This item has been sold, but you can get on the Waitlist to be notified if another example becomes available, or purchase a digital scan.

1630 Mercator / Hondius Map of Iceland: 2nd Accurate Map of Iceland

Islandia. - Main View

1630 Mercator / Hondius Map of Iceland: 2nd Accurate Map of Iceland


One of the earliest maps of Iceland based on local information.


  1595 (undated)     11 x 17.25 in (27.94 x 43.815 cm)     1 : 2000000


This is a beautiful strike of Gerhard Mercator's map of Iceland, included by Jodocus Hondius and his heirs in their Atlas sive Cosmographicae. It is the second map of Iceland to appear in a modern atlas, and the second map overall of Iceland based on data originating from an Icelander, placing it among the first accurate maps of the island. Mercator's map first appeared in 1595, only five years after Abraham Ortelius' famous map; both maps shared the same ultimate source: Guðbrandur Þorláksson, Bishop of Holar.
It is not known if Mercator received this map from Ortelius (the two were friends, so this is possible) but since the map is not a copy of the Ortelius either in detail or decor, it seems unlikely. Mercator's source may, as with Ortelius, have been Danish scholar Anders Sørensen Vedel; a third source, Henrik Rantzau, is also possible. Rantzau was both a politician and a considerable scholar, with whom Mercator is known to have corresponded in the second half of the 1580s. Their correspondence suggests that Rantzau assisted Mercator in acquiring maps from Scandinavia, and while Iceland is not referred to in these letters, it is a likely channel. Vedel and Rantzau were also acquainted, so that encourages the idea that he might have been the connection to Mercator. Regardless of the channel, it is agreed that the ultimate source of the data for both this and Ortelius' map is the same: while there are many differences between the two, the similarities are too strong to deny that both share an origin in bishop Guðbrandur's work.
Variations between Mercator and Ortelius
The first and second maps of Iceland to appear in atlases do not agree in terms of latitude and longitude, suggesting that this data might not have been included in the data provided to the two mapmakers. Mercator's Iceland is somewhat further to the north than the Ortelius, and overall it is less wide than the earlier map: in respect to its fjords and mountains, it is less of a caricature than the Ortelius (although both maps overemphasize the island's dramatic topography.) The Mercator is in these respects less decorative, but simpler and more reliable than its predecessor. The map shows a good understanding of Iceland's populated centers, but uninhabited areas - the interior highlands and main glaciers, for instance - are ignored or compressed. Rivers, also, are mainly accurate but only near populated areas. It also contains more place names than Ortelius' map - although many of these do not appear to originate with bishop Guðbrandur.
A Superb Engraving
This map is among the most decoratively engraved of Mercator's atlas maps; Mercator himself was an accomplished engraver, and those maps that had been completed and added to the 1595 Atlas were for the most part done by his hand. This map's stippled oceans, dramatic pictorial mountains, and neat variation between Roman and Italic lettering are hallmarks of Mercator's engraving. A sea monster - judging by the spouts, based on whale sightings - breaks the surface of the water to the north. Iceland's mount Hekla is shown erupting massively. In fact, it exploded violently in 1510 (VEI 4) and was notorious even on the mainland, thought to be a literal gate to Hell. Also named are some of the country's other famous volcanoes, such as Eyjafjallajökull (here spelled Eiapiallahokel) which erupted in 2010. The absence of the currently-erupting volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Fagradalsfjall, is not a surprise: the 2021 eruption is the first of that volcano to occur in recorded history.
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved at some point prior to the 1595 edition of Mercator's Atlas sive Cosmographicae, and was included in editions of the Mercator/ Hondius atlas until 1633, at which point it was replaced with an updated map. Van Der Krogt does not distinguish between Latin editions after 1613, which share the same pagination. The breadth of the folio on which this example is printed leads us to suspect that it belongs to one of the later, 1623 or 1630 Latin editions of the Hondius atlas. The separate map is well represented in institutional collections, but strong examples are becoming scarce on the market.


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...

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 revived the great cartographer's reputation and 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 Atlasas 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 with a number of important cartographic innovations including the introduction of decorative map borders and contributions to the evolution of 17th century Dutch wall maps. The work of Hondius was essential to the establishment Amsterdam as the center of cartography in Europe in the 17th century. Learn More...

Guðbrandur Þorláksson or Gudbrand Thorlakssøn (c. 1542 - July 20 1627) was bishop of Hólar, Iceland from April 1571 until his death. He was the longest-serving bishop in Iceland. He is known for printing the first complete Icelandic translation of the Bible, and for providing the data for the first accurate maps of Iceland, printed at the end of the sixteenth century by Ortelius and Mercator. He was the son of the priest Þorláks Hallgrímssonar, and Helga Jónsdóttir, daughter of the lawyer Jón Sigmundsson. He studied at Hólar College from 1553 to 1559 before studying theology and logic at the University of Copenhagen: Guðbrandur was one of the first Icelanders to study in Denmark instead of in Germany. He returned to Iceland in 1564 to serve as rector of the Skálholt School before becoming a priest. In 1571 he was named Bishop of Hólar by the Danish King Frederick II; he would serve as bishop of Hólar for 56 years. As bishop, Guðbrandur focused on printing religious works - including hymns, and the Bible - in Icelandic. He printed nearly 100 books - many of which he wrote and translated himself. In addition to cementing the Reformation firmly in Iceland, his efforts to accurately translate these works are credited with fundamentally strengthening the Icelandic language overall.

A well-rounded scholar, Guðbrandur maintained interests in natural history, astronomy, and surveying. He is credited with the drafting of at least one new map of Iceland, upon which the first printed maps of the Island by Abraham Ortelius and Gerard Mercator were based. Learn More...


Mercator, G., Hondius, J.,  Atlas sive Cosmographicae, (Amsterdam : Hondius) 1613-1630.     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. Some dampstaining to margins well away from printed image; else excellent with a bold, sharp strike.


Rumsey 10501.064 (1607). OCLC 956281929. Van der Krogt, P. C. J., Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici, (3 Vols),1250 1 A.