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Geometrical and Navigational Compasses

'Geometrical and Navigational Compasses. Southern Netherlandish Capital and Knowledge as the 16th-Century Building Blocks for the East India Company' was the title of this exhibition in 2002, marking the 400th anniversary of the Dutch East India Company. The exhibition focused on two related subjects: Antwerp’s trade outside Europe, and scientific knowledge in the Southern Netherlands in the 16th century.

International trade

The exhibition examined Antwerp’s trade with other parts of the world via the Iberian peninsula during the 16th century. Antwerp was the maritime commercial metropolis and distribution centre for non-European products such as sugar, spices, diamonds and porcelain.

Scientific knowledge

The exhibition also focused on scientific knowledge in the Southern Netherlands. From the late 16th century onwards, this enabled the Northern Netherlands to initiate direct shipping and trade contacts with the East Indies. The Southern Netherlands developed navigation instruments, and scientific publications made the voyages possible. Moreover, the Dutch East India Company was primarily established with capital from Antwerp.


The cartographic works and atlases of Mercator, Ortelius, Plancius and Hondius were very important for navigation. Plantin was largely responsible for their international dissemination. Partly with the knowledge and commercial capital that migrated to the Northern Netherlands after the fall of Antwerp in 1585, the foundations were laid for the Dutch Golden Age.
20.04.02 - 21.07.02


Museum Plantin-Moretus

Unesco werelderfgoed

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