World's most luxurious atlas could bring $500,000 at Sotheby's

Manuscript Man

Manuscript Man

2015-11-03 11:55:26

A rare copy of the "most luxurious" atlas ever published could bring almost $500,000 at Sotheby's this month.

Atlas Major was the largest and most expensive book ever published in the 17th century. It was the work of Dutch cartographer Joannes Blaeu, who succeeded his father as the head cartographer of the Dutch East India Company during the golden age of exploration.

The atlas features detailed maps spanning the whole of the known world in the 17th century, with separate volumes covering Europe, America and China.

In total the work contains 594 engraved and hand-coloured maps, plans, and views, and nearly 3,000 pages of text, and runs to between 9 and 12 volumes depending on the language it was printed in.

The first volume appeared in 1662, with subsequent volumes printed up until 1672, when a fire broke out in the workshop and Blaue passed away less than a year later.

Only 300 complete sets are believed to have been produced, by Blaeu's highly-skilled team of printers, artists and binders. The atlases were priced at 450 guilders, the same price as a painting by Rembrandt at that time, and many copies were gifted to Europe’s most influential figures.

The book originates from the private collection of the late Paul Fentener Van Vlissingen, a Dutch entrepreneur and philanthropist renowned for his support of conservation projects around the world.

Described as "one of the true masterpieces of the Dutch Golden Age", the Atlas Major is expected to sell for £240,000-£320,000 ($369,800-$493,000).
The Sotheby's auction of Travel Atlases, Maps and Natural History takes place in London on November 17.

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