An exceptionally fine example of Blaeu’s great work on the towns of the Netherlands bound in full red morocco with the coats-of-arms of Thomas Butler, Sixth Earl of Ossory

By BLAEU, Willem and Johannes BLAEU., 1652 

Nouvum ac magnum theatrum urbium Belgicae.

  • Author: BLAEU, Willem and Johannes BLAEU.
  • Publication place: Amsterdam
  • Publisher: Joan Blaeu
  • Publication date: 1652
  • Physical description: Third Latin edition, two volumes, folio (565 by 380mm), engraved title-pages with fine contemporary hand-colour and heightened in gilt, 225 double-page sheets with over 300 maps and views all WITH FINE CONTEMPORARY HAND-COLOUR (minor worming in lower gutter of volume II), bookplate of Emo Park Library’ to upper paste down, ORIGINAL RED MOROCCO, gilt pannelled, corner foliate design, and central coat-of-arms, spine in seven compartments separated by raised bands, gilt.
  • Inventory reference: 15926


Third Latin text edition, and an exceptionally fine wide-margined example with fine contemporary colouring of Blaeu’s great work on the towns of the Netherlands.

Of all the Blaeu atlases, the townbooks of the Netherlands are held in the highest esteem in the Netherlands. This is partly due to the fact that their composition is linked up with the struggle for independence from Spain of the Dutch Republic in the 17th-Century. Bound up, by sentiment, with the most dramatic and heroic period of the shaping of the Dutch State it shows the proud and industrious cities of the North in their full splendour. Before the end of the battle with Spain, Joan Blaeu planned his town books which were to contain ca. 220 maps, evenly distributed over two volumes: the towns of the Republic in Volume I, the towns belonging to Spain in Volume II. In the planning stage of the atlas, some years before 1648, while the text had been printed and also most of the plates, Joan Blaeu could not know how the Peace treaty would turn out. In the last decades of the war, several towns and fortresses in the south had been or were besieged by the army of the Republic and Blaeu had to take a decision as to inclusion of these disputed towns into the two volumes of his atlas. The very first [Latin text] edition of his town atlas reflects the situation during the last years of the war: 26 maps of towns and fortresses are incorporated in the Spanish” volume, but had to be transferred to the Spanish” side. Consequently, apart from the very rare first edition, the volumes I and II are uneven in the number of maps, the first volume being the larger. At the end of the Index of the first edition, printed in 1649 after the Treaty of Westphalia, Joan Blaeu [gives a] notice to the reader” explaining the arrangement of the maps
(Koeman I, p.295).

The Blaeu family firm was founded by Willem Janzoon Blaeu (1571–1638) in 1596. He was eventually joined by his sons, Cornelius (1616–1648) and Joan (1596–1673). The firm became the most productive cartographic establishment in the Netherlands until it was destroyed by fire in 1672. The elder Blaeu initiated the great series of atlases that culminated in the Atlas Maior’, in which Joannes Blaeu incorporated much of the geographical knowledge bequeathed him by his father. 


  1. Van der Krogt 43:113
    • Koeman, C and van der Krogt, Pieter (2000–2010). Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici. MS’t Goy-Houten: HES & De Graaf Publishers. 9 vols.

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