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Old Master Info



Old Masters were European artists working before 1800. Their work was characterized by high technical skill and a certain sense of distinctive and sometimes haunting beauty which has kept the artwork popular through the centuries.  Old Masters usually had a group of artisans or helpers that trained under the master artist or engraver. The following are some of the most well known "Old Masters":

Aa, Pieter van der (1659-1733)

Pieter van der Aa was born in Leyden and was apprenticed to a bookseller at the age of nine. He started on his own in business as a book publisher at the age of twenty three and was a very successful merchant. During the following fifty years he published an enormous amount of material with many of his atlases produced from outdated plates acquired from the older cartographers. His maps are collected predominately because of their decorative qualities.

Amman, Jost (1539-1591)

Jost Amman became a printmaker. In 1561 Amman settled in Nuremberg, where he worked with Virgil Solis. After Solis's death in 1562 Amman began a lifelong partnership with Solis's publisher. During this period, he illustrated up to fifty books, including biblical and merchant scenes.  He executed many of the woodcut illustrations for the Bible published by S. Feierabend at Frankfurt. Amman's drawing is detailed and correct.

Bartalozzi, Francesco (1728-1815
Francesco Bartalozzi was an Italian engraver who settled in England with the position of official engraver to George III. In 1768 he was a founder member of the Royal Academy. Bartalozzi was celebrated for prints after the Old Masters. He also engraved the works of many leading contemporary painters, such as Copley and Reynolds. In 1802 he moved to Lisbon to become director of the Academy.  

Bellin, Jacques-Nicolas (1703-1772)
Jacques Bellin was born in Paris. He joined the navy and learned to make sea charts. He was appointed 'Hydrographer to the King' and was a member of the Royal Society in London. Bellin produced a very large number of sea charts of the highest quality which appeared in many publications. He also prepared all the charts that are in Abbe Prevost's ‘Histoire Generale des Voyages’.  Jacques Nicolas Bellin was one of the greatest and most important French cartographers of the mid-18th century.

Besler, Basilius  (1561-1629)
Basilius Besler was a pharmacist in Nuremberg and is best known for compiling the book  known as the 'Hortus Eystettensis'. This is a codex or florilegium ('a gathering of flowers') of all the plants grown in the botanical garden developed by the Prince Bishop of Eichstatt in Bavaria. The famous plant atlas "Hortus Eystettensis", was published in 1613 by Basilius

Blaeu, Family  - Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) founded his business in Amsterdam in 1599. He was originally a globe and instrument maker but he later expanded business with publishing maps, topographical works and books of sea charts. He bought several  plates of the Mercator Atlas from Jodocus Hondius II which he used to complete his ‘Atlantis Appendix’ . He was appointed Hydrographer to the East India Company. After his death his sons, Joan (1596-1673) and Cornelis continued their father's business

Bonne, Rigober (1727 – 1795)  
Rigobert Bonne was a French hydrographer and cartographer during the late 18th century. Bonne’s major work was the 'Atlas Maritime, first published in 1762. In 1773 Bonne succeeded Jacques Nicolas Bellin as Royal Cartographer of the French Hydrological Office. Bonne’s work represents an important step in the evolution of the cartographic ideology away from the decorative work of the 17th and early 18th century towards a more detail oriented and practical aesthetic. The work of Bonne is highly regarded for its detail, historical importancel. His large output of charts, some of which appeared in the 'Atlas Maritime', bear considerable mention

de Bruijn, Cornelis (1652 - 1727)
Cornelis de Bruyn (de Bruijn or Corneille Le Brun) was a Dutch portrait painter. He painted for some years in Italy. De Bruyn is remembered chiefly for his travels in Egypt, Persia , India and other countries. He published illustrated books with his observations of people, buildings, plants and animals. In 1701 he left for Russia and returned in 1708 to publish an account of his adventures in ‘Reizen over Moskovie, door Persie en Indie’ (‘Travels into Moscovy , Persia , and the East Indies ’).

Commelin, Isaac (1598-1676)
Commelin was a Dutch historian and publisher. He published a large two volume collection of early travel-accounts, known as ‘Begin ende voortgangh van de Vereenighde Nederlantsche Geoctroyeerde Oost-Indische Compagnie’ as well as other basic work about discoveries, travels, geography, astronomy and cosmography.

