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Claes Jansz. Visscher

Leo Belgicus.


Claes Jansz. Vissher

Leo Belgicus

Amsterdam 1641

LEO BELGICUS Johan van Doetechum fecit [Amsterdam] C.J.Visscher Excudit, Anno 1641. Copper engraving in original outline colours. 430 x 550mm.

Margins cut to the plate mark, with some very minor fraying along lower part. Repair of a tear 5cm. into engraved area, next to lower part center fold. A very good and dark impression. Very good condition.

Leo Belgicus map by Claes Jansz. Visscher with an unrecorded date (1641).

It is well-known that the 'Leo' maps are a symbol of strength and bravery in their heraldic representation. The series of Leo-maps should be placed in the context of the Eighty Years' War or "Dutch War of Independence" (1566-1648). They symbolized the revolt of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands against the Spanish (Habsburg) Empire.

LEO BELGICUS. Johan van Doetechum fecit [Amsterdam] C.J.Visscher Excudit, Anno 1641. (Amsterdam, 1641) 34.0 x 55.0 cm. Original o/l. colours. Margins cut to the plate mark, with some very minor fraying along lower part. Repair of a tear 5cm. into engraved area, next to lower part center fold. A very good and dark impression. Only know example.

Euros 50000


The year of 1641 marked a turning point in the "Dutch War of Independence". On July 27th 1641, Frederick Hendrik captured the town of Gennep in the provence of Geldern.

In the same year general peace negotiations were initiated in the catholic city of Münster, and the prostestant city of Osnabruck, including the main participants in the Thirty Years' War: France, Sweden, Spain, the Emperor and the Republic.

Though not formally recognized as an independent state, the Dutch republic was for the first time allowed to participate in these peace negotiations. Even Spain did not oppose to this.

The drafting of the instructions for the Dutch delegation occasioned spirited debate. Holland made sure that it was not barred from their formulation.

The Dutch demands eventually agreed upon were:

• cession by Spain of the entire Meierij district;

• recognition of Dutch conquests in the Indies (both East and West);

• permanent closure of the Scheldt to Antwerp commerce;

• tariff concessions in the Flemish ports; and

• lifting of the Spanish trade embargoes.

In the meantime the war continued, although the heartland of the republic was no longer threatened. The war ended finally in 1648 with the Peace of Münster. The Dutch Republic was officially recognised as an independent country.

The invitation in 1641 and/or the outcome of the negotiations must have inspired Claes Jansz. Visscher to publish this updated version of the Leo map. It can be seen as the birth certificate of the new nation.

Claes Jansz. Visscher acquired the copperplate from Henricus Hondius of The Haque.

He added two medallions portraits to the plate of the contemporary rulers and negotiators Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange (Stadholder 1625-1647) FREDERICUS HENRICUS PRINCEPS ARAUSIO COMTES ETC. GUBERNATOR FOEDERAT PROVIN BELGIO, and the Spanish Archduke Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand (Governor of the Low Countries from 1634-1641).

Ferdinand died on 9th November 1641, therefore the plate will have been published before November 1641.

It was not before 1650, two years after the peace of Münster which ended the War, that C.Jz. Visscher changed the date (1650) and started selling the plate, likely on a larger scale, as of this is the most commonly found state.


The uptil now three known states (1598, 1630 and 1650) are described in :

- H.A.M. van der Heijden, Leo Belgicus, Alphen a/d Rijn, 2006, map 3, pages 31-35.

- G.Schilder, Monumenta, Vol. VI., map 50.

This 1641 state is unknown to Prof. G.Schilder (and Van der Heijden) and is unrecorded.

- First state: 2 copies are recorded.

- Second state, 2 copies are recorded. When Henricus Hondius of the Hague acquired the copper plate from the Van Doetecum family (between 1626 and 1630) and republished the map in 1630 he did update the coat of arms of England.

Although Prince Maurice and the Archduke Albert had already died, the captions below their medallions remained unchanged.

- Third state (now fourth state) : C.J. Visscher, dated 1650, 8 examples are located by van der Heijden and prof. Schilder and recently one other example sold at Sotheby's. London, 9th May, 1212, lot 47.


- Claes Jansz. Visscher must have acquired the copper plate from Henricus Hondius already around 1641 and not, as suggested by Günter Schilder and Henk van der Heijden in 1650, at the death of Henricus Hondius.

- With the discovery of this example of Visscher's edition, with the date 1641, it becomes much clearer why Visscher dated the map 1641 and why he added the medallions portraits of Archduke Ferdinand (Governor 1634-1641) and Prince Frederik Hendrik of Orange (Stadholder 1625-1647) to the plate. To insert these new portraits the title had to be moved and broken off, the tail of the lion shortened and lowered.

- The text panel is also updated. The last lines of the Dutch text now read : (...) ende hooggeborene Ferdinandus Infans Cardinael en de Edelen en meer dan Martium Frederik Hendrick die beyde tegenwoordelick regiere. So Ferdinandus was still alive at the date of publication.

- Other changes included the adornment of the sea, which was changed completely and was now filled with nine vessels.

- Ironically the Lion now stands on a hatched base. It looks like Visscher wanted to say that the the Republic finally had found grounds. This edition (of 1641) is there for the most important edition of all Leo Maps and being the birth certificate of an Independent Country. !

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