Town of Ayr from Blaeu 1654 Map
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Blaeu Atlas of Scotland - Ayr 1654 For an expanded view and more details regarding this map visit the National Library of Scotland

Joan Blaeu was the son of Willem Janszoon Blaeu and lived from 1596 to 1673. Willem Blaeu, after training under the well-known Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, founded the Blaeu family enterprise in Amsterdam in 1599, starting with globes and instruments and then diversifying rapidly into maps and atlases. Willem Blaeu died in 1638 and the business passed to his sons Joan and Cornelius. After Cornelius's early death in 1642, it fell upon Joan alone to complete Willem's ambitious plans for an atlas of the world. After the completion of the Atlas Novus or Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Joan started work on an even larger atlas. The Atlas Major was completed in 1662 and included 600 double page maps and over 3,000 pages of the text. This work was the most expensive book of the 17th century (45,000 florins) and is considered by many the most magnificent of all atlases of any period. Unfortunately a fire destroyed the family printing house in 1672 and Joan died only a year later. The maps produced by the Blaeu family from 1604 to 1672 are amongst the most prized and valued of all of the maps of the 17th century. They combine great artistry with geographic accuracy and cartographic innovation. Indeed some map collectors consider that the maps of Joan Blaeu are the finest published anywhere in the 17th century.

This map is one of the first published maps (i.e., non-manuscript map) of this part of Scotland. It is based primarily on the work of Timothy Pont. Timothy Pont, a minister, was the pioneer Scottish cartographer. From 1583 on, he surveyed the whole of the Scottish mainland and islands, apparently by himself. Unfortunately, he found no patron to publish his maps and his manuscript maps remained unpublished for many years (his map of Lothian and Linlithglow was used in the 1630 Mercator/Hondius atlas). In the mid-1600s, Robert and James Gordon, also early Scottish cartographers, revised and edited the manuscript maps of Pont. Just how much new information they contributed is still the matter of some debate. Joan Blaeu used the manuscript maps of Pont and the Gordons as the basis for the Pars Quinta of his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum first published in 1654. This volume of the Theatrum, the famous Blaeu world atlas, consisted of 55 maps of Scotland and Ireland, including 46 detailed maps of specific regions of Scotland. This was the very first atlas of Scotland and the maps the first detailed maps of most areas of Scotland published. There were some earlier published maps of Scotland (e.g., in the atlases of Ortelius, Mercator, Hondius, Jansson and others) but these are typically single maps of larger areas (with the exception of the single map of Pont mentioned earlier).

The Blaeu maps of Scotland are relatively scarce. All of the Blaeu maps can be considered scarce, because of their age and the limited numbers originally produced. The Scotland maps were particularly few in numbers. The maps of Scotland were only produced between 1654, the date of their first printing, and 1672, the year of the fire that destroyed the Blaeu printing house. This is a much shorter period of time than for most of the other Blaeu maps. This is one the first detailed maps of this part of Scotland ever published, making it cartographically significant. This is particularly true of this map since this appears to be a copy of the first edition map put out in 1654.

Like all of the early maps of Scotland this map has many place names and localities shown that are important outside of Scotland. Scottish people were among the early settlers in Canada and the United States and many Scottish names have been used for naming localities in North America. Many of the names also have strong recognition for many people because of historic or cultural associations. Maps that have such connections are often more sought after.