C.J. Zandvliet

he bulk of the maps and drawings of the VOC which are now in the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands originally belonged to the archives of the Heren XVII (board of directors) and the Amsterdam Chamber. Smaller but by no means insignificant sections originally pertained to the other chambers, especially that of Zeeland. The Amsterdam Chamber had the lion's share of VOC operations. The administration of the navigation as well as the knowledge of overseas topography and property were concentrated there. The directors received maps and drawings of places and regions in the octrooigebied (the area under charter to the Company) either from or via Batavia, and sometimes directly from the subordinate establishments themselves. The maps and drawings sent back like this make up the main component of the maps and drawings archives of the VOC. Besides these, many maps were also made in the Dutch Republic itself, especially the charts which were produced in Amsterdam and elsewhere for the outward bound ships.

1. The Making of Maps and Drawings
2. Management of the Archives of Maps and Drawings
3. Management by the National Archives of the Netherlands since 1856
4. Maps and Drawings elsewhere in the Netherlands and in France
5. The Archives of Hulst van Keulen
6. Maps and Drawings in Asia and South Africa
7. Consulting Maps and Drawings in the Netherlands National Archives of the Netherlands

1. The Making of Maps and Drawings

Suppliers of Charts

eliable cartographic information was needed both for the voyage to and trade within Asia when the VOC was established in 1602. By the end of the sixteenth century the Dutch Republic already had access to navigational information from Portuguese sources. This had been made public through the publications of several Dutch travellers and scientists like Dirck Gerritz. Pomp, alias Dirck China, and Jan Huygen van Linschoten. The work of Van Linschoten in particular includes maps and other illustrations, in combination with descriptions of routes and of landfalls. Besides this, Petrus Plancius edited the hand-drawn charts of the Portuguese Bartolomeo de Lasso, wrote several memoranda with navigational directions and instructed stuurlieden (navigation officers) for the voyages on the high seas.

When the VOC ships were fitted out in the Dutch Republic, the stuurlieden (navigation officers) and the captains were supplied with stuurmansgereedschappen (navigational instruments), such as compasses, signal flags, quadrants and charts. Each chamber of the Company had an equipagemeester (master of the equipage) responsible for the fitting out of the ships which were to sail to Asia. Charts were drawn or bought under his direction. As with other equipment pertaining to the equipage, the charts were obtained from a limited number of suppliers. In the harbour cities of the Dutch Republic there were several mapmakers who had specialized in the making of parchment charts. Private shipowners and captains placed orders with them, as did the VOC after 1602. Augustijn Robaert of Amsterdam was a prominent supplier of hand-drawn charts, who included the VOC among his clients(1). Very few of the charts which were used on the VOC ships in the initial years have survived.

Map of Japan; 18th century
(click image to enlarge)

In 1617 there was a change in the way in which cartographic information was procured, when the Heren XVII appointed Hessel Gerritz. as their exclusive mapmaker. It was his task to provide charts for all ships of the VOC which sailed from the Dutch Republic, including those from chambers other than Amsterdam. The appointment of purveyor of charts to the VOC, commissioned and furnished with an instruction, continued until 1795. The mapmakers engaged in this task were respectively:

1617 - 1632 Hessel Gerritz.
1633 - 1705   The Blaeu Family (who were also examinators van de stuurlieden or examiners of the navigating officers)(2)
1705 - 1743   Isaac de Graaff
1743 - 1795   The Van Keulen Family(3)

Throughout the period 1617-1795 the position of the mapmakers had an ambivalent character. Their situation was different to that of most of the other VOC employees. They worked from home and did not receive a salary but were paid on a piece-work basis for the charts they supplied(4). Moreover, the official mapmakers could contract out the drawing of the charts to other, independently established, draftsmen(5). Nor was the VOC the mapmakers' only source of income. With the possible exception of De Graaff, besides producing hand-drawn charts for the VOC, they offered engraved and hand-drawn charts on the open market. This latter factor is the most important difference with the position of, for instance, the shipbuilder and the examinator van de stuurlieden, who, during the eighteenth century, were forbidden to be in receipt of any income other than that from the VOC(6). The position of the VOC mapmaker lay between that of his Spanish and Portuguese colleagues (salaried mapmakers/government officials) and of his English colleagues (independent suppliers)(7).

