In 1592 Petrus Plancius, a Flemish Calvinist minister and cartographer, sponsored a covert mission to obtain confidential maps from Lisbon. It was part of a wider Dutch effort to break the Portuguese monopoly on the spice trade to the East Indies.
A small band of men managed to acquire 24 manuscript charts by the Portuguese cartographer Bartolomeu Lasso, from which Plancius compiled his map of the Spice Islands.
Though still imperfect – for example, Singapore is omitted completely – it was a significant improvement over previous printed maps of the area. As well as the Islands, Plancius depicted the various commodities that the islands offer such as cloves, nutmeg and sandalwood, as a key for Dutch investors.
Altea Maps offers a rare English edition of the chart on its recently refurbished website. The map was engraved by Richard Beckit for Linchoten’s Discours of Voyages into ye East & West Indies and published by John Wolfe in London, 1598.
Wolfe was notorious for pirating the work of other publishers (particularly Latin grammars, Bibles and The Book of Common Prayer). He was banned from the Stationers’ Company until 1583, when he allegedly reformed following a raid on his premises. However, this map proves that he continued to copy the work of foreign publishers.
It is offered for £65,000.