1606 Hondius and Mercator Map of Mexico

Hispaniae Novae Nova Descriptio.

1606 Hondius and Mercator Map of Mexico


Important early map of Mexico.

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Hispaniae Novae Nova Descriptio.
  c. 1611 (undated)    14.5 x 19.5 in (36.83 x 49.53 cm)


This is a rare and often under appreciated 1606 mapping New Spain by Hondius and Mercator. Covering the viceroyalty granted to Hernan Cortez following his conquest of the Aztec Empire, this map details, roughly, from Mexico City westward to the Pacific coast and northward as far as modern day Michoacán. Cartographically Mercator's map is heavily influenced by Ortelius' 1579 map of the same region. Though we are uncertain of Ortelius' sources, this map exhibits a combination of known and speculative cartographic elements. Mexico City appears at right center surrounded by water as it appeared at the time of the conquest. By the time this map was drawn, much of the region between Mexico City and the Pacific ports along the coast, as well as the mining regions to the north and west, had been roughly mapped by the conquistadores. Lake Chapala (Chapalicum Mare) for example is accurately situated and formed. However, as the map extends further north into only tenuously explored regions, the cartography becomes more speculative. The large inland sea in the northwestern quadrant with is four numbered and named islands is clearly drawn from indigenous legends, most likely as transmitted via the Codex Mendoza. Elaborate baroque title cartouche in the upper right quadrant. Scale and key in the lower left and right quadrants, respectively


Gerard Mercator (1512 - 1594) is a seminal figure in the history of cartography. Mercator's calculations and map designs redefined the 16th century concept of cartography and were the first to break away from the Ptolemy model. Many of his systems of measurement, such as the Mercator Projection, are still in use today. Despite his prominence as a cartographer, he started his career as a crafter of scientific instruments. He did not construct his first map until 1540, when he made two maps, one of Flanders and another of Palestine. These two impressive works earned him the patronage of the Emperor Charles V, for whom he construed a globe and several large scale maps. Despite this imperial patronage, Mercator was accused of heresy and in 1552 fled to Duisburg. In Duisburg he set himself up as a cartographer and began work on his revised edition of Ptolemy's Geographia. This three volume work was the first book to be called an "Atlas", after the Titan and King of Mauritania. Following Mercator's death his descendants took over his firm but languished because of heavy competition from the Ortelius firm. It was not until Mercator's plates were purchased and republished ( Mercator / Hondius ) by Henricus Hondius and Jan Jansson that Mercator's position as the preeminent cartographer of the age was re-established.

Jodocus Hondius (October, 14 1563 - February 12, 1612) was an important Dutch cartographer active in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His common name, Jodocus Hondius is actually a Latinized version of his Dutch name, Joost de Hondt. He is also sometimes referred to as Jodocus Hondius the Elder to distinguish him from his sons. Hondius was a Flemish artist, engraver, and cartographer. He is best known for his early maps of the New World and Europe, for re-establishing the reputation of the work of Gerard Mercator, and for his portraits of Francis Drake. Hondius was born and raised in Ghent. In his early years he established himself as an engraver, instrument maker and globe maker. In 1584 he moved to London to escape religious difficulties in Flanders. During his stay in England, Hondius was instrumental in publicizing the work of Francis Drake, who had made a circumnavigation of the world in the late 1570s. In particular, in 1589 Hondius produced a now famous map of the cove of New Albion, where Drake briefly established a settlement on the west coast of North America. Hondius' map was based on journal and eyewitness accounts of the trip and has long fueled speculation about the precise location of Drake's landing, which has not yet been firmly established by historians. Hondius is also thought to be the artist of several well-known portraits of Drake that are now in the National Portrait Gallery in London. In 1593 Hondius returned to Amsterdam, where he remained until the end of his life. In 1604 he purchased the plates of Gerard Mercator's Atlas from Mercator's grandson. Mercator's work had languished in comparison to the rival atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Ortelius. Hondius republished Mercator's work with 36 additional maps, including several which he himself produced. Despite the addition of his own contributions, Hondius recognizing the prestige of Mercator's name, gave Mercator full credit as the author of the work, listing himself as the publisher. Hondius' new edition of Mercator's revived the great cartographer's reputation was a great success, selling out after a year. Hondius later published a second edition, as well as a pocket version called the Atlas Minor. The maps have since become known as the "Mercator/Hondius series". Between 1605 and 1610 Hondius was employed by John Speed to engrave the plates for Speed's The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. Following Hondius' death in 1612, his publishing work in Amsterdam was continued by his widow and two sons, Jodocus II and Henricus. Later his family formed a partnership with Jan Jansson, whose name appears on the Atlas as co-publisher after 1633. Eventually, starting with the first 1606 edition in Latin, about 50 editions of the Atlas were released in the main European languages. In the Islamic world, the atlas was partially translated by the Turkish scholar Katip Çelebi. The series is sometimes called the "Mercator/Hondius/Jansson" series because of Jansson's later contributions. Hondius' is also credited wth a number of important cartographic innovations including the introduction of decorative map border and the evolution of the 17th centruy Dutch wall map. The work of Hondius was essential to the establishment Amsterdam as the center of cartography in Europe in the 17th century.


Hondius, J. & Mercator, G., L'Atlas ou méditations Cosmographiques de la Fabrique du Monde et Figure d'Iceluy. Commencé en Latin par le très docte Gerard Mercator, parachevé per Jodocus Hondius. Amsterdam, 1609., 1609.    


Good. Original color. Some color degradation. Small chip missing along the right center border (see image). Original centerfold. Text on verso.


Osher Map Library, OS-1611-3. Van der Krogt, P., Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici, 9510:1.1.