The VOC undertook to make use of the services of the official mapmaker for more of less fixed prices. In the production and management of the charts the mapmaker was subject to the supervision of the directors or of their deputies. Furthermore, just as other Company employees, he was sworn to secrecy. However, in practice, the mapmaker to the VOC carried out the production and correction of charts fairly independently. The obligation to secrecy was at odds with his production for the free market(8).

In accordance with their conditions of appointment captains and stuurlieden were obliged to use Company charts. It was also their professional duty to make notes and sketches of unknown coasts, reefs and other relevant features(9). Returning captains and stuurlieden handed over the charts they had used and corrected, and the logs they had kept, to the mapmaker so that he could use these to correct maps and seaman's guides. The mapmaker in Amsterdam undertook this work in collaboration with the examinator van de stuurlieden. During the eighteenth century the mapmaker's activities increasingly fell under the supervision of the examinator van de stuurlieden(10).

In order to ensure the durability the charts, the VOC had them drawn on parchment. The way in which they were produced was simple: a model, which was called a legger (templet), was used repeatedly for the making of new charts(11). The coastlines were pricked out at regular intervals with a needle on the model chart. When a new chart was made, the model map was laid on top of a blank sheet of parchment, and the coastlines on the model chart were then strewn from a small bag of soot. The soot which percolated through the holes in the model then yielded a pattern of dots on the blank sheet. Once the model map had been carefully removed from the parchment, the coastlines could be drawn in by joining up the specks of soot. When this had been done, the new map was ready in outline(12).

Although there had been talk of the printing of a seaman's guide about 1665 and of the printing of loose charts in 1684, it was 1753 and about 1775 respectively before this was achieved. At this point it should be mentioned that in a certain sense the seaman's guide the English Pilot Third Book by John Thornton, printed in 1703, can be considered to be a VOC seaman's guide avant-la-lettre. This rutter for the Asian trade, containing thirty-five charts, was compiled with the help of VOC charts(13).

The mapmaker was not only responsible for the production and supervision of charts. On the basis of his geographical expertise, he was probably asked for advice during the fitting out of expeditions. In the course of the eighteenth century, the role of examinator van de stuurlieden grew steadily in the field of supervision and advice.

The Firm of Van Keulen

ohannes van Keulen was appointed mapmaker to the VOC in 1743. The firm was to retain its position as mapmaker until the liquidation of the Company. Even before 1743, the firm of Van Keulen had supplied the VOC with navigational instruments and maps: since 1728 seaman's guides had been regularly purchased there as part of the equipage(14). From the beginning of the eighteenth century the firm of Van Keulen had possessed hand-drawn, large-scale maps of the VOC area from which hand-drawn copies were supplied(15). However, there are no indications that copies were ever produced from these models at the behest of or at the expense of the VOC. It is possible that the VOC captains and stuurlieden undertook this at their own expense.

No business archives of any of the mapmakers from before the Van Keulen era have survived. It is possible that some of the archives of its predecessors were absorbed into Van Keulen archives. When the firm was liquidated in 1885, the archives of the business was auctioned off. Parts of them can be traced (See the websitepages of section 5 about the archives of Hulst van Keulen).


t the request of either the Heren XVII or of the Amsterdam Chamber, and indeed sometimes on their own initiative, the mapmakers in Amsterdam compiled mapbooks or series of maps of the octrooigebied from time to time. These deserve a separate mention because many maps and drawings are now only found as copies in these mapbooks or map series. It can be assumed that this copying was an important factor in the loss of the originals: once they had been copied the information was readily available in a manageable and uniform package. The following are only works which cover the whole of the octrooigebied:

1622 Mapbook of Hessel Gerritsz.
1660-1670   Atlas of Johan Vingboons and Joan Blaeu
ca. 1670   Atlas of Laurens van der Hem(16)
ca. 1695   Mapbook of Isaac de Graaff, known as 'Atlas Amsterdam'(17)
[1703   English Pilot Third Book]
1715-1726   Chart Series Gerard van Keulen(18)
1753   Seaman's Guide Johannes van Keulen and Jan de Marre(19)


The status of the publications mentioned above differs. The works of Gerritsz., De Graaff and Van Keulen were produced on the orders of the VOC. The atlases of Vingboons/Blaeu and Van der Hem/Blaeu admittedly did have some connection with the VOC - in the 1660s there had been some discussion within the VOC about the compilation of a printed seaman's guide - but they stand as it were with one foot in the VOC camp and the other foot in the free market. The series of manuscript charts of Gerard van Keulen have even less connection with the VOC, but probably a record made by a VOC captain or stuurman (navigating officer)served as the model for a number of his maps. Unfortunately the work of Hessel Gerritsz. has been lost. The publication of Van Keulen and the examinator van de stuurlieden, De Marre, was only intended for use on the Company's ships, and was therefore more limited in its scope.

