The gold and silver mined in New World territories claimed by the Spanish empire gave rise to Spain as the world’s first global power. Much of the wealth extracted from Mexico and Peru was returned to Europe. These riches were used to purchase everything, including luxury goods shipped to New Spain by way of the Manila Galleons trade route between Manila and Acapulco, through which porcelain, silk, and spices were imported from China.
German expertise fueled the expansion of subterranean mining in the Americas, and much of it was based on the outstanding work De re metallica libre XII written by Georgius Agricola. Agricola, who was born Georg Pawer in Saxony in 1494, was a German metallurgist and mineralogist. Agricola’s work was published posthumously in 1556 one year after his death, likely due to the detailed work involved in creating the woodcut illustrations for the book. De re metallica remained the most important treatise on metals, metallurgy, and mining for the next two centuries.
The first English translation of De re metallica was privately published in London in 1912. The translators were Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer who later became president of the United States, and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, a geologist and Latinist. This translation is important for its clear language as well as its comprehensive footnotes, which provide important information regarding the classical references to mining and metals.
Abraham Ortelius printed the copper-engraved map Maris Pacifici in 1589, and first published it in his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, or Theatre of the World in 1590. It is among the earliest maps to portray the Pacific Ocean. Maris Pacifici includes a representation of the ship Victoria, which was the lone ship that completed the first voyage around the world in Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition to circumnavigate the Earth from 1519 to 1522. Maris Pacifici also depicts Japan, the Philippines, and the east coast of China. It is the first map to name both the continents of North and South America.
Abraham Ortelius was a Flemish cartographer and geographer who published what is considered to be the first modern atlas titled, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, or Theatre of the World, on May 20, 1570. Ortelius published the 1570 edition with eighty-seven bibliographic references, descriptive text, and seventy maps that were engraved specifically for his atlas in an identical format using copper plates. His map of the world is a reduced version of Gerhard Mercator’s world map that was published in 1569.
Ortelius compiled the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum with maps created by the most current geographers, as well as maps that were based on rare or no longer existing sources, and he listed the names of all the cartographers and their maps in a catalogue known as the “Catalogvs Avctorvm Tabvlarvm Geographicarvm,” included in the atlas.
Ortelius continued to publish revised editions of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in Latin, Dutch, French, German, English, and Italian editions with new maps and references throughout his life. In 1612, the atlas was published in its thirty-first edition with one-hundred-sixty-seven maps and one-hundred-eighty-three bibliographic references. The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was such a 16th century landmark publication that the center of European cartographic production shifted from Italy to the Netherlands for more than a hundred years.
Johnan Nieuhof was a steward with the Dutch East India Company during their embassy’s visit to China during the 1650’s. The Company’s visit was an attempt to persuade the Qing emperor to grant the Dutch trading privileges on the southern coast of China with the aim to unseat the Portuguese monopoly on trading rights. Nieuhof and the embassy travelled from Canton to Peking [Beijing] during the years 1655 to 1658. One of Nieuhof’s primary responsibilities throughout his diplomatic mission was as the embassy’s official artist in China. He sketched by direct observation the architecture, city scapes and landscapes, the diverse peoples, and the flora and fauna of the country as the mission traveled north from Canton to Peking. Nieuhof’s published work contained one-hundred-fifty engravings of scenes drawn from contemporary Chinese life and nature. The Het gezantschap der Neêrlandtsche Oost-Indische Compagnie was first published by Jacob van Meurs in Amsterdam in 1665. Through his images and commentary, Nieuhof’s study provided a Western European audience with the most authoritative account on China until the 19th century.
The book also inspired the international development of chinoiserie, which was a Western interpretation of Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions in the decorative arts, landscape design, and architecture. This movement evolved out of the 17th century trade between China and the Dutch, English, French, and Swedish East India Companies, as well as the Spanish galleon traders that imported large quantities of Chinese porcelain, lacquer, textiles, and spices from Chinese merchants in Manila to Spanish markets in Acapulco, Panama, and Lima in New Spain.