Georg Marcgraf (Markgraf or Marcgrave)

Place and date of birth: Liebstadt, Germany, 1610

 Place and date of death: Angola, 1644

An astronomer, cartographer and naturalist, he was in Brazil between 1638 and 1644. He participated in 7 expeditions that allowed him to carry out a detailed topographic survey between 1640 and 1642. And, after his death in 1644, the WIC published the famous Brasilia qua Parte Paret Belgis wall map.

Link to BRASILHIS Database: o-marcgrave

Georg Marcgraf traveled to Brazil to participate in scientific projects at the service of the then Governor-General of Dutch Brazil, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen (1637-1644 ), and of the Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie (Dutch Company of West Indies, known as WIC). Occupying a prominent place among a remarkable group of scholars and painters gathered at the Brazilian court of the German court (BRIENENEN,2001). An astronomer, cartographer and naturalist, he settled in Brazil between 1638 and 1644, carrying out a detailed topographic survey during the 7 expeditions that he organized between 1640-1642 and which allowed him to travel 800 km along the coast and 80 km inland in Dutch Brazil. During these journeys, among the most notable contributions that he records are the uprisings of existing localities on the Brazilian coast, which provide very detailed measurements and observations, as well as outstanding information from the interior of the territory. These documents were compiled by Mauricio de Nassau, after his death in Africa, and delivered to Johannes de Laet, director of the (WIC), to be published.

In this way, Marcgraf’s maps were instruments at the service of the Dutch troops, facilitating movement between the fortresses scattered along the Brazilian coast, between Alagoas and Ceará. Although they also served to show Dutch Brazil in Europe, the Brasilia qua Parte Paret Belgis wall map, published in 1647, which served as political propaganda.

To the cartographic work that Georg Marcgraf carried out in 1643, when he was still in Brazil, were added vignettes attributed to the landscape painter Frans Post, who must have benefited from the intense cartographic activity of the WIC in Recife. While Albert Eckaouth, another great Flemish painter, of German origin, dedicated himself to painting ethnographic instruments and objects, which Mauricio de Nassau gave political use after his exhibition at the Vrijburg palace. Showing with these paintings inserted in the wall map of Marcgraf, the different ethnic groups that made the social imaginary that the Dutch recreated from the inhabitants of Brazil.

During the 17th century, many cartographers, such as Hessel Gerritsz, Joanes Blaeu, Joan Vingboons and Georg Marcgraf, all employed by the West India Company, would have had information from the natives for topographic compositions with the location of indigenous areas. The truth is that without this information obtained in Brazil or in Europe it would not have been possible to have so many details, and to be able to carry out the conquests using the large number of indigenous place names, such as those that appear on 17th century maps. While in Europe, the Jesuit Manuel de Morais who, after fleeing to the Netherlands, studied in Leiden, collaborated with Dutch cartographers, completing the information on the Potiguares indigenous people, who had arrived in the Netherlands. In this way, the Jesuit participated in the elaboration of the maps of the Dutch conquests, the maps of Joan Vingboons, as well as in the vocabulary in Tupi/Latin in the work of the doctor Willem Piso and Georg Marcgraf Historia Naturalis Brasiliae published in 1648 (VAINFAS, 2008).

As Cabral de Mello asserts, the Dutch not only had the financial resources to occupy northeastern Brazil, but also continued a rich cartographic tradition since the 16th century. Dutch and Portuguese texts, maps and detailed descriptions of the coast, economic studies of sugar plantations and the economic cost of the invasion, had been accompanied by extensive nautical literature by Dutch and Portuguese pilots and sailors (CABRAL DE MELLO, 2010). The WIC funded production of printed maps in Amsterdam featured work directed by Jean Bleau and Johannes de Laet among others. De Laet, in the Novus Orbis published in French in 1640, had the mission of summarizing the Dutch spaces between the continents of the globe. Although these, together with the Vingboons and Marcgraf maps, provide us with a vision of some indigenous and Afro-Brazilian areas and spaces in a period of contact and/or dominance over native territories (BARBOSA, 2013).

Unlike cartographers who collected data from the experiences of others and those who indirectly participated in them, Marcgraf explored the entire northeast of Brazil accompanying Dutch troops. In 1644 he died in Angola doing the same commission for the Wic in the Dutch possessions in central Africa.


Barbosa, Bartira Ferraz; Ruiz-Peinado, José Luis; Piqueiras, Ricardo; Scott, Joseph Allen. (2013). Afroindigenous Spaces on the Map; Brasilia qua Parte Paret Belgis. Editora Univérsitaria (UFPE)/Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona.

Cabral de Mello, Evaldo.(2010). O Brasil holandés (1630-1654). Companhia das Letras, São Paulo.

Parker, Rebecca. (2001). “Georg Marcgraf (1610 – c. 1644): cartógrafo, astrónomo y naturalista e ilustrador alemán en el Brasil colonial holandés”. Itinerario, 25 (1), 85-122. doi:10.1017/S0165115300005581

Piso, Willem; Marcgraf, Georg,; Laet, Ioannes de. (1648). Historia naturalis Brasiliae … : in qua non tantum plantae et animalia, sed et indigenarum morbi, ingenia et mores describuntur et iconibus supra quingentas illustrant. Impresor Franciscus Hackius & Louis Elzevir, Amsterdam.

Russell-Wood, Anthony John (1998) Um mundo em movimento. Os portugueses na África, Ásia e América (1415-1808). Difel, Lisboa.

Vainfas, Ronaldo. (2008). Traição. Um jesuíta a serviço do Brasil holandês processado pela Inquisição.  São Paulo, Companhia das Letras.


José Luis Ruíz Peinado (Universitat de Barcelona)

How to quote this entry:

José Luis Ruíz Peinado. “Georg Marcgraf (Markgraf or Marcgrave)“. In: BRASILHIS Dictionary: Biographic and Thematic Dictionary of Brazil in the Spanish Monarch (1580-1640). Available in: Date of access: 25/06/2024.

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