Charting New Netherland, 1597-1682

5)  Carta particulare nuova Belgia, from Dell’Arcano del mare (Secret of the Sea), 1646, Florence.

Mapmaker: Robert Dudley

Tinting (adding color) either contemporaneously or later has always been a part of map making. An exception are the 130 maps of the world which accompany Robert Dudley’s text of navigations and seamanship. The Baroque style of the maps’ engraver Antonio Francesco Lucini is so singular and elegant that the maps have never been tinted. Since, most cartographers haven’t chosen to follow the style. Dudley’s was also the first nautical atlas by an Englishman and also is the first to use the Mercator projection. Because the maps were designed from his own sources and not from others’, many details appear for the first time, i.e., prevailing winds and currents.

Maps often come with interesting biographies. Robert Dudley was the illegitimate son of the Earl of Leicester, a favorite of Elizabeth I and her court. After his father died, Robert’s mother re-married and worked diligently to have her own son recognized as rightful heir to Leicester titles and lands. Dudley lost that battle and in 1605 with his lover and cousin Elizabeth Southwell left his own family and England. He settled in Tuscany and became a leading courtier under the patronage of the Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand I. 

As the duke’s naval advisor, Dudley designed and built warships of greater efficiency than previous ones in Mediterranean waters.  He redesigned the fortifications of the port of Livorno.  As his greatest legacy, he produced his atlas. (Lucini recorded that he used 5,000 pounds of copper for the plates.) 

The map of New Belgium is rich in Indian names, surviving place names and the mythical Norembega. Western Long Island remains an archipelago, but today’s New York City is Nuovo Amsterdam. Also, the Hudson River is usually named the “Noort Revier” which the Dutch preferred, to avoid stirring up English claims to the region.

About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. More


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