Curtis, William  (1746-1799)
William Curtis, a botanical writer, was born in Alton, Hampshire. At the age of twenty he came to London. He established his own London Botanic Garden at Lambeth in 1779, moving to Brompton in 1789. The publications he prepared effectively reached a wider audience than early works on the subject had intended. In 1777 appeared the first number of his ‘Flora Londinensis’, which was completed in six volumes of seventy-two plates each (1777–1798). The work was followed by the ‘Botanical Magazine’ in monthly numbers.

Dapper, Olfert ( 1635 – 1689)
There is very little known about Olfert Dapper, even though he published nearly a dozen books. He was a writer, physician and expert on Africa. Dapper was born in a working-class district of Amsterdam, in around 1635. In 1663, he published a historical description of Amsterdam , followed by a Dutch translation of the works of Herodotus in 1665. His books became well-known in his own time. Dapper became the first person to adopt an interdisciplinary approach, weaving together the separate threads of geography, economics, politics, medicine, social life and customs.

Doppelmayr, Johan Gabriel (1671-1750)
Johan Gabriel Doppelmayr ( Doppelmayer or Doppelmair )was a German mathematician, astronomer and cartographer. He  published several works of a scientific nature. His publications covered topics on mathematics and astronomy, including sundials, spherical trigonometry and celestial maps. Johan became a member of several scientific societies, most notably the Berlin Academy , the Royal Society in 1733, and the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.

Fer, Nicholas de (1646-1720)
Nicholas De Fer took over the business of his father Antoine De Fer, a French cartographer, geographer, engraver and publisher, and produced over 600 maps. His maps were prized for their decorative qualities rather than the accuracy of their geography. He was appointed to be a Geographer to the King.  Among his works are also several atlases including 'France Triomphante' in 1693, 'Forces de L’Europe' in 1696, 'Atlas Curieux' in 1705 and 'Atlas Royal'.

Guicciardini, Lodovico  (1521-1589)
Guicciardini was an Italian merchant and historian born in Florence. In 1541 Lodovico arrived  in Antwerp to work with his uncle. Lodovico Guicciardini became most famous because of his writings about the Netherlands and Belgium in his book: 'Descrittione di tutti i Paesi Bassi, altrimenti detti Germania inferiore' (description of the Low Countries'), published in Italian language from 1567. His books were beautifully illustrated with maps of regions, towns and cities of the Low countries. He wrote a few more works and landed in jail because of political matters and stayed until his death in Antwerp.

Hooghe, Romeyn de (1645 - 1708)
For several Dutch provinces, Hooghe created interior architectural paintings and other works. De Hooghe documented the news of his time and in addition he illustrated hundreds of scientific, political and religious books. He etched allegories and mythological scenes, portraits, caricatures, political satires, historical subjects, landscapes, topographical views (especially of Dutch cities), battle scenes, genre scenes, title pages, and book illustrations. Romeyn de Hooghe was the most significant and prolific Dutch engraver in the second half of the seventeenth century. In his prints he often combined contemporary personalities with allegorical figures

Homann, Johann Baptist (1663-1724)
Johann Baptist Homann was a German cartographer who set up his own publishing company in 1702. It was the most successful map publishing company of the 18th century. In 1715, Homann was appointed to be Imperial Geographer of the Holy Roman Empire . In 1716 Homann published his masterpiece 'Grosser Atlas ueber die ganze Welt' (Grand Atlas of all the World). John Baptist Homann died in 1724 (Nuremberg) and his company was taken over by his son Johann Christoph Homann He continued printing the maps of his father but soon started to publish under his own name. after he died the compny continued under the name 'Homännische Erben / Homanni Heredes' (Homann Heirs)                                      

Hondius Family
Jodocus Hondius (the elder) was born in Flanders and was engraver as well as cartographer. In 1584 he fled to London where he engraved maps for ‘The Mariner's Mirror' (in Dutch:Spiegel der Zeevaerdt).  After some years he settled in Amsterdam . In 1604 he purchased the plates of Gerard Mercator's Atlas from Mercator's grandson. Hondius re-published Mercator's work with 36 additional maps, including several produced by himself and gave Mercator full credit as the author. This atlas has become known as the Mercator/Hondius series. A pocket atlas (‘Atlas Minor’) followed (re-engraved). After the death of Jodocus Hondius the Elder in 1612 the work was carried on by his widow and sons. (Jodocus II and Henricus). Later there was a partnership with Jan Janson and after 1633 his name was on the atlases

Isle, Guillaume de l'(1675-1726)
Guillaume de L’Isle ( or Delisle ) was a French cartographer who adopted entirely new principals in cartography. Delisle recognized that the new methods of measuring by scale and of marking places were very valuable for cartography. Guillaume Delisle's first works were his World map and his map of of the Continents, both published in 1700. Delisle is called the founder of modern cartography. His maps of the newly explored parts of the world were very accurate. His maps were re-published long after his death in 1726. Business was continued by his nephew Philippe Buache.

