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Goss, John, Blaeu's The Grand Atlas of the 17th-century World. New York: Rizzoli, in co-operation with the Royal Geographical Society London, 1990. ISBN-0-8478-1300-2. 11x15 inches, 224pp., 100 color plates, cloth. (300 Park Avenue S., New York, NY 10010, $60.00)

A brief history of the Blaeu firm is followed by 100 double-page reproductions of selected maps from the Royal Geographical Society's copy of the atlas.  Each entry is accompanied by a brief description, often providing fascinating historical and cartographical background for that particular map.  Since not all 600 odd maps in the atlas would fit in a volume like this, selection was necessary.  Each region is well represented.  One finds the world map, the polar regions, a selection of European maps including the Saxon Heptarchy map and various British county maps, a good selection of Asian and African maps, and almost all American maps of interest to collectors.  The latter include New England, Virginia, Virginia & Florida, eastern Canada, Bermuda, New Spain, Yucatan, the West Indies, and the Leeward & Windward Isles.  A good selection of South American maps is also present.  For those libraries not able to afford the actual atlas, this will serve as a partial substitute since the reproductions are large and sharp enough for the small placenames to be read.  Because the atlas is in fine original color, the illustrations serve as a standard coloring specimen against which collectors and dealers may compare their copies.  Those who think they know Russian will enjoy trying to read the title of the Moscow plan.  One mystery is what happened to all the Blaeu plates after the fire destroyed his establishment in 1672.  Some are known to have been recovered.  Others have not been traced.  The introduction notes the existence of a composite Homann's Heirs atlas, circa 1735, which has faint impressions of some of Blaeu's Germany plates.  I have occasionally seen on the market what seem to be very worn impressions, sometimes on thin paper, of Blaeu plates.  Perhaps these were printed from plates surviving the fire.  Collectors might want to keep an eye out for such items.  It is hard for me to think who this work might not appeal to.  The price is reasonable, and practically everyone should find some aspect of the book valuable.

David C. Jolly, 1992
 

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