Littora Brasiliae: Pascaert van Brasil

Dublin Core


Littora Brasiliae: Pascaert van Brasil




The Littora Brasiliae: Pascaert van Brasil is a sea chart printed by Dutch cartographers Reinier and Josua Ottens. The map was most likely first published in 1675 (the original cartographer did not date his work), and the Ottens then acquired the printing plates to publish this map in Atlas de la Navigation in 1745 in the Netherlands. The map features the eastern part of Brazil and is oriented so east is at the top. There is a decorative cartouche at the bottom of the map, taking up a significant portion of Brazil's landmass. The colourful cartouche includes animals native to Brazil, as well as depictions of native Brazilians. The coast of Brazil is heavily labeled, though nothing inland is titled. The Atlantic Ocean, labelled as "Mar de Nort", shows five ships sailing, and the entire map in covered in rhumb lines, evidencing that the map would have been used by sailors.


R. & J. Ottens


R. & I. Ottens




Maddie Baker


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


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


Printed map 49 x 56 cm, on sheet 55 x 63 cm


Dutch, Latin






South America--Brazil

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Printed map

Physical Dimensions

49 x 56 cm, on sheet 55 x 63 cm

Contributor's Research

The Littora Brasilae: Pascaert van Brasil is a map by Dutch cartographers Renier and Josua Ottens. It was originally published by Frederik de Wit, another Dutch map maker (McMaster Digital Archive, 2016). During the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Ottens and de Wit were active, many other Dutchmen were in the map making business. This leads to questioning why the Dutch were so interested in cartography in that period.
The Ottens were a Dutch family, known for composite atlases, which were volumes of work composed of already-published maps. Joachim Ottens, who lived from 1663 to 1719, was the patriarch and founder of the company (Tooley, 1999). He was a copper engraver and created and sold maps. Joachim had two children, Reinier I (1698-1750) and Josua (1704-1765) (ibid). When Joachim died, Reinier I and Josua took over the business. The Littora Brasisilae would have been one of the maps they printed while they worked together. After Reinier I's death, Josua continued the family business on his own, and when he himself died, his wife and son, Johanna and Reinier II, maintained the company (ibid).
Frederik de Wit was a much more prolific Dutch map maker in the 1600s, who lived from 1629 to 1706 (van Eeghen, 1990). He opened up a shop in Amsterdam in 1648, which became known as The White Chart and gained global recognition. He published atlases with up to 100 maps in them, and throughout his career he issued at least 158 land maps and 43 sea charts (Carhart, 2011). After his death, most of his plates were sold to Dutch cartographer Pieter Mortier. After Mortier's death in 1711, the plates were bought by print seller Luis Renard, who then finally sold them to the Ottens in 1715 (van der Krogt, 1985).
In the grand scheme of Dutch cartography, the Ottens are not that significant: they do not even appear on the Wikipedia page of List of Cartographers. So perhaps, the Ottens did not produce any major significant works; their map making skills paled in comparison to their contemporaries; they committed a major faux pas that caused their existence to be struck from the history books; or there is simply nothing notable about them. The Ottens worked slightly after the Dutch Golden Age of Cartography, and many of the more notable cartographers, like de Wit or Joan Blaeu, did significant work during the 17th century that is more noteworthy.
There was economic reasoning behind the large map making business during this time period. In 1568, the Netherlands revolted against their Spanish rule, and an independent republic was created in the northern part of the present-day country (Boxer, 1954). In 1585 Antwerp, located about 150 km south of Amsterdam, was reclaimed by the Spanish, so many traders and scientists fled to Amsterdam (Rijkeboer, 2011). Throughout the 17th century, the Netherlands experienced a period of economic, scientific, and artistic success. This period is referred to as the Dutch Golden Age (de Jong, 2011). One notable company founded at the beginning of the Golden Age was the Dutch East India Company. Established in 1602, it became the largest trading enterprise in the world, dealing with trade between Europe and Asia (Rijkeboer, 2011).
The success of the Dutch East Indian Company inspired the creation of the Dutch West Indian Company. Not only did the West Indian Company have a monopoly on all trading from the Tropic of Cancer to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, but also a monopoly on trade from Newfoundland to the Strait of Magellan in the Americas (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2012). The creation of this company in 1621 also gave the Netherlands a chance to compete with Spain and Portugal, with whom they had been at war. The Dutch West Indian Company allowed the Dutch to take over colonial territories of the Spanish and the Portuguese in South America (Boxer, 1954). Though the West Company was less successful than its Eastern counterpart, it had great success in Brazil in the mid 17th century, as they could set up bases to access the sugar market as well as the Brazilian mines (ibid).
With all this Dutch action going on about the globe, the Dutch needed a reliable way to travel to all of their territories. Thus, there was a great demand for sea charts from the employees and sailors of the Dutch East (West) Indian Companies. As well, those who were based in Europe and selling products from halfway across the world wanted to see on a map from where their goods were coming (Rijkeboer, 2011).
The Dutch were interested in map making for two intertwined reasons. First, the Dutch Golden Age saw many scientists and artists at their prime in the Netherlands, making cartography, a combination of art and science, an appealing craft. Second, because the Netherlands was so economically powerful worldwide during this time, they required accurate and detailed mapping to ensure their companies would be able to sail to their ""satellite"" locations.
Despite the Ottens not being a standout family of map makers, they were still a part of the scores of Dutch cartographers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most of their work happened at the tail end of the Dutch Golden Age, but the end of that era did not mean people did not need maps anymore. The Ottens, as one of the many Dutch cartography companies, continued to profit off of people's sense of adventure until Johanna Ottens' death in 1780.

Works Cited
Boxer, C. R. ""IN THE TIME OF THE FLEMINGS: THE DUTCH IN BRAZIL, 1624-1654."" History Today Mar 1 1954: 159. ProQuest. Web. 26 Feb. 2016 .

Carhart, George. Frederick de Wit and the first “Concise Reference Atlas”: A reexamination of the Amsterdam map, print and art seller’s life, work and contribution to the distribution of cartographic knowledge during the second half of the 17th and early 18th centuries. Universität Passau, 2011.

Columbia Encyclopedia. ""Dutch West India Comany."" The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
van Eeghen, Isabella H. Frederick de Wit, Amsterdams uitgever, in Drs. A. H. Sijmons’ Jacob Aertsz. Colom’s Kaart van Holland 1681, Canaletto, 1990.
de Jong, Joop (2011) ""The Dutch Golden Age and Globalization: History and Heritage, Legacies and Contestations,"" Macalester International: Vol. 27, Article 7.

van der Krogt, Peter. Advertenties voor kaarten, atlassen, globes e.d. in Amsterdamse kranten 1621-1811, Utrecht: HES, 1985.

McMaster Digital Archive. Littora Brasiliae. Digital Archive, McMaster University Library. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Rijkeboer, H. Dutch Cartography in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Horizon College (2011). Web.

Tooley, R. V. 1898-1986-, Josephine French, Valerie Scott, and Mary Alice Lowenthal. Tooley's Dictionary of Mapmakers. Rev. ed. Tring, Herts, England: Map Collector Publications in association with R. Arkway, Inc., 1999."


R. & J. Ottens, “Littora Brasiliae: Pascaert van Brasil,” Omeka Testbed, accessed July 21, 2018,