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A map and its copy by Simon van der Stel's expedition to Namaqualand (1685) : an enquiry into their visual values

Abstract : This article deals with a VOC map and its copy by an anonymous French cartographer of Governor Simon van der Stel=s expedition to Namaqualand in1685. The original map of the journey, drawn between late 1685 and early 1686, is not only a document of the expedition to the Copper Mountains, but has specific visual qualities which were modified in the copy. We consider that a thorough comparison of the two maps, their visual display, the relationship of the image to the text, and the background information on which both of them are based may lead to interesting observations on how an unknown territory was represented and why. L=expédition au Namaqualand du gouverneur Simon van der Stel (1685): recherche sur les qualités visuelles d=une carte et de sa copie Cet article traite d=une VOC carte et de sa copie, réalisée par un cartographe français anonyme, de l=expédition du Gouverneur Simon van der Stel au Namaqualand en 1685. La carte originale du voyage, dessinée entre la fin 1685 et le début 1686, ne constitue pas seulement un document nécessaire à l=expédition pour la découverte des montagnes de cuivre, mais possède certaines qualités visuelles qui ont été modifiées à travers la copie. Nous estimons qu=une comparaison minutieuse des deux cartes, leur organisation visuelle, la relation de l=image au texte, et le contexte dans lequel chacune d=entre elles a été réalisée apporte d=intéressantes observations sur la manière et les raisons pour lesquelles on représentait un territoire inconnu. artography usually reflects accredited geographic realities, but more specifically it is a documentary re-elaboration of information to which something new is added. However, expedition maps start from almost vestigial geographic information and are the first documents depicting what was previously unknown. This procedure gives them a very specific place in cartographic history and requires of the cartographer an exceptional ability and graphic skills to collate all kinds of available information derived from sea charts and coast descriptions, on-site calculations, and of course, indigenous knowledge. The map of the journey made by the Cape Governor Simon van der Stel to Namaqualand from late 1685 to early 1686 is such a document (figure 1, foldout). 1 Although it is likely that other copies circulated inside the VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie; Dutch East India Company) network, no other version to which it could be compared was known until the authors came across a cartographic item of particular interest in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. The legend on that unsigned map reads: Aplan de la route suivie en 1688 par le gouverneur du Cap de Bonne Esperance dans les terres du Nord de ce Cap@ (figure 2, foldout). 2 We established that it is a version of the Dutch map drawn by a VOC cartographer whose identity could not be established. We consider that a detailed comparison of the two versions, their visual display, the relationship of the image to the text, and the background information on which both of them are based, may lead to interesting discoveries concerning how unknown territory was represented and why the chosen representational techniques were used. Like any work of visual art, a map reveals the Aintelligence of sight@ (a phrase coined by Barbara Stafford) 3 of a cultural period and exemplifies its visuality and manner of pictorial conceptualisation. Furthermore, the examination of two visual artefacts representing the same reality in different ways will reveal the dissimilar purposes for which they were made and the divergent intentions, cultural background and training of the draftsmen. It follows that the purpose of a map cannot be confined within the bounds of a mere sign system since it can have multiple C
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Submitted on : Tuesday, October 6, 2020 - 11:50:06 AM
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Pascal Dubourg Glatigny, Estelle Maré. A map and its copy by Simon van der Stel's expedition to Namaqualand (1685) : an enquiry into their visual values. South African Journal of Art History, 2006, 21 (21), pp.140-185. ⟨halshs-00452176⟩

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