1584 Ortelius Map of the Holy Land / Israel / Palestine

Terra Sancta, a Petro Laicstain perlustrata, et ab eius ore et schedis a Christiano Schrot in tabulam redacta. - Main View

1584 Ortelius Map of the Holy Land / Israel / Palestine


Ortelius' most state of the art Holy Land.


Terra Sancta, a Petro Laicstain perlustrata, et ab eius ore et schedis a Christiano Schrot in tabulam redacta.
  1584 (undated)     14.5 x 20 in (36.83 x 50.8 cm)     1 : 660000


This is Abraham Ortelius' 1584 map of the Holy Land, the only one of his maps of the region based on contemporaneous travelers' reports. It is also one of the most beautifully engraved maps of the Holy Land produced in the 16th century, with a dramatic depiction in the lower left of Jonah and the Whale, and the medallions decorating the cartouche with scenes of the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
Scope of the Map
This eastern-oriented map traces the coastline from Beirut and the mountains of Lebanon to Gaza and the Seir mountains. It reaches as far east as the Wadi el-Mujib, here marked as Arnon Torrens (Biblically, the geographical separation of Moab from the tribes of Reuben and Gad). The map features a prominent Dead Sea and a Sea of Galilee. Mountains are indicated pictorially. Cities and regional names are predominantly Biblical, naming the Tribes of Judaea.
The Sources
Ortelius' immediate source was a now-unobtainable 1570 nine-sheet map drawn by Christian Sgrooten. This work itself was drawn from the report by the Dutch astronomer Petrus Laiksteen, of his 1556 visit to the Holy Land (Sgrooten's map is the sole surviving evidence of this visit). So while the map is - typically of early maps of the Holy Land - primarily focused on the region as a Biblical location, its delineation and the placement of its features is unique among contemporaneous maps in being based on actual experience. This is revealed sharply in its notations describing ruined and nameless villages, doubtless actual descriptions of observations, nestled among the Biblical placenames.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved for inclusion in the 1584 edition of Abraham Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. There are two recorded states of the map, of which this is the second, identifiable by the further hachure and stippling added in 1595. The present example corresponds typographically to the 1598 French-text edition of the Theatrum. We see one example of this edition listed in OCLC, although the map in its various editions is well represented in institutional collections and appears on the market.


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., Théâtre de l'vnivers, (Antwerp: Plantin) 1598.     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.


Good. Mended centerfold and two surface mends with slight loss. Else very presentable with a bold strike.


OCLC 234169990. Nebenzahl, K., Maps of the Holy Land, plate 31. Laor, E., Map of the Holy Land: Cartobibliography of Printed Maps, 1475 - 1900, no. 543.