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1603 Ortelius Map of the Azores

Acores Insulae. - Main View

1603 Ortelius Map of the Azores



Acores Insulae.
  1603 (undated)     13 x 18.5 in (33.02 x 46.99 cm)     1 : 1700000


A highly decorative 1603 map of the Azores by Abraham Ortelius. The map covers the Azores in considerable detail with numerous ships decorating the seas and a large sea serpent just west of St. Michael. The detail and overall beauty of Ortelius' map is reflective of the importance of the Azores to 16th and 17th century navigators. Columbus stopped, and was briefly imprisoned, here on his first voyage of discovery to the Americas. Other navigators followed his example until the islands became a major resupply point on the Spanish Galleon routes to and from the New World.

Ortelius derived this map from Luis Teixeira's single sheet map of Terceira from 1582, which bears Ortelius' name and of which Meurer mentions one copy at the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris (Meurer p. 253-254). This map first appeared in the 1584 Latin edition of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. There are three known states, the present example being the third state, issued in 300 copies for the 1603 Latin Edition of the Theatrum.


Abraham Ortelius (April 14, 1527 - June 28, 1598) also known as Ortels, was a cartographer, geographer, and cosmographer of Brabant, active in Antwerp. He was the creator of the first modern atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum and is a seminal figure in the history of cartography. Along with Gerard Mercator and Gemma Frisius, he was a founder of the Netherlandish school of cartography. His connections with Spain - culminating in his 1575 appointment as Royal Cartographer to King Phillip II of Spain - gave him unmatched access to Spanish geographical knowledge during a crucial period of the Age of Discovery. Ortelius was born in 1527 in Antwerp. In 1547 he entered the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke as an illuminator of maps. He began trading in books, prints, and maps, traveling regularly to the Frankfurt book and print fair, where in 1554 he met Mercator. He accompanied Mercator on journeys throughout France in 1560 and it was at this time, under Mercator's influence, that he appears to have chosen his career as a scientific geographer. His first published geographic work appeared in 1564, an eight-sheet cordiform world map. A handful of other maps preceded the 1570 publication of the first edition of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which would prove to be his life work. Appearing with but 53 maps in its first edition, Ortelius' work expanded with new maps added regularly. By 1592, it had 134 maps. Many of Ortelius' maps remained the standard for nearly a century. He traveled extensively, but his genius was as a compiler, locating the best informed maps on which to base his own. His contacts throughout Europe and extending even (via the Portuguese) to the Far East were formidable. Moreover, many of his maps were based on his own scholarship, particularly his historical works. His theories of geography were particularly ahead of his time with respect to the notion of continental drift, the possibility of which he mused on as early as 1596, and which would be proven correct centuries later.

In a sense his greatest achievement was his successful navigation of the religious and political violence endemic to his city throughout his adult life: The Dutch Revolt, or Eighty Years' War (1568 - 1648), fully embroiled Antwerp. Although outwardly and officially recognized as Catholic (Arias Montanus vouched for Ortelius' Catholic orthodoxy prior to his appointment as Royal Geographer), Ortelius was able to separate himself from the religious furor which characterized the war in the low countries. Ortelius showed a glimpse of himself in a letter to a friend, regarding humanist Justus Lipsius: 'I do not know whether he is an adherent of the Pope or a Calvinist, but if he has ears to hear, he will neither be one nor the other, for sins are committed on both sides'. Ortelius' own explorations of Biblical history in his maps, and the Christogram contained in his own motto, suggest him to be a religious man, but his abjuration of political religious authorities mark him as an individualist. His tombstone at St Michael's Præmonstratensian Abbey in Antwerp bears the inscription, Quietis cultor sine lite, uxore, prole. ('served quietly, without accusation, wife, and offspring.') More by this mapmaker...


Ortelius, A., Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, (Amsterdam) Latin Edition, 1603.    


Very good. Minor wormholing restricted to margins. Blank on verso. Wide clean margins. Original platemark.


Ort 24 (Koeman/Meurer: 95, Karrow: 1/136, van der Krogt AN: 6350:31), 1604L15.