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Mapping the commercial potential of the Americas

 Detail of Harris map of the West Indies By the middle of the eighteenth century the British had become well established in the Americas. Their colonies in North America were growing rapidly and their sugar plantations in the West Indies had become enormously profitable. As more and more Englishmen invested in the Americas or saw friends and relatives sail to the new world to make their fortunes, interest in learning more about the Americas grew as well. One of the most comprehensive sources of information was the massive two-volume collection of explorers' accounts edited by John Harris (1667?-1719). The collection was first published in 1705, and then was updated with new maps in this second edition issued in 1744, followed by a third edition in 1760. The maps for this edition were done by one of the leading English mapmakers of the eighteenth century, Emanuel Bowen (d. 1767).  Detail of Lotter map of PA, NJ, NY Bowen's map of the West Indies shows a move away from the Dutch artistic style of mapmaking in favor of a more precise, technical approach. Unlike the earlier Dutch maps, Bowen's contains extensive navigational information, including the directions of prevailing winds and the presence of shoals. Since the map was engraved for the Harris volume, this sailing information was probably intended less for sea captains and more for arm-chair travelers in a maritime-minded country.

English mapmakers were not the only ones producing maps of the North American colonies. Tobias Lotter (1717-1777), one of a new group of talented German mapmakers working in the eighteenth century, produced this map of the northern colonies sometime in the 1750s. The influence of the Dutch mapmakers can be seen in the striking cartouche in the upper left in which a well-dressed European merchant is shown gathering in the riches of the country, brought to him by happy natives. The map would have had a ready audience in Germany because large numbers of Germans were settling in the northern colonies, particularly Pennsylvania, to take advantage of the abundant available land.

 Detail of Baerle map of Brazil When the Dutch West India Company removed Maurice de Nassau (1604-1679) from his post as governor of Brazil, Nassau retaliated by underwriting the production of this magnificent illustrated book on the history of his administration. Nassau commissioned the Dutch scholar Caspar de Baerle (1584-1648) to write the narrative, and the printer and engraver Johannes Blaeu to produce the maps and illustrations. Many of the illustrations were based on paintings done by Frans Post, one of a group of artists and scientists who had been recruited by Nassau to work in  Detail of Baerle map of BrazilBrazil in the expectation that their efforts would attract wider European interest in the colony. This richly detailed map of a portion of the Brazilian coast is one of a series showing the landscape and settlements along the shore. Each of the maps includes an attractive, idealized scene of plantation life. At the bottom are small scenes showing the sea battles by which the Netherlands gained control of Brazil in 1630. These illustrated maps served multiple purposes: to celebrate Dutch overseas triumphs, to reassure Dutch investors of the colony's potential, and to attract new investors and settlers. In fact, the Dutch control of Brazil was short-lived, ending in 1654 when the established Portuguese settlers successfully rebelled against the governor.

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Introduction | Bibliography
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