Leo Belgicus - Hondius, Jodocus I
Date of Creation:
A very scarce copy of Jodocus Hondius’ roundel Leo Belgicus. It is one of a set of five roundel maps Hondius produced while in London in 1590 (“Jodocus Hondius fecit 1590” is visible next to the lion’s left forepaw). Hondius may have borrowed the idea of putting the Leo Belgicus in a round frame from Michael von Aitzing’s title page for ‘Niederlandische Beschreibung’ (van der Heijden, 2.1).
When he moved back to Amsterdam in 1593, he reissued the maps with highly decorative borders, possibly engraving them himself. The design for the borders was taken from a print of Venus and Cupid by Adriaen Collaert, from a series of prints produced between 1560 and 1618 (Schilder).
Complete sets of all five maps are incredibly rare, and copies of the individual maps only slightly less so. There are only two institutional copies of this 1593 edition of the Leo Belgicus roundel, in the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid and in the Amsterdam Municipal Archives; another in Hamburg was destroyed during the Second World War (Schilder). The copy held in the Yale University Library is the 1602 edition by William Kip and Jan Woutneel, which does not retain either the decorative border or Hondius’ inscription by the lion’s paw (van der Heijden, “Een onbekende Leo Belgicus”).
The "Leo Belgicus" is one of the most famous of all cartographic curiosities. The format depicts the 17 Provinces of the Low Countries in the form of a lion. The first Leo was produced by the Austrian Michael von Aitzing who, in 1583, included an example in his work ‘De Leone Belgico’ that detailed the Netherlands' war of Independence against Hapsburg rule.
In the introduction, he gives his reasons for choosing the lion: "Considering wise King Solomon's saying that the lion shuns confrontation with none but the strongest of animals, and reading in Julius Caesar's 'Commentaries' that the 'Belgae' were the strongest of all tribes, I decided - and not without reason- to introduce the Netherlands in the shape of a lion. Moreover, Charles V - blessed be his memory - thought of calling it the lion country, either because he wanted the Netherlands in future to be considered the prime of his realm, or perhaps because virtually all provinces carry a lion in their coat of arms. I took every care that you should see at a glance not only the whole of the Netherlands in the shape of a lion, but also the various provinces as part of its limbs and body".