Representing the entire surface of the Earth, the 50 volume Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem is often considered the most beautiful and most remarkable atlas ever composed. Containing more than 2,400 maps, prints, and drawings, it offers a pictorial encyclopedia of seventeenth-century knowledge ranging from geography and topography to warfare and politics.
The lawyer Laurens Van der Hem (1621-1678) of Amsterdam, used the largest and most expensive book published in the seventeenth century, Joan Blaeu’s Atlas Maior, as the base for an even more ambitious collection of maps, charts, townscapes, architectural prints, portraits, etc., most of them luxuriously painted by well-known artists. Among the most impressive of Van der Hem’s additions is the set of four volumes of manuscript maps and topographical drawings that were originally made for the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
Completely preserved and fully intact in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, the Atlas Blaeu-Van der Hem contains a treasure of information whose value is inestimable, not only for the fields of geography and topography, but also in archeology, architecture, sculpture, ethnography, folklore, heraldry, navigation, fortification, and warfare. It also contains portraits of famous persons, technological inventions, public works, and many other aspects of seventeenth-century history and culture.