During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Dutch were the driving force in map and atlas production and one area in which they particularly excelled was in the production of sea charts and atlases. At the forefront was the van Keulen marine chart company, founded in Amsterdam in 1677 by Johannes van Keulen, the largest of its kind in Europe in the mid-eighteenth century and almost served as an unofficial maritime authority for the continent. In 1680 he published the first volume of his Zee Atlas which by 1734 had expanded to five volumes. He also published a more ambitious book of sea charts between 1681-1682 called the Zee-Faakel. However the firm's reputation became firmly established when the business fell under the stewardship of Johannes' son Gerard between 1714 and 1726. While Johannes was essentially a publisher, Gerard was a talented engraver, mathematician and had
a good understanding of the principles of navigation. He introduced the Mercator projection into the Zee-Faakel charts and hence became responsible for the most important atlas of sea charts of the period. In 1706 he was appointed Hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company, which was a position of great importance given that the company was responsible for the gathering of detailed, secret information for distribution to mariners headed for the Indies. Following Gerard's death in 1726 the family firm continued for the next hundred years maintaining its pre-eminence in the fields of geography, navigation and nautical charts. Gerard's accomplishments include almost 500 manuscript charts of the coastlines of the world , which are now kept in a number of European collections . His sea map collection, published in 1752 is the most comprehensive ever seen.