Dissertaties Historische Kartografie / Theses History of Cartography
Collections of Maps and Atlases
Collections of Maps and Atlases in the Netherlands: Their History and Present State
Diss. Utrecht 18 december 1961
Koeman’s dissertation does not have a summary. We present here the review by G.R. Crone from Imago Mundi 16 (1962): 164
The history of book collecting is a subject which has received much attention from scholars. Apart from its interest to bibliographers and those interested in books per se, it has thrown much light on the history of the arts and sciences in general, so that men like Thomas Bodley have an important place among contributors to the advance of knowledge. Until recent times, though there have been ardent collectors since the Renaissance, maps have not received so much attention. This is in part due to their character. As tools of practical men-navigators, travellers, soldiers and merchants-a map ceases to have contemporary interest once it has been superseded by a revised edition or a new map. Where they were collected at all, it was usually on account of their artistic qualities, as in the case of decorative manuscript atlases. It is with the growth of interest in the history of cartography as a branch of science and as an auxilliary in the study of historical geography that old maps have come to be collected in their own right.
Dr. Koeman’s book is a valuable examination of a limited field in the history of cartography, which will be of special interest to those engaged in the study of the Netherlands’ contribution to the mapping of the world. The basis of his book is a survey of 151 major map collections in the Netherlands-public and private-35 smaller collections and a few private collections. He deals with collections of historical material, not map collections in general, a fact which is not clear from his title. On this basis he has also compiled a short list of the atlases published in the Netherlands before 1800 A.D., with references to the location of copies in the Netherlands. The value of these sections to bibliographers and students does not require to be stressed.
In addition, and this will be of more general interest, he gives a most instructive and entertaining history of map collecting in the Netherlands. This may be said to have commenced in earnest in the early 19th century. This was somewhat later than in Britain; Richard Gough had published his “British topography in 1780, and King George III’s collections of maps and charts had been presented to the British Museum. Much of the impetus was provided by the publication of the volumes of facsimiles by Jomard (1842-60) and Santarem (1842-53), and by the contemporary interest in historical studies. But there is little doubt that in the Netherlands much of the growth in interest was due to the adroit tactics of the antiquarian booksellers, and Dr. Koeman gives on the whole a frank account of their activities, particularly of Frederick Muller, who founded his firm in 1843. His services to the history of cartography, in so far as he encouraged the preservation of old maps and their proper appreciation through the publication of detailed catalogues were undoubtedly considerable. It is, however, somewhat disconcerting to learn that he sometimes issued reproductions on old paper, which appear to have been sold as genuine, and also to have been used to make up imperfect copies of atlases. The author elsewhere refers obliquely to the ethics of the business with the statement “to a certain extent, the antiquarian book trade regulates the supply of maps and atlases, and has some ambivalent remarks upon a well-known Dutch student of historical cartography. However, the value of these chapters lies in the histories of the various collections and the information on their contents. Other useful features are the chronological diagrams of the productions of Dutch cartographical pubushers, and the extensive bibliography. Dr. Koeman has the ability to organize a great mass of detail clearly and concisely, and to work in fruitful cooperation with a large circle of contributors, and he has a firm grasp of his subject. This volume is a promising augury for his tenure of the Executive Editorship of “Imago Mundi”, upon which he has recently embarked. All his readers will wish him well.
G. R. Crone