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Jodocus Hondius the Elder

Map of the Straits of Magellan

© 2007, Fredric Shauger

Jodocus Hondius, The Elder, (1563-1612) was one of the giants of the Dutch Golden Age of Map making. He was born Josse de Hondt, in Wakken but grew up in Ghent. At a young age he learned drawing and engraving and would become one of the foremost engravers of his time. In 1584 he fled his homeland to escape religious persecution and the Spanish War. He traveled to London with his sister Jacomina who married another Dutch émigré, Pieter van den Berghe. Jodocus married Coletta van den Keere, sister of Pieter van den Keere. The resulting family ties to the scientific community in London led to introductions to renowned geographers and explorers. He honed his skills under the tutelage of Edward Wright and Richard Hakluyt.

When he returned to Amsterdam in 1593, he established a map and globe making firm. His English ties served him well. He was commissioned by John Speed to engrave the maps for Speed's The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. In 1607 and 1608 Henry Hudson visited him in Amsterdam and shared details of his journeys.

Jodocus Hondius the Elder

In 1604, Hondius purchased the plates of Gerard Mercator who had died in 1594. He combined those plates with about 40 maps of his own, one of which was the map of the Straits of Magellan. He then published the expanded Mercator Atlas in 1606. The Atlas, which became known as the Mercator-Hondius Atlas, continued to be published by Hondius' wife, children and son-in-law Jan Jansson after his death in 1612.

The geographic details for the map of the Straits of Magellan came from Bernardus Joannis Monasteriensis who had participated in the first Dutch expedition to sail through the Straits in 1599-1600. That expedition, which was led by the Duke Sebaldi de Waerdt, is portrayed on the map in the form of six sailing ships flying the Dutch Flag in what is labeled the “Mar del Zur.” The map was printed from a copper plate engraved by Lambert Cornelisz in 1606. Made prior to the confirmation of a route around Tierra del Fuego, the Strait was, at that time, the only passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Controlled by the Dutch, exorbitant fees were charged for the passage.

The first state of the map bore the name of Lambert Cornelisz as the engraver and the address of Zacharias Heyns in the space between the two cartouches at the bottom. The notations were removed by Hondius shortly after publication. The state portrayed here shows a blank space where the notations had been.

NOTE: Hover mouse-pointer over magnifying-glass icon adjacent to each cartouche for detail view.

The map is oriented with South at the top as indicated by an elaborate compass rose. On the left (East) is the “Mar del Nort,” with one ship exiting the Eastern end of the Strait and the aforementioned fleet of de Waerdt on the right (west) sailing in the Mar del Zur. Two land masses are portrayed. At the top is “Tierre Del Fuogo.” Except for mountains lining the shore and six named bays along the Strait, Tierra del Fuego is truly a terra incognita. The amorphous island actually fades away as it reaches the border of the map. Behind the title cartouche the island is undefined. “America Pars” defines the map's lower land mass. The Strait snakes between the two, lined with numbers indicating the varying depth of the water.

There are three cartouches. The title of the map is contained in the cartouche in the upper left. To the lower right is the scale of the map. On the lower left is a sea level profile which presumably helped sailors identify the entrance to the Strait. All three cartouches have three dimensional fretworks that are typical of the maps of Ortelius, Mercator and Hondius.

Some of the fauna of the Strait add decoration and information to the map. The title cartouche is flanked by two penguins. Fanciful sea-lions appear over the lower cartouche. Rather than flippers, their hind quarters appear more fish than sea-lion-like. At their neck they sport manes like male lions. Off the west coast of Tierra del Fuego, a sea-monster prowls the waves. Within the Strait is located Penguin Island. Today tourists from the Chilean City of Punta Arenas are drawn to the island, now known as Isla Magdalena, to walk among the burrows.

The map measures 34.7 by 46.1 cms. The copy portrayed was printed in 1613. The text on the reverse side is in Latin.