Sunday, February 17, 2008

WOO HOO! A Waghenaer from 1590!!!

See my correction of this entry here.

The 1590 Waghenaer map in the Maps: Finding Our Place in the World exhibit so excited me that I had to give it a separate entry. Click on the image above to see the larger one that I got from the Wikipedia article on Waghenaer. The image is supposedly from 1584, but I believe the same plate was used for the 1590 edition I saw in the exhibit. This has to be one of the first editions published after the Spanish Armada ended in failure late in 1588, which means that it's also one of the first to include what Medina Sidonia had so desperately needed in August of that year: information about the eastern Dutch coast.

In The Voyage of the Armada, David Howarth stresses the importance of the rutters, or coastal navigation instructions. Waghenaer was the first to publish comprehensive collections of these instructions; that these collections came to be known as "waggoners" illustrates what a boon Waghenaer's work represented to mariners. A waggoner was published soon before the Armada sailed; since copies were readily available, the Armada commanders almost certainly carried them. However, the edition that included the eastern Dutch coast was not published until later in the year, by which time the Armada ships were variously sunk along the coast of Flanders and the North Sea, shipwrecked along the coast of Ireland, and scattered along the Biscayan ports of Spain after having limped home. Howarth makes a fair case for the missing piece of the 1588 edition being at least partially responsible for this failure: if, as the Spaniards were sweeping helplessly along the Dutch coast with the west wind after having been forced to cut their cables, they had known that they could have anchored at Antwerp, they might have gained succor - might even have spent the winter there. As it was, they simply tried their best not to get beached or shipwrecked, and made for the North Sea the moment the wind allowed.

The Armada story was my gateway into the love of history, and it has continued to fascinate me more with every new book or article I read. Imagine my excitement upon seeing a Waghenaer sitting right there behind the glass! Granted, this is more of a display edition - something a wealthy merchant would have admired and shown off, rather than something a mariner would take aboard ship. The Armada commanders would almost certainly have carried a standard, less lavishly illustrated rutter with very extensive printed instructions like the following. Thanks to Jaap for sending me the photostats with his translation.
If the tower of Oostende comes over the western gate, or over the wind mill of Oostende, then go that direction until you are free of the banks, then you go between the land and a bank called the Geire which runs toward Oostende: and when you get along Oostende, so you may move seaward in order to come to the Wielingen.
It took a navigator who was thoroughly experienced with that section of coastline to even use the rutter, which paired the printed text with illustrations of coastline profiles as seen from the water. See those peaks marching along the top of the map? Those aren't distant mountains; they're profiles of the coast matched up against the same section of coast, as seen in typical map style from above, shown directly below them.

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