Johannes van Keulen

(1654 - 1715)

Johannes van Keulen was a Dutch maritime publisher. He established a bookselling and instrument making business in Amsterdam in 1678, and by 1680 he had obtained a privilege from Holland and West Friesland to print pilot guides and sea atlases. His first major production was the atlas Nieuwe Lichtende Zee-Fakkel, illustrated by Jan Luyken and with maps by Claes Jansz Vooght. Five volumes were published between 1681 and 1684. Van Keulen also produced a Zee-Atlas. Van Keulen chose an advantageous time to enter his profession, as many of the great early seventeenth century mapmakers were closing down or at the end of their careers, and therefore putting their stock and copperplates on the market. For example, he was able to buy Hendrik Doncker’s stock in 1793.

The van Keulen cartographic dynasty continued for nearly two centuries. His son, Gerard (1678–1726), produced new editions of his father’s works and made numerous manuscript charts. He was appointed hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in 1706. His grandson, Jan II van Keulen (1704–1770) took over the business in 1726, and published a new edition of the Asian volume of the Zee-Atlas. He was appointed chartmaker to the VOC in 1743, setting an official seal on a well-establised relationship that was to last until the company dissolved in 1799.

After Jan II died, his widow and sons Cornelis Buys and Gerard Hulst van Keulen ran the business, which by now included an anchor factory. After Cornelis died in 1788, Gerard (1733–1801) took over the business, adding an extra volume to the Zee-Fakkel containing material on the East Indies taken from the private holdings of the VOC. This information was supplied by an examiner for the VOC, Jan de Marre, who may also have been involved in the van Keulen firm’s production of octants in 1744. Gerard would also initiate the sale of sextants through the firm, and published the first nautical almanac in Dutch in 1788. He was one of the three original members of the commission set up by the Dutch government in 1787 to tackle the problem of how to find longitude at sea. Gerard’s son Jan III was the last van Keulen to run the business.