Asia accuratissime descripta ex omnibus, quae hactenus extiterunt, imprimis viri ampliss

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Asia accuratissime descripta ex omnibus, quae hactenus extiterunt, imprimis viri ampliss




The map Asia accuratissime descripta ex omnibus, quae hactenus extiterunt, imprimis viri ampliss was created by cartographers Peter Schenk and Nicolaas Witsen, in approximately 1700. Made in the Netherlands, this map depicts a detailed image of Asia. All oceans, bays, rivers, lakes, countries, provinces, and some cities are labeled in Latin. Thicker black print lines stand in for country borders, and are additionally painted over with either yellow or pink watercolour paint. The bottom right corner of the map contains an illustration. In the centre of the image, there is a solid table with the title of the map, and Nicolaas Witsen’s name. On top of it are exotic looking fruits, to the left are unidentifiable animals, and to the right are two fighting men, and servants directing a camel that is carrying an elaborately dressed man holding an umbrella. This image contrasts typical images of Europeans, who are dressed formally and partaking in “civilized” activities such as trading. The border of the map has latitude and longitude markings in increments of ten. Given the historical context, this map played a role in Dutch exploration, thus contributing to the increasing ideology of Dutch superiority and supporting Dutch capitalism.


Peter Schenk I (1660-1718/19) ; Witsen, Nicolaas, 1641-1717


Schenk ex: Amst. cum Privil.


approximately 1700


Alexandra Marcaccio


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


Full-sized digital item can be found in McMaster's Digital Archive at:


Colour map on paper. The physical map is 49 x 59 cm, but it is on a paper that is 52 x 63 cm. Outlines hand coloured









Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Printed map on paper

Physical Dimensions

The physical map is 49 x 59 cm, but it is on a paper that is 52 x 63 cm.

Contributor's Research

The details of the map "Asia accuratissime descripta ex omnibus, quae hactenus extiterunt, imprimis viri ampliss" are indicative of a map used to navigate trade routes. On the map, the entire continent of Asia is supposed to be represented. Particular attention is paid to the various bays and their names, rivers and their names, and the border division of each country and territory. However, based on the sociopolitical context of the time, the publishing company this map came from, and its assumed cartographer, the map might actually not be meant for navigational purposes, but instead may have functioned as house decoration. Either way, this map ultimately reflects the growing capitalist ideology emerging in the Netherlands at the time. As such, it still plays a role in fuelling Dutch interest in trade and exploration.
This map was created around approximately 1700, the end of the Dutch Golden Age of Cartography. Spanning from the middle of the 16th century to the end of the 17th century, the Golden Age was a time in which the Netherlands dominated international sales of maps (Dutch Golden Age). During this time, especially during the late 1600s, maps began increasing in popularity. They became a sign of intelligence and political awareness, and as such, people would purchase maps to hang in their home like works of art to demonstrate their intelligence (Sutton 24). This method of implied intelligence was particularly popular due to the relatively cheap cost of maps at the time because of the printing press (Sutton 24). Given that this repurposing of maps occurred shortly before this particular map was created, it is likely that it is a part of this trend. As such, this map could likely have been made for this purpose.
While this map has the cartographer Nicolaas Witsen’s name written in the bottom corner, it is also believed that Peter Schenk worked on this map (""Asia accuratissime""). Schenk’s family owned a publishing firm in Amsterdam, and he worked there as both an engraver and an art seller and bookseller (“Peter Schenk”). Even after apprenticing Gerard Valk, who was an engraver and cartographer, Schenk still specialized in portrait work (""Peter Schenk""). It was not until he and Valk purchased Johannes Janssonius’ copperplates for Atlas Novus that he worked in cartography (“Peter Schenk”). Given his background in art, Schenk would have worked with individuals looking for works to put in their homes. Moreover, his transition to cartography occurred at a time where maps were being used for similar purposes as hanging art in homes. As an engraver and as someone who worked for a publishing company, Schenk worked with printing, the same medium that contributed to the increasing popularity of having maps as artwork in the home (Sutton 24). Therefore, it is possible that his maps served the same purpose.
Even if this maps was not intended for this purpose, it still drives a growing hegemonic narrative of Dutch superiority, a narrative that was used to legitimize Dutch exploration and trade. Contextually, this time period saw a growth in the power of merchant capitalists both economically and politically. These capitalists both undertook civic improvement projects and held positions in government, giving them excessive amounts of power (Sutton 22). These individuals wanted to spark interest in overseas trade, for which they needed support from the greater population. However, the Netherlands was not united, and Dutch identity was fragmented (Sutton 26). Maps were therefore used as a uniting force. They depicted the Netherlands as a dignified region through their detailed and accurate depictions of the land, and also through their illustrations of people often added. Portraits of trade were frequently added to maps, and presented the Dutch as a dignified group signalled particularly by their dress (Sutton 52). These techniques were used to justify trade and exploration. However, the merchants who wanted to lead these missions were often seen as untrustworthy and not virtuous, meaning that while trade may have been supported, people did not want these merchants to lead it. To rectify this issue, merchants tried to present themselves as virtuous individuals, which they did through maps (Sutton 47). By purchasing maps, merchants demonstrated their virtue. Doing so showed support for local economy, a means of improving the liberal society. If Schenk’s map were used for exploration, it would stand as a symbol of success for this process, as it would mark a need for exploration maps. If it were used as artwork, it would reflect this mission of the merchant capitalists. In both scenarios, the map is still a part of Dutch capitalism, making it a symbol of Dutch superiority.
Based on the trends in map usage, and based on the background of the cartographer, this map of Asia was likely used as decoration in homes, to demonstrate the homeowner’s intellect. That being said, even if it was used as a navigational tool, the map is still reflective of the emerging desire for the Netherlands to become an international force with respect to overseas trade and exploration. Maps became a means of influencing ideology, and shaping societal perspectives regarding the emerging merchant capitalists. Despite the relative objective appearance of the map, its context proves that it is still a hegemonic tool.

Works Cited

“Asia accuratissime descripta ex omnibus, quae hactenus extiterunt, imprimis
viri ampliss.” Digital Map Archive @ McMaster University. McMaster University. 2013. Web. January 30 2016.

“The Dutch Golden Age of Cartography.” Universitat Passau. 22 Feb 2016. Web. 22 Feb 2016.

“Peter Schenk.” Tooley’s Dictionary of Mapmakers. Revised Ed. 2004. Print.

Sutton, Elizabeth. Capitalism and Cartography in the Dutch Golden Age. University of Chicago Press, 2015. EBook."


Peter Schenk I (1660-1718/19) ; Witsen, Nicolaas, 1641-1717, “Asia accuratissime descripta ex omnibus, quae hactenus extiterunt, imprimis viri ampliss,” Omeka Testbed, accessed September 26, 2017,