Hondius more or less shows this on the map. However, in the previous geographical discussion about the mythical Southland, Java was supposed to be literally linked to it … and it was therefore considered as being much larger than Sumatra. Hence, old and confusing naming! But Hondius doubts this idea and he makes a fuss by depicting the south coast of Java with dots. The Indonesian archipelago has more than 13.000 islands. Errors on this old map are therefore quickly forgiven. Just east of Java Hondius places Bali. At the bottom (centre fold) Hondius marks Timor. Logically, Hondius clearly struggled with the shape of Celebes (Sulawesi) and Gilolo (Halmahera) and with the location of Ceiram.

A quarter compass rose is tucked into the lower left corner, which is connected with rhumb lines to a complete compass rose in the eastern portion of the map. Notice the small islet of Saia Vedra just east of the full wind grid. This name refers to the crossing of Álvaro de Saavedra Cerón who, on the orders of his uncle Hernán Cortés, made a sea voyage from Mexico to the Moluccas in 1527.  At the top right, a Dutch warship fights a rubber with an English counterpart. To the right of this battle it is the huge archipelago of Islas de las Velas (now called Mariana Islands). During WW II fierce fighting took place on its islands of Saipan (Sepan) and Guam (Gugehan).

The Philippines, which the Spanish claimed as a colony in 1565 are clearly shown. In line with then existing cartography, Nova Guinea is depicted far too large.

On the Asian mainland, Camboia and Malacca are noticed. The epitome of early seventeenth-century cartographic quality testing: separated from Malacca by the R. Fermoso (now the Strait of Johor) lies a place called Sincapura.

Rush for the spices

The cartouche mentions The Moluccas or The Spice Islands. In addition to a list of the major islands trade goods are listed. In 1512 the Portuguese had built the first European base to control the spice route. It was not until 1663 that this came into Dutch possession. Behind the Spice Islands of India are produces such as pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and myrrh. The voyages of Marco Polo provided European explorers with his notes and precise navigation data and the location of Java and adjacent islands. The Portuguese would later go on to open a trading post in 1579 from which they were again expelled by the Dutch.

In response to the Dutch Revolt, the Spanish King Philip II closed the Lisbon spice market to Dutch and English traders in 1585, spurring both countries to seek direct trade with Asia. The English East India Company (EIC) was founded in 1600, followed in 1602 by the Dutch equivalent, the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC). More heavily capitalized than its English counterpart, the VOC aggressively moved into areas of Portuguese influence. This map reflects that Dutch influence at its impetus.

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