1572 Ortelius Map of America

Americae Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio. - Main View

1572 Ortelius Map of America


The first Atlas Map of the Western Hemisphere.


Americae Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio.
  1572 (undated)     14.5 x 20 in (36.83 x 50.8 cm)     1 : 40000000


This is Abraham Ortelius' map of the Western Hemisphere, 'first map of the Americas to appear in a modern atlas' (Schwartz). Ortelius' success and the spread of his atlas made this fine map the standard - and best - representation of the Americas during the initial period of the colonization of North America by Europeans.
On The Map
Given how recently the Western Hemisphere had come to the attention of European scholars, the outline of the continent is remarkably accurate and recognizable. The American Northeast is dominated by Nova Francia and the St. Lawrence, showing evidence from Cartier's voyages there. The delineation of the Caribbean and eastern South America is shown with remarkable accuracy. The Strait of Magellan is shown, though Tierra del Fuego appears not as an island but as part of a massive southern continent extending all the way to New Guinea. The Pacific Ocean itself appears optimistically far narrower than it actually is, with New Guinea appearing south of Quivira and the strait of Anian. The Pacific coast, indeed, shows great distortion both in North and South America. The Chilean coast shows the 'Potato-shaped' bulge characteristic also found on Mercator's map. In Mexico and the Southwest, Coronado's placenames of Ceuola, Tiguex and Quivira appear. Peru and the Rio de la Plata are well detailed, although the size of the latter is exaggerated.
Ortelius' Sources
The general shape of the continent and many of its details were drawn from those appearing on Ortelius' friend and fellow mapmaker Gerard Mercator's massive (and unobtainable) 1669 world map. Much of the fine detail was derived from Spanish sources - itself a remarkable accomplishment, as the Spanish and Portuguese were famously opposed to the publication of their discoveries, particularly in the New World. These sources, naturally, are nameless - but the sharp detail of the parts of the Americas within the Spanish sphere gives the game away. The Pacific coast, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Gulf, and South America all reveal detail from a source familiar with the Spanish journeys there.
Elegant and Distinctive
In addition to its revealing detail, Ortelius' map is a beautiful work, showing the skill of Franz Hogenberg, the map's engraver. Ships sail the stippled oceans, and a sea monster prowls the South Atlantic. The garlanded, strapwork cartouche is surmounted with winged lions. The map's lettering is clear and legible throughout.
Publication History and Census
Americaewas among the fifty-three maps appearing in the very first 1570 edition of the Theatrum and versions of the map appeared in every edition until the last, printed in 1624. The copperplate was replaced twice during this run, and each of the three plates experienced some revision during this extraordinarily long print run. This first plate was used until 1575, approximately 1750 copies having been printed. Some 225 of these belonged to the 1572/3 German text edition, to which this example belonged. Examples of various editions of this map are well represented in institutional collections. The German edition of the Theatrum is catalogued in 13 libraries in OCLC.


Abraham Ortelius (1527 - 1598) was one of the most important figures in the history of cartography and is most famously credited with the compilation of the seminal 1570 atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, generally considered to be the world's first modern atlas. Ortelius was born in Antwerp and began his cartographic career in 1547 as a typesetter for the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. In this role Ortelius traveled extensively through Europe where he came into contact with Mercator, under whose influence, he marketed himself as a "scientific geographer". In this course of his long career he published numerous important maps as well as issued several updated editions of his cardinal work, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Late in his career Ortelius was appointed Royal Cartographer to King Phillip II of Spain. On his death in July fourth, 1598, Ortelius' body was buried in St Michael's Præmonstratensian Abbey , Antwerp, where his tombstone reads, Quietis cultor sine lite, uxore, prole. Learn More...

Franz Hogenberg (1535 - 1590), often called 'Master Franz,' was a Flemish engraver active in the late 16th century. Hogenberg was born in Mechelen, the son of Nicolas Hogenberg, where he trained under the cartographer H. Terbruggen. He later relocated to Antwerp where he achieved success as an engraver, working with Abraham Ortelius, Hieronymus Cock, and others. In 1568, his name appeared on the list of those banned from the Netherlands by the Duke of Alva, forcing his family to flee to London. There he engraved for Christopher Saxon's Atlas of England and Wales. By 1570 he emigrated to Germany settling in Cologne. In Cologne he married his second wife, Agnes Lomar, with whom he had six children. In 1579 the couple were briefly imprisoned for holding illicit secret religious meetings, but were released in short order. Along with German cleric George Braun (1541 – March 10, 1622), Hogenberg issued the highly influential city atlas Civitates Orbis Terrarum. The six volume work, with some 546 views, was published between 1572 and 1617 and intended a companion to Abraham Ortelius' Thatrum Orbis Terrarum - thus certain obvious stylistic similarities. In compiling the Civitates Hogenberg took on the role of engraver while most of the editing was left to Georg Braun. Hogenberg died in Cologne, Germany, before the Civitates was completed. After his death, Hogenberg's work was continued by his son, Abraham Hogenberg, who, under the direction of Agnes, his mother, took over his father enterprise at just 20. Learn More...


Ortelius, Abraham Theatrum oder Schawplatz des erdbodems, warin die Landttafell der gantzen weldt, mit sambt aine der selben kurtze erklarug zu sehen ist... Antwerp, 1572     Abraham Ortelius' magnum opus, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, was the world's first regularly produced atlas, which 'set the standards for later atlases . . . It was the first undertaking of its kind to reduce the best available maps to an uniform format.' (Koeman) A modestly-sized work of fifty-three maps in its first edition of May 1570, it was an immediate success: there were three further editions that year, and the work remained in print for a total of 32 editions, the last of which was 1641, well after its author's 1598 death. Ortelius added to his atlas constantly, and by 1595 the Theatrum contained 147 maps. Ortelius is renowned generally as an editor, and indeed much of the Theatrum is compiled from a variety of sources: in such cases, Ortelius was scrupulous in naming his sources. But Ortelius was also a mapmaker in his own right: many of his maps are a distillation of various sources into his own work, and there were many maps - particularly in his atlas of Biblical and ancient history Parergon - which were entirely Ortelius' work. In his role as an editor, Ortelius followed in the footsteps of Munster, whose Cosmographia was, until Ortelius, the best window on the world for the curious European reader. In terms of the artistry of his maps, Ortelius oversaw the first great flourishing of copperplate engraving in the service of cartography to occur in Northern Europe. Ortelius' work provided the model for the atlases of Mercator, Hondius, Blaeu and all their progeny in the 17th century - many of whom were to produce faithful editions of Ortelius' maps in their own productions.


Very good. Centerfold mend with very slight loss, else excellent with a bold strike and fine hand color.


OCLC 1050160600. Rumsey 10000.000. Van den Broecke, Ort9 2.2. Burden, P., The Mapping of North America, 39, State 2. Schwartz, S. and Ehrenberg, R., The Mapping of America, p. 69.