Taking pride in water

They are the oldest territorial government bodies of the Netherlands: the water control boards. Even as early as the 13th century they were active in the field of water management. To carry out their jobs as best they could, the water control boards had detailed maps made of their areas from around 1600 onwards. However, these maps were not only meant to be functional, but also to represent the proud board members at any given time. A real showpiece is this magnificent wall map of the water control board of the Zeeburg dike and the Diemen dike.

Detailed and accurate

The engraver Jan Wandelaar (1690-1759) boasts the production of this spectacular map, commissioned by the board members of the water control board. Wandelaar worked in Amsterdam as an artist, engraver, writer and art collector. His name can be read on the bottom banderole of the beautifully engraved illumination with the eagle at the top right. It is not likely that Wandelaar surveyed the land himself, but that a surveyor had been at work is beyond questioning, considering the detailed and accurate nature of the map. The map offers a wealth of topographical and soil scientific data and is an important source for the history of the area depicted here.

Impression of water management

Of many parcels the ownership is described. At pools or pot-holes the years in which the dikes in question burst are mentioned. Of course the map also offers an detailed picture of the many watercourses and the water management in the polder area. At the top left of the map we see a still empty looking and impoldered Diemen Lake. The Diemen or Watergraafsmeer polder was made in 1629 after reclaiming the local lake. The 1651 St. Peter’s Flood caused the dikes to burst and flooded the Watergraafsmeer. The next year the land was reclaimed again and parceled out. Later rich people from Amsterdam would build large country estates in the Watergraafsmeer, but the map does not show anything of these developments yet. Being at five metres below NAP, this polder is now one of the lowest parts of Amsterdam.

Sea dike

At the bottom right of the map is the city of Weesp, surrounded by a near perfect circle. This circle, indicated by Banscheyding (‘Division of jurisdictions’) represents the jurisdiction of Weesp. Outside this area ran the jurisdiction of Weesperkarspel. Next to Weesp on the overall picture there is an illustration of the Gemeenlandshuis, ‘the communal building’, the seat of the members of the water control board. At the bottom left, on both sides of the column with coats of arms with Stemmende Hollandse en Stigt-Utrechtse districten ('Voting districts of Holland and Sticht-Utrecht’) we find pictures of the new sea dike finished in 1737 and, next to the allegory of Neptune, the former wooden poles dike, a dike strengthened by means of wooden poles. At the foot of the new sea dike on the map we find the local conditions of the sea bottom described: peat, very weak and badly mudded, clay ground, sandy soil, etcetera. The depth of the sea bottom near the outside dike slope is indicated by the number of feet (thirty centimetres).

Complex genesis

The detailed wall map on a scale of ca. 1:6,000 once originated from a much smaller map from before 1734. The map only had two sheets, which including the title ban, only measured 80 by 103 centimetres. This map part returns in the later editions, but then as a progressively smaller part of the overall map. At a later stage the two-sheet map was expanded to a wall map consisting of eight sheets, all of a different size. In total this assembled version measures 122 by 177 centimetres. Next the eight-sheet edition was changed into a ten-sheet third edition. At a still later stage the map was expanded to the final format of 122 by 210 centimetres in thirteen printed sheets.

Independent sub-editions

In the meantime another three sub-editions were produced, each with their own title. Two of these sub-editions followed after the eight-leaved edition. Possibly these map parts were published as separate editions. In order to do so, some existing copper plates were cut up and, in combination with some new copperplates, joined to create a new sub-edition. The prints of those new copperplates have some overlap with the remaining parts of the existing copperplates and carry their own title. Moreover, it is indicated where the prints of the plates should be cut up in the case these new leaves were to be included in a newly planned large map of the whole water board district. This can be clearly seen on the scans of the separate digitised map leaves. That is why the sheet in the middle above has its own title, De Gebuurte van Overdiemen (‘the neighborhood of Overdiemen’), just as the map sheet at the top right, Stadt en Banne van Muyden aan de west sy van de Vecht (‘City and jurisdiction of Muiden on the west bank of the Vecht’). Also after the ten-sheet edition an independent and assembled edition followed, namely the map sheet at the top left, Kaart van Diemen, Diemer-Brug en Outersdorp (‘Map of Diemen, Diemer-Bug and Outersdorp’) and the top half of the map sheet below. When it was assembled into a wall map these titles were cut off.

A lot of cutting and pasting

In the end the ten-sheet map was expanded to a thirteen-sheet wall map with a series of coats of arms on both sides of the map image. In the assembly a lot of cutting and pasting was done to get each part in its proper place. The wall map shown here is an example of the thirteen-sheet edition which is well-known in several states. The Utrecht copy has in the assembled digital version a total of twelve coats of arms of water control boards, dike warden and secretary, ten coats of arms of Stemmende Hollandse en Stigt-Utrechtse districten (‘Voting districts of Holland and Sticht-Utrecht’) and nineteen coats of arms of Contribuerende districten (‘Contributing districts’) as they were in function in 1749. The right column shows the coats of arms of the officials who had joined between 1750 and 1755.

A lot of boasting

In addition there is an extra of 23 coats of arms from board members covering the period 1732-1781 meant to paste over the coats of arms of former board members or to fill an empty coat of arms at the original final assembly. The year 1781 is therefore leading for the publication date of this state of the thirteen-sheet wall map. In the digital assembly shown here the extra coats of arms have not been included because their final position on the map is not known. Nevertheless, the end result is a striking example of a real water control board map giving the board members the chance to not only determine the policy of water management but also to take pride in themselves.

Further reading

ca. 1781
MvE, 2013
Wall map of the Zeeburg- and Diemerdijk, Jan van Wandelaar, ca. 1781
Detail wall map of the Zeeburg- and Diemerdijk, Jan van Wandelaar, ca. 1781
Detail wall map of the Zeeburg- and Diemerdijk, Jan van Wandelaar, ca. 1781
Detail wall map of the Zeeburg- and Diemerdijk, Jan van Wandelaar, ca. 1781
Detail wall map of the Zeeburg- and Diemerdijk, Jan van Wandelaar, ca. 1781

Kaarte van alle de dykpligtige en eenige waalpligtige landen behorende onder het Hoogreemraadschap van den Zeeburg en Diemerdyk (Utrecht UB, Kaart: Moll 203); [S.l. : s.n., ca. 1781].