Lisbon: A "Nowl Amsterdam" in Europe?

The city of Lisbon grew increasingly relevant in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as it developed maritime strength and established colonies in “newly discovered” regions. As a result, illustrators and their publication houses felt a demand for chorographic images of the coastal Portuguese city. To accentuate its maritime prominence, chorographers and their images, namely Lisbone, Olisippo Lisabona, and Lisbon, from “Americae Tertia Pars,” frequently depicted the city from a northwestern viewpoint. The northwestern viewpoint permits a clear view of the city harbor along the Tagus River, and the sizeable number of anchored merchant ships occupy the viewer’s foreground. The presence of anchored merchant ships in the harbor signals the centrality of the city of Lisbon as a trading port. Western European publishing houses often accompanied the chorographic images with a written explanation of the city in the popular language of their regional audiences, such as French, Latin, and German. For instance, Georg Braun, below his chorographic image of Lisbon, remarks in Latin, “In historical times, there were two cities we might call ‘ruler of the oceans and the high seas,’ from where ships could set sail for the East and the West: one is Seville, the other Lisbon.”[1]

More specifically, the chorographic image Nowel Amsterdam en l’Amerique, illustrated by Gérard Jollain, poses an engaging question when discussed in the context of Braun and Hogenberg’s Lisboa. Jollain developed his fictious representation of New Amsterdam by copying the chorographic image of Lisbon in Civitates Orbis Terrarum: he precisely imitates the street patterns and building structures of Braun and Hogenberg’s Lisbon.[2] Jollain likely produced a reproduction of Braun and Hogenberg’s Lisbon with deliberately misleading labels because he knew his predominately French audience would not be aware of Civitates Orbis Terrarum nor other chorographic images of New Amsterdam. All depictions of Lisbon emphasize its relevance to Western Europe’s exploration of the New World, including New Amsterdam.

[1] “Lisbon (Lisboa), by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg.” Sanderus Antique Maps and Books, n.d.

[2] “Nowel Amsterdam en l’Amerique: 1672.” Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection. Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center, n.d.