Jonston, Joannis  (1603-1675)
Joannis Jonston was from Scottish origin but born in Poland . He travelled a lot in Germany, Scotland , England and Holland. After visiting the universities of France and Italy he returned home in 1636 and settled in Leszno. In 1642 his 'Idea universae medicinae practicae' was published.  Theatrum universale historiae naturalis was published in 1650-1653 with plates after his drawings engraved by Mattias Merian depicting the entire range of animal species.

Kaerius, Petrus or van der Keere, Pieter c. 1571- 1646 
Pieter van den Keere  (Petrus Kaerius) was born in c. 1570 in Gent as the son of a printer. He moved to England and worked in London as an engraver. In 1596, Van den Keere returned to Holland and he married the sister of Petrus Bertius in 1599. He  engraved a large number of individual maps in order of several cartographers. He settled in Amsterdam in 1609, where he started publishing in addition to his activities as an engraver. In 1617 he published the atlas of the Netherlands 'Germania inferior'

Mercator, Gerard  1512-1594
Mercator (Gheert Cremer or Gerard de Cremere) was a cartographer, instrument and globe maker born in Flanders. Despite his fame as a cartographer, Mercator's main source of income came through his craft man ship of mathematical instruments. He worked with Gemma Frisius and Caspar Myrica from 1535 to 1536 to construct a terrestrial globe. He drew his first map in the age of 25.  After producing several maps he was appointed Court Cosmographer to the Duke Wilhelm of Jülich-Cleves-Berg  in 1564. He constructed a new chart and first used it in 1569. It had parallel lines of longitude to aid navigation by sea, as compass courses could be marked as straight lines. He produced his own atlas in a number of parts, the first of which was published in 1578. After a second complete edition in 1602, the map plates were bought in 1604 by Jodocus Hondius who, with his sons Jodocus II and Henricus, published enlarged editions. 

Merian, Matthaus (1593-1650)
Merian learned the art of copperplate engraving in Zürich. He next worked and studied in Strasbourg, Nancy, and Paris, before returning to Basel in 1615. The following year he moved to Frankfurt, Germany where he worked for the publisher Johann Theodor de Bry, who was the son of renowned engraver and traveler Theodor de Bry. In 1623 Merian took over the publishing house of his father-in-law (de Bry) and worked as an  independent publisher in Frankfurt. His most well known work was a series of ‘Topographia Germaniae’( 21-volume set) After his death his sons Matthaus and Caspar took over the publishing house

Niebuhr, Carsten (1733-1815)
Carsten Niebuhr, as a German traveler and surveyor was invited in 1760 as engineer-lieutenant to join the expedition being sent out by Frederick V of Denmark for the scientific exploration of Egypt , Syria and Arabia, the first of its kind. As the only survivor of the team Niebuhr remained in India until the autumn of 1764, before sailing from Bombay to Muscat, and then to Bushire. From there he continued overland through Shiraz, Persepolis, Babylon, Baghdad , Mosul and Aleppo. He returned to Copenhagen in 1767 and his maps remained in use for over a hundred years. He wrote 'Description of Arabia' in 1772 and 'Travels Through Arabia' (1774).  

Ortelius, Abraham (1528-1598)
Abraham Ortelius was born in Antwerp and after studying Greek, Latin and mathematics he set up business with his sister as a book dealer and engraver. He traveled extensively in Europe. A turning-point in his career was reached in 1564 with the publication of a World Map in eight sheets. He issued in 1570 the atlas ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum' (Atlas of the Whole World).  Most of the maps were reproductions (a list of 87 authors is given in the first 'Theatrum' by Ortelius himself). The 'Theatrum' was an instant success. Three Latin editions of this atlas appeared before the end of 1572; twenty-five editions came out before his death.  In 1573 Ortelius published seventeen supplementary maps under the title 'Additamentum Theatri Orbis Terrarum'.

