Pieter van der Aa

(1659 - 1733)

Pieter van der Aa was a Dutch publisher and printer. He was best known for his cartographic work, but also produced a range of pirated copies of foreign bestsellers. He entered the booksellers guild in Leiden in 1677, and started his first business there in 1683. By 1694 he was made printer to Leiden University, and by 1715, he was appointed the official printer to the town of Leiden.

Pieter van der Aa did not in general produce his own maps, but he had a distinctive and elegant style, and his works were highly sought after. He also sustained beneficial working relationships with foreign booksellers like Thomas Bennet in England, who helped him sell stock. He produced a series of atlases and collections of voyages composed of plates acquired from other cartographers. His career culminated with the publishing of his illustrated atlas of the world, the Galerie Agreable du Monde, the largest book of prints ever published. The Galerie did not just cover geography, but also included over 3,000 plates of native peoples, architecture and history from around the world, and was issued in an astonishing 66 parts. Most of the plates were by other contemporary publishers, to which van der Aa added his signature broad decorative borders. A complete copy of the ‘Galerie’ cost the equivalent of a master craftsman’s annual salary.