Jodocus Hondius the Elder's 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.

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 cm. The
copy portrayed was printed in 1613. The
text on the reverse side is in Latin.