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Willem Janszoon Blaeu was born in 1571 in VITGEEST into a family of herring merchants.
His interest in the field of mathematics and astronomy thwarted the desire of his father to see him succeed. He thus became the founder of a line of Netherlands geographers and cartographers.
Student of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, he studied in 1591 at Island Hven, astronomy and the art of constructing maps, globes and mathematical instruments.
He then settled in Amsterdam as a manufacturer of globes and scientific instruments, and soon expanded his business to the publishing of maps, charts and books.
In 1596, he moved to Amsterdam and published in 1605, a large world map in 18 sheets, then a series of maps and marine, in 1617. Two years later (1619), he published his first atlas, titled "Theatrum Mundi," and his "Theatrum Urbium and Monumentorum".
In 1630, he bought 37 prints of the Mercator Atlas of Jodocus Hondius II. He adds his own collection and publishes the Atlantis Appendix, which contains 60 cards. Five years later, he completed the first volume of his world atlas in two volumes or Atlas Novus or Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.
He died in Amstersam in 1638.
His son Joan (born in Amsterdam in 1596, where he died in 1673) continued his work and published in 1648, a large world map in 20 sheets, called "Nova Totius Terratum Orbis Tabula"
With his brother, Cornelius BLAEU (1610-1648) he gave in 1649 the Novum ac Magnum Theatrum Urbium Belgicae and Foederatae, one of the masterpieces of Holland cartography, then the Atlas Major in eleven volumes.
Official Geographer of the United Provinces, cartographer of the East India Company since 1638, printer of the Swedish King, Joan Blaeu was appointed "Captain of the Bourgeoisie" from the city of Amsterdam, a city with the most flourishing market of the seventeenth century.
In 1672, a fire destroyed the printing of the family BLAEU and much of their stock of maps and engravings. The rest will be gradually dispersed. Some prints were sold to Frederick de Wit, Pierre Mortier, and Schenk and Valck.
The three brothers of Willem Blaeu (1635-1685), Pieter (1637-1706) and Joan II (1650-1712) continued the editorial assistance of their father Joan Blaeu with the House of Savoy and carried the exceptional intellectual artistic and technical competence of Blaeu until the early eighteenth century.