Hondius, Jodocus

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(b. Wakken, West-Vlaanderen, Southern Netherlands [now Belgium], 17 October 1563; d. Amsterdam, Netherlands, 12 February 1612),

cartography, engraving, geography.

Hondius was an illustrious Flemish mapmaker and cartographer. His most important works were the revision of the Mercator Atlas and the Mercator-Hondius Atlas.

Early Years . Jodocus Hondius was born Joost de Hondt on 17 October 1563 in Wakken, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. His father’s name was Oliver de Hondt and his mother’s Petronella van Havertuyn. When Joost was two, his parents moved to the city of Ghent, where he learned the art of engraving and drawing. When he was older, Joost de Hondt Latinized his name as was the custom among savants in that time. Jodocus became very competent in calligraphy. He also was educated in mathematics and its use.

Hondius was very skillful at engraving copper plates, and the high circles of the elite held him in great esteem. At a young age he made many engravings of very important cities for Alexander Farnese, duke of Parma and governor-general of the Netherlands under Philip II of Spain. But when Ghent was captured by the Spanish in 1584, he fled to London, where he met a number of reformed Protestants. In this milieu of Flemish and Dutch immigrants he met his wife, Colleta van de Keere, the sister of the well-known publisher Petrus Kaerius.

Stay in London . In London he worked for several publishers and writers, such as Richard Hakluyt and Edward Wright. He expanded his knowledge of cartography and geography through his contact with the great English explorers Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, and Walter Raleigh. In particular, during 1589 Hondius produced a now-famous map of the cove of New Albion, where Drake briefly established a settlement on the West Coast of North America. Hondius based this map on accounts of the voyage in a journal and eyewitnesses accounts. The map has for centuries fueled speculation about the precise whereabouts of Drake’s landing, which even now has not been definitely established by historians.

Back to the Low Countries . In 1593 Hondius moved with his family to Amsterdam, taking with him many mathematical instruments that he had made in London. In the Dutch republic he linked up with the branch of the famous Plantin printing house established in Leiden. There he made several globes that were sold in Antwerp.

In 1602 he moved to Leiden to become a student at the famous University of Leiden, founded in 1575, where he studied mathematics to increase his knowledge of this branch of learning. He intended to apply mathematics in his work. In Leiden, Jodocus became acquainted with Petrus Bertius, the royal cosmographer of the French king Louis XIII. Bertius helped him make a very important decision. In 1604 Hondius was in doubt about whether to purchase the copper plates of the Mercator imperium (a printer business that had ended in that year). Bertius persuaded him to buy these copper plates, which he did on 12 July 1604. From that year on, his life changed as he attained worldwide fame.

The Mercator-Hondius Atlas . In 1578 Gerardus Mercator had published an atlas based on twenty-eight maps of Ptolemy. Mercator had wanted to give a representation of the ancient world. In 1595 he had published his well-known then-current atlas. Hondius bought the plates of both atlases. A couple months later, a remarkable book appeared: Claudïï Ptolemaeï Alexandrini geographicae libri octo graecog latini, a reedition of Mercator’s Ptolemaeus atlas. He published and edited it and had it printed by Jan Theunisz in Amsterdam.

In December of that same year, Hondius bought a house in Amsterdam where he installed his new printing business. He gave the house a name that referred to his birth place: “In De Wackere Hondt” (In the awakening dog).

In 1606 Hondius improved the well-known Mercator Atlas, originally printed in 1595. He augmented it with thirty-six new maps, including several that he himself had produced. Despite his own contributions, Hondius gave Mercator full credit as the author of the work, listing himself as the publisher. The atlas is known under the name the Mercator-Hondius Atlas. It was the first complete atlas: all known continents, regions, seas, and oceans were represented, based on the new discoveries of explorers. The demand for this atlas was enormous; it sold out after a year, and many editions followed, starting in 1607 and 1608.

Jodocus Hondius was a shrewd businessman. He ascertained that smaller atlases were cheaper and easier to use. Therefore, he published a number of those popular, small atlases, and did so in many different languages. Altogether, from 1606 onward, around fifty editions were published in the principal European languages, and as a result of the success of the Mercator-Hondius Atlas, Amsterdam achieved the status of the principal center of cartography until the end of the seventeenth century.

Between 1605 and 1610 he engraved the plates for the maps in John Speed’s The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain(1611). In 1611 he published another world map, but in his last years he was occupied with leadership of his business, including negotiations with traders and various correspondences; he had become too busy to produce more maps

Jodocus Hondius died in 1612. The work of the publishing house was carried on by his widow and two sons, Jodocus II and Henricus, and later still in partnership with Jan Jansson, whose name appears on the Mercator-Hondius Atlas as copublisher from 1633.


Most of Hondius’s work is cited in Günter Schilder, Monumenta Cartographica Neerlandica, Vol. VI, Nederlandse foliokaarten met decoratieve randen, 1604–60 (Dutch folio-sized single sheet maps with decorative borders, 1604–60). Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands: Canaletto, 2000.

Borchgrave, O. de. “Levensschets van Judocus Hondius.” In his Wakken herdenkt: Wakken. Tielt, Belgium: Lannoo, 1963.

Heawood, Edward. The Map of the World on Mercator’s Projection by Jodocus Hondius, Amsterdam 1608, … A Memoir. London: Royal Geographical Society, 1927.

Keuning, Johannes. “The History of an Atlas: Mercator-Hondius.” Imago Mundi 4 (1947): 37–62.

Krogt, Peter van der. The Globes of Hondiu: A Most Important Pair of Globes Showing the Results of the Earliest Dutch Exploration Voyages to the East Indies. Utrecht, Netherlands: Antiquariaat Forum, 1991.

———, comp. Koeman’s tlantes Neerlandici. 't Goy-Houten, Netherlands: HES and De Graaf, 1997.

Mercator, Gerard, and Henry Hondius. L’appendice de l ' Atlas de Gérard Mercator et Iudocus Hondius contenant diverses nouvelles tables et descriptions.… Amsterdam: Henry Hondius, 1633.

Mercator, Gerard, J. Janssonius, Raleigh A. Skelton, et al. Mercator-Hondius-Janssonius Atlas or a Geographicke Description of the World, Amsterdam 1636. 2 vols. Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1968.

Orenstein, Nadine. Hendrick Hondius and the Business of Prints in Seventeenth-Century Holland. Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sound and Vision Interactive, 1996.

De Smet, Antoine. “Gerard Mercator en zijn Westvlaamse voortzetter Jodocus Hondius of Joost de Hondt uit Wakken.” In Album Achivaris Jos. De Smet. Brugge, Belgium: Westvlaams Verbond van Kringen voor Heemkunde, 1964.

———. Jodocus Hondius, 1563–1612, kartograaf in het voetspoor van Gerard Mercator. Brussels: Nationaal Centrum voor de Geschiedenis Centre National d’Histoire des Sciences, 1964.

———. Album Antoine de Smet. Brussels: Centre national d’histoire des sciences, 1974.

Steve Philips