1595 Mercator Map of the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Guernsey and Jersey Islands

Anglesey/ Wight Vectis olim/ Garnesay/ Jarsey. - Main View

1595 Mercator Map of the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Guernsey and Jersey Islands


Anglesey, Wight and the Channel Islands from Contemporary Sources.


Anglesey/ Wight Vectis olim/ Garnesay/ Jarsey.
  1595 (undated)     12.5 x 17 in (31.75 x 43.18 cm)


This is the 1595 first edition of Gerard Mercator's map of the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Guernsey and Jersey. It was the first map to provide detailed focus on these islands to appear in a general atlas. All four maps are sharply detailed, with towns and topography indicated throughout; each individual map is provided its own scale, and each is titled within an elegant cartouche. The seas around Anglesey and Jersey are stippled, while those around Wight and Guernsey are hachured: the composition overall thus gives a pleasing checkerboard effect.
Mercator's map of Anglesey is not identical to Saxton's 1581 mapping of the island, but the toponymy is near enough to strongly suggest a connection. Saxton is a better fit, in any case, than Mercator's own presentation of the island on his 1564 wall map of England, or in Humphrey Lhuyd's map of Wales reproduced in 1573 by Ortelius. The mapping of the Isle of Wight very closely resembles the 1591 manuscript of the island by Baptista Boazio, even in such particulars as the six hilltop navigational beacons, but whether Mercator got his map from Boazio, or vice versa, or both drew upon an unknown mutual source can't be definitively determined.

Both of the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey appear on Mercator's 1564 map, but in insufficient detail to consider this as a source. Both show hills in profile, and enough placenames to suggest a firsthand source. At least some answers are clear: the map of Guernsey is an unmistakable copy of a c. 1560 manuscript produced by Reyner Wolfe (d. 1573). The map of Jersey is harder to place, but both maps include pictorial representation of dangerous rocks imperiling any approach to the islands - and the Wolfe manuscript is notable in showing those rocks in the same fashion as on Mercator's. The presentation of coastal rocks surrounding Jersey, in the same style as appear around Guernsey, is strongly suggestive of the source being the same. In the absence of a surviving copy, it is possible only to speculate, but both context and style suggest that Mercator had access to maps both of Guernsey and Jersey sourced from Wolfe.

This was the last of the maps dedicated to the British Isles in Mercator's atlas. Consequently, it ends with a note referring the reader to other Historical sources: Si quis plura de Britannicis insulis scire desiderat, is legat Georgium Buchananum, Guilielmum Camdenum, Johannem Lesleium, Richard Stanihurstum et Raphaelem Holmsheadium, qui diligentissime has insulas descripserunt. ('If anyone wishes to know more about the British Isles, he should refer to George Buchanan, William Camden, John Leslie, Richard Stanyhurst, and Raphael Holinshed, who have most carefully described these islands.') This note is also suggestive of a possible connection with Reyner Wolfe: he had begun the compilation of a chronicle of England, Scotland and Ireland, which though incomplete would be completed with the assistance of the same Holinshed, Harrison, and Stanyhurst whose work he praised.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved by Gerard Mercator for inclusion in the third volume of his atlas, which was not published until 1595 by his heirs in the posthumous Atlas sive Cosmographicae. It was included in editions of the Mercator / Hondius atlas without change until 1644, at which point Jansson replaced the map in his editions of the atlas with a new plate. The typography of the verso text on our example conforms to the 1595 first edition of the Mercator atlas. The map is well represented in institutional collections in its later editions. This first issue of 1595 is scarce.


