Ensulae Moluccae celeberrimae sunt ob Maximam…

The most important and influential map to show in detail the fabled Spice Islands as only known to the Portuguese at the time. Drawn and engraved by the leading Dutch mapmaker of the period, Petrus Plancius, who proclaims, in the … Read Full Description


S/N: ASI-1598-LINS–184184
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Full Title:

Ensulae Moluccae celeberrimae sunt ob Maximam…




Small section at top centre and right margin partly reinstated. Minor tears at sheet edge.


Hand coloured copper engraving.

Image Size: 

x 375mm

Frame Size: 

x 675mm
Ensulae Moluccae celeberrimae sunt ob Maximam... - Antique Map from 1594

Genuine antique



The most important and influential map to show in detail the fabled Spice Islands as only known to the Portuguese at the time. Drawn and engraved by the leading Dutch mapmaker of the period, Petrus Plancius, who proclaims, in the ornate title cartouche at top right, that the &#8216Molucca Islands are celebrated for the copious quantities of spices sent from there to all the world&#8217 and lists the individual islands. Along the bottom of the map are depictions of Nuxmyristica (nutmeg), Caryophilorum Arbor (cloves) and Santalum fluvum (sandalwood). The map includes rhumb lines, four ships, numerous sea monsters and a large compass rose with fleur-de-lis indicating (true) north at the bottom centre. Fleeing persecution in 1585 by the Spanish Inquisition in Belgium, Plancius established himself in Amsterdam where he was soon recognised for his expertise in cartography and navigation. The sources for this map were twenty-five or so Portuguese sea charts and related rutters by Bartolomeu Lasso, Cosmographer to the King of Spain, that had been obtained in Lisbon by the Dutch in 1592. The chart was issued separately by Plancius in 1594 and only sold as a loose sheet. In 1595, Jan Huygen van Linschoten published the first detailed account of his travels Reysgeschrift van der Navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten in which he provided the detailed sailing instructions to reach the Spice Islands. The following year, he published the expanded account of his travels, Itinerario, Voyage ofte Schipvaert naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien . Neither of the Dutch editions of these books included the Spice Islands map, although in some rare instances, buyers would add copies of the map to their Itinerario which were bought from the publisher Cornelis Claez. Then in 1598, John Wolfe published the English translation of Linschoten&#8217s work titled John Huighen van Linschoten, His discours of voyages into ye Easte and West Indies: deuided into foure bookes, which included the Spice Islands map engraved by Roger Beckit. Within a year of Linschoten revealing the navigational information to locate the Spice Islands, Frederick de Houtman led the first Dutch expedition to the East Indies. One of the most crucial pieces of advice that Linschoten provided was his recommendation to use the navigational route through the Sunda Strait. This allowed Dutch ships to avoid the traditional route to the Indies through the Straits of Malacca where the Portuguese maintained a heavy presence. This key piece of information opened the flood gates to competing Dutch merchant ships and relatively swiftly led to the demise of Portuguese control over the East Indian spice trade. In the five years succeeding Houtman&#8217s voyage, some sixty heavily-armed Dutch ships made their way to the Spice Islands. Before long, the thirst for the potential wealth that could be gained there led to infighting among Dutch merchants. In order to resolve the situation, the competing companies were amalgamated to form the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which was granted a charter by the States-General in 1602 for a period of twenty-one years, effectively giving it a monopoly of the lucrative trade. The explosive information contained in both Linschoten&#8217s Itinerario and this map directly led to the creation of both the VOC and its future rival, the English East India Company, founded in 1600. Together the companies would dominate the international spice trade for the next 300 years. References: Howgego D131, Linschoten pp.158-227, Perry p.6, ill.6-7, Quirino p.99, Schilder (K) p.14, ill. 1.2 (1617 edition), Suarez (A) p.177, ill. Front cover, fig. 90 pp.174-175.

Petrus Plancius (1552 - 1622)

Plancius was a Flemish minister of the Reformed Church, an astronomer and cartographer. He studied theology in Germany and England. He fled Brussels for Amsterdam because of fear of religious prosecution by the Inquisition after the city fell into Spanish hands in 1585. There he became interested in navigation and cartography and, he was one of the first to appreciate the significance of earlier Portuguese charts and became the expert on the charting of the sea routes to the Indies. He was an advocate of a North East passage. In 1602 he was appointed official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company.

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