The mapbook of Isaac de Graaff, which was compiled at the end of the seventeenth century, occupies a special place because it offers a great variety of cartographic material: both large and small-scale maps of land areas; charts; and plans and views from throughout the whole of the octrooigebied. The duplicate maps in this work date back to 1602. This so - called Atlas Amsterdam was taken apart in the nineteenth century and dispersed throughout the collection of foreign maps (VEL) in the Netherlands National Archives of the Netherlands. De Graaff's mapbook can be seen as the companion to Pieter van Dam's Beschryvinge van de Oostindische Compagnie (Description of the East India Company). Throughout the whole of the eighteenth century this mapbook was the principal source of cartographic information for the directors.

Supervision of Buildings and Premises in the Dutch Republic

n the Dutch Republic the VOC was the proprietor of premises which included premises such as warehouses, shipyards, office buildings and ropewalks. However, the number of drawings of these in the Netherlands National Archives of the Netherlands is very small. Many drawings have probably succumbed to wear and tear or were thrown away after use. Others have been abstracted from the archives and found their way into private collections. Moreover, the services of the stadsfabriek (municipal architect) were often called upon for the production of the drawings. Therefore the collection policy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is also a reason that what little that has been preserved of the plans and drawings of property in the Dutch Republic is now mainly to be found in municipal archives services or in museums.

After the liquidation of the VOC its premises and buildings passed into the hands of the state. This explains why maps and drawings from after 1799 are available in the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands among the (drawings) archives of various government departments.

Ship Plans and Models

ome parts of the Company's archives have been almost completely lost. This is also true of the archives of ship plans and models from the shipyard. The ship plans were an aid to the development and building of the VOC ships. In 1742, for instance, when a new plan was being developed for a new type of VOC ship, the final decision was taken on the basis of plans and models(20).

There are only a few surviving drawings, which have been dispersed throughout various collections in the Netherlands. The loss and dispersion can be explained by the changes in types of ship and the shift to private trade after 1795. These made the plans and models of VOC ships obsolete: either they ended up in the rubbish bin or, by happy chance, in a museum. For research into shipbuilding, apart from material sources and a few plans, the investigator is mainly dependent on the written archives.

The Smaller Chambers

t the beginning of the seventeenth century, the VOC chambers, other than Amsterdam, purchased charts from various suppliers(21). Augustijn Robaert, who had established himself in Amsterdam, succeeded in attracting an important share in the supply of charts both to the Amsterdam Chamber and to the other chambers as well(22). The appointment of Hessel Gerritsz. introduced structural changes. In principle, all ships were supposed to use only those charts which had been supplied by the mapmaker to the Amsterdam Chamber. This stipulation was reiterated in the course of the years(23).

Nonetheless, several chambers continued to procure charts from local suppliers. In 1669 it was reported in the Haags Besogne (preparatory committee of the Heren XVII in August) that the Hoorn Chamber and the Zeeland Chamber commissioned their charts locally(24). Although it was pointed out in 1669 that the production of charts was the prerogative of the mapmaker in Amsterdam, the Zeeland Chamber continued to take their business to the local mapmakers Joost van Breen and Arent Roggeveen. Eventually, people grew resigned to the situation. In 1684 when a discussion blew up about the quality of the charts, the Zeeland Chamber were not even reminded that they were expected to make use of the services of the Amsterdam mapmaker(25). Even during the eighteenth century it was still their practice to call upon local mapmakers(26).

Batavia and the Subordinate Establishments

t one time or another, many of the maps now in the National Archives of the Netherlands in the Netherlands were forwarded to the Dutch Republic from establishments in Asia. One of the reasons that the The Hague collection is so important is that so many of the maps and drawings of the local administrations in the establishment archives themselves have disappeared.

The mines at Sillida in the mountains of south west Sumatra;
late17th, early 18th century
(click image to enlarge)

The Governor-General and Council in Batavia were the information repository for the subordinate establishments. Part of this information consisted of maps and drawings. In the subordinate establishments there were either permanent (for example, the Cape of Good Hope and Ceylon) or temporary military engineers, fabrieken (architects), surveyors and mapmakers, who were employed in the administration of land, the building of roads and waterways, architecture and fortifications.

The following remarks concern the organization and administration in Batavia. In part, they are also relevant to the subordinate establishments.