Gerard Mercator (March 5, 1512 - December 2, 1594) is a seminal figure in the history of cartography. Mercator was born near Antwerp as Gerard de Cremere in Rupelmonde. He studied Latin, mathematics, and religion in Rupelmonde before his Uncle, Gisbert, a priest, arranged for him to be sent to Hertogenbosch to study under the Brothers of the Common Life. There he was taught by the celebrated Dutch humanist Georgius Macropedius (Joris van Lanckvelt; April 1487 - July 1558). It was there that he changed him name, adapting the Latin term for 'Merchant', that is 'Mercator'. He went on to study at the University of Louvain. After some time, he left Louvain to travel extensively, but returned in 1534 to study mathematics under Gemma Frisius (1508 - 1555). He produced his first world map in 1538 - notable as being the first to represent North America stretching from the Arctic to the southern polar regions. This impressive work earned him the patronage of the Emperor Charles V, for whom along with Van der Heyden and Gemma Frisius, he constructed a terrestrial globe. He then produced an important 1541 globe - the first to offer rhumb lines. Despite growing fame and imperial patronage, Mercator was accused of heresy and in 1552. His accusations were partially due to his Protestant faith, and partly due to his travels, which aroused suspicion. After being released from prison with the support of the University of Louvain, he resumed his cartographic work. It was during this period that he became a close fried to English polymath John Dee (1527 - 1609), who arrived in Louvain in 1548, and with whom Mercator maintained a lifelong correspondence. In 1552, Mercator set himself up as a cartographer in Duisburg and began work on his revised edition of Ptolemy's Geographia. He also taught mathematics in Duisburg from 1559 to 1562. In 1564, he became the Court Cosmographer to Duke Wilhelm of Cleve. During this period, he began to perfect the novel projection for which he is best remembered. The 'Mercator Projection' was first used in 1569 for a massive world map on 18 sheets. On May 5, 1590 Mercator had a stroke which left him paralyzed on his left side. He slowly recovered but suffered frustration at his inability to continue making maps. By 1592, he recovered enough that he was able to work again but by that time he was losing his vision. He had a second stroke near the end of 1593, after which he briefly lost speech. He recovered some power of speech before a third stroke marked his end. Following Mercator's death his descendants, particularly his youngest son Rumold (1541 - December 31, 1599) completed many of his maps and in 1595, published his Atlas. Nonetheless, lacking their father's drive and genius, the firm but languished under heavy competition from Abraham Ortelius. It was not until Mercator's plates were purchased and republished (Mercator / Hondius) by Henricus Hondius II (1597 - 1651) and Jan Jansson (1588 - 1664) that his position as the preeminent cartographer of the age was re-established. More by this mapmaker...

Reyner Wolfe (died 1573) was a Dutch-born English Protestant printer, cartographer, and historian. He was born in Druten; virtually nothing is known of his youth and education. A Protestant, he settled in England prior to 1530, where he would set up as a bookseller in London; his work began to appear in 1542, and was noted for its introducton of Greek and Hebrew typefaces. He was one of the original members of the Stationers' Company, of which society he was made Master in 1559, 1564, 1567 and 1572. He planned and began a Universal Cosmography, but he died before it was finished. Much of the work would be included in Holinshed's Chronicles of 1577. Wolfe is known to have produced at least one map in manuscript, a c. 1560 map of the Channel Island, Guernsey: it is not recorded that any of his cartographic works were printed by him, or what others survived. But certainly his Guernsey map would find its way to Gerard Mercator, who would reproduce it in his 1595 Atlas. Learn More...

Christopher Saxton (c. 1540 – c. 1610) was an English cartographer. He produced the first county maps of England and Wales. His childhood and education is not well understood but he may have attended the predecessor school to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield and also Cambridge University. It is supposed that he learned mapmaking from John Rudd, the vicar of Dewsbury and Thornhill. He was commissioned to begin a survey of England, financed by Thomas Seckford of Suffolk, Saxton began the work in 1574; in 1577 he extended his survey to Wales. The first plates were engraved in 1574, and they were complete in 1578. The maps were produced in the Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales published in 1579. The atlas was popular and influential; cartographers including John Speed would add to and adapt Saxton's work. Saxton may have engraved the maps of the Welsh counties himself: the remainder of the atlas was engraved by Dutch and Flemish artists. Learn More...

Giovanni Battista Boazio (fl. 1588 – 1606) was an Italian draftsman and cartographer. A large part of his career was spent working in England, where he would produce maps of Ireland, the Isle of Wight, and an array of maps recording Sir Francis Drake's voyages to the West Indies. His map of Ireland would appear in Ortelius' Theatrum, while his Isle of Wight would provide Mercator with the source for his map of the island. Learn More...


Mercator, G., Atlas sive Cosmographicae, (Duisberg: Busius) 1595.     Mercator's Atlas is one of the most important works in the history of cartography. Although in fact Ortelius was the first to publish a proper atlas, the Teatrum Orbis Terrarum, Mercator's Atlas the first book to employ the term Atlas for a collection of maps. The term is derived both from the mythical titan, Atlas, who was forced to bear the world upon his shoulders, and the Libyan king, philosopher, and astronomer of the same name that, so the legend goes, constructed the first globe. Mercator dedicated the final 25 years of his life to compile the Atlas. He published two parts during his lifetime in 1585 and 1589, but the final part published posthumously by his son Rumold Mercator, in 1595. The map plates for the Atlas were later acquired by Jodocus Hondius who published the most complete and well known edition in 1606. It was Jodocus who popularized the Atlas and who did the most to elevate Gerard Mercator's work.


Very good. Printer's crease in surface of Jersey map; else excellent with a bold strike and generous margins.


OCLC 843398126. Rumsey 10501.115 (1607) Van der Krogt, P. C. J., Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici, (Vol. 1), 5700:1A. Karrow, R. W., Mapmakers of the Sixteenth Century and their Maps 56/159.