Picart, Bernard (1673-1733)
Bernard Picart was born in Paris in 1673, the son of an engraver. After spending a couple of years in Antwer p, Picart returned to Paris in 1698. For the next three years Picart was in Antwerp, The Hague and Amsterdam. Picart was a skilled engraver whose oeuvre mainly was in the field of book illustration. His most famous works are 'Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde', appearing from 1723 to 1743 and 'Le Temple des Muses' by Zacharie Chatalain, 1733.

Scherer, Heinrich (1628-1704)
Heinrich Scherer was a Professor of Mathematics and a devout Jesuit. His ‘Atlas Novus’ first published in Munich between 1702 and 1710, formed an unusual, almost revolutionary work in terms of the development of European mapmaking at the beginning of the eighteenth century as it comprised seven separate volumes organized according to themes. Scherer also introduced the revolutionary concept for the period of showing mountains and forests in physical relief with all major waterways and river systems clearly indicated.

Stoopendaal, Bastiaan (1637-1693)
Bastiaan Stoopendaal made maps for the so-called Keur Bibles and worked mostly in the circle of Nicolaes Visscher. He also made a lot of famous houses and places of the Netherlands. His son Daniel was born in 1672 and was active at Amsterdam from 1685 to 1713 as an illustrator and engraver. Daniel made maps for the so-called Keur Bibles. He died in 1726.

Tirion, Isaak (1705-1765)
Isaak Tirion was a Dutch engraver, printer, publisher and book seller in Amsterdam . He was very successful and produced extensive volumes of Dutch town plans as well as a number of atlases usually based on the work of Guillaume Delisle. Among them were ‘Nieuwe en Beknopte Hand-Atlas’ and  the large work ‘Hedendaagsche historie of Tegenwoordige staat van alle volkeren’ 

Vaugondy, Family
Gilles Robert de Vaugondy ( 1688-1766), also known as Le Sieur or Monsieur Robert and Didier Robert de Vaugondy (1723-1786), were leading geographers in Paris in the 18th century. Gilles and Didier Robert De Vaugondy produced their maps and terrestrial globes working together as father and son. The Vaugondy’s were descended from the Nicolas Sanson d'Abbeville family through Sanson's grandson. The Vaugondy’s inherited much of Sanson's cartographic material which they revised. Both served as royal geographers of France . The Vaugondy's credited their sources, which has greatly benefited the study of the history of cartography during that period.

Visscher, Family
Claes J.Visscher 1587-1652
Nicolas Visscher I 1618-79
Nicolas Visscher II 1649-1702
Elizabeth Visscher d.1726
For nearly a century the members of the Visscher family were important art dealers and map publishers in Amsterdam . Founded by C. J.Visscher (1587-1652), the business was continued by his son N. Visscher ( 1618-1679), cartographer and publisher of Amsterdam and grandson Nicolas Visscher the Younger (1649 - 1702). Both of hem issued a considerable number of atlases. The firm was continued after Nicolas II’s death by his widow Elizabeth Visscher, who issued an Atlas Minor, Atlas Major and 'De Stoel des oorlogs'. In 1717 most of the plates passed into the hands of Petrus Schenk.   

Wierix or Wierx Brothers
The three Wierix brothers were among the most prolific of the numerous engravers active in Antwerp in the second half of the sixteenth and in the early seventeenth centuries. Johannes (c. 1549-c. 1618), Antonius II (c. 1555/59-1604) and their youngest brother Hieronymus (1553-1619)  where real talents in engraving Hieromymus and his brother Johannes started with unbelievable accurate copperplates engravings after Dürer. The 3 of them produced many works and it is not always clear who made what when it is about not signed pieces. Hieronymous Wierix is best known for his engravings of devotional subjects, allegories and portraits of saints and church fathers and belong to the finest of their time. A great number of prints were published by the firm of Plantin in Antwerp . In 1593 'Evangelicae Historiae Imagines' (Illustatrations of Gospel Stories) was published with illustrations of the Wierx brothers, Maarten de Vos a.o. In 1594 and 1595it was published again in larger volumes, entitled Adnotationes et Meditationes in Evangelia

Zannoni, Rizzi  (1736-1814)

Giovanni Antonio Bartolomeo Rizzi Zannoni was one of the leading cartographers of the late 18th century. He also was an astronomer, surveyor and mathematician. He worked in Venice and was also engaged by the governments of Austria and France to produce maps. He was a member of the Cosmographic Society of Göttingen in Germany . Rizzi Zannoni is known for his world atlas which was published in 1762 as 'Atlas Moderne' by Lattré. He published his ‘Atlante Marittimo delle due Sicile’ in 1793