Initially, the territory of the VOC in Java was extremely restricted; it was virtually limited to the city of Batavia. Under such circumstances it was sufficient to employ an engineer who worked both as surveyor and architect, in the latter function both on civil works (usually called fabriek) and on fortifications (usually called ingenieur). In 1627 a surveyor and a rooimeester (clerk of works) were appointed under the authority of the aldermen of Batavia. The clerk of works carried out checks to see that the building regulations were observed in the city. One of the consequences of the expansion of the urban area in 1664 was that a college van heemraden (drainage board) was appointed (comparable to a polder board in the Dutch Republic), which was responsible for the management of land outside the city, including supervision of boundaries. When this board was reorganized in 1679-1680, it was decided to make a cadastral map(27). The board was given permission to appoint surveyors for this task.

Therefore, in the late seventeenth and during the eighteenth century, surveyors worked under the authority of both the aldermen and the college van heemraden. As far as registration is concerned, the divided administration of the real estate inside and outside the city was brought to an end in 1778, the year in which the landmeterscomptoir (surveyor's office) was made responsible for the supervision and updating of all maps.

The stadslandmeter (municipal surveyor), who fell under the jurisdiction of the aldermen, was under the direct authority of the fabriek. The fabriek was in charge of the ambachtquartier (craftsmen's quarter). He was responsible for the supervision of the Company buildings and their contents; in principle with the exception of goods to do with the fleet, which were in the charge of the equipagemeester. Many surveyors made their careers by rising to the rank of fabriek. The fabriek was also involved in the supervision, design and building of military engineering works.

From the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards there are references to military engineers in the service of the VOC in the East. They were mainly employed for siegeworks and the building of new forts. However, in the seventeenth century, their presence was less permanent than that of the surveyors and fabrieken . The latter were then still mainly responsible for the maintenance and supervision of forts and buildings. As the need arose gunners, or an engineer who was attached to the artillery, served with the fabriek as architects for military engineering works(28).

This situation changed in 1717 when the Heren XVII sent a director of fortifications and two assistant engineers to Asia. This was, however, a temporary measure. It was only in the second half of the eighteenth century that the position of the fabriek was gradually undermined. As was also the case in the Dutch Republic, the architects and surveyors were either partially elbowed out or replaced entirely by military engineers. In 1793 this trend was confirmed in Batavia by the appointment of a military engineer to the post of director of fortifications, buildings and waterworks. A director of fortifications and artillery had already been appointed in the Cape of Good Hope in 1778. The new director in Batavia was put in charge of the management of the entire archives of maps and drawings. All the engineers and surveyors employed by the Company in the East were under his authority.

Not only maps of land areas were produced in Batavia but charts as well. Although it was the task of the mapmaker in Amsterdam to provide all ships with charts, the necessity for having a mapmaker in Batavia for the shipping in Asian waters made itself felt. In contrast to the situation in Amsterdam, right from the outset the mapmaking in Batavia was completely under the authority of the VOC; the mapmakers worked exclusively for the Company. There was a chart office in the shipyard in Batavia. The baaskaartenmaker (master mapmaker) worked there under the aegis of the equipagemeester. Besides producing maps, just as his Amsterdam colleague the mapmaker was involved in the compilation and the keeping up to date of the seaman's guides, in consultation with the equipagemeester and his assistants (ex-captains or retired stuurlieden).

Until about half way through the eighteenth century, an ever-growing number of assistants worked under the master mapmaker. They copied leggerkaarten (model maps) which had been improved and corrected on the basis of information supplied by captains and stuurlieden.. We should not hold too exaggerated an opinion of these cartographers. The production of a map, at least as far as the assistants were concerned, demanded nothing more than tracing and copying.

After the practice of the engraving of charts instead of drawing them by hand increased, the Hydrografisch Bureau (Office of Hydrography) in Batavia declined in importance and it was decided to streamline it. Just as it had once been the fate of the fabriek, now it was the turn of the traditional master mapmaker to be displaced, in his case by a naval officer. The order issued to the examinator van de stuurlieden and instructor, P.H. Ohdem, in 1753, to supervise the master mapmaker and the quality of the charts, is the first sign of a change in attitude to the mapmakers' office(29). The importance of the office in Batavia was diminished even more a few decades later as the result of the hydrographic activities of the naval school in Semarang (1782-1812). After 1782 all hydrographic mapping in Asia was carried out by teachers and pupils of the naval school.

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