This item has been sold, but you can enter your email address to be notified if another example becomes available, or purchase a digital scan.

1608 Vrients Edition of Ortelius' Map of Ancient Sicily

Siciliae Veteris Typus ex Conatibus geographicis Ab. Ortelij. - Main View

1608 Vrients Edition of Ortelius' Map of Ancient Sicily


Vrients color.



Siciliae Veteris Typus ex Conatibus geographicis Ab. Ortelij.
  1608 (dated)     14.5 x 19 in (36.83 x 48.26 cm)     1 : 825000


This is a superb example of Ortelius' map of Sicily as it was known in antiquity. The map is noteworthy for highlighting Ortelius' scholarship as a historian, as well as for denoting the locations of many sites from classical antiquity and mythology. This example is noteworthy as being from the Jan Bapatista Vrients (1552 - 1612) edition, which are known for exceptionally rich original colorwork.
Ortelius the Historian
Ortelius is well known as a compiler of maps - most of the maps in his Theatrum were carefully sourced from the best sources available to him and cited. He was himself an eager historian, and his maps in his classical and Biblical atlas Parergon tended to be the product of his own research distilling classical sources such as Strabo and Ptolemy. Koeman's gloss on the work explains:
'This atlas of ancient geography must be regarded as a personal work of Ortelius. For this work he did not, as in the Theatrum, copy other people's maps but drew the originals himself... He took many places and regions from the lands of classical civilization to illustrate and clarify their history, a subject very close to his heart... The maps and plates of the Parergon have to be evaluated as the most outstanding engravings depicting the wide-spread interest in classical geography in the 16th century.
The present map is a superb example of Ortelius' historical geography. The basic geographical model for the map of the island is drawn from Giacomo Gastaldi's 1545 map of Sicily, but the place names and much of the topography are drawn from Ortelius' own interpretations of classical sources.
A View of Classical Syracuse
The upper left of the engraving contains a strapwork-framed inset map of the city of Syracuse and its immediate vicinity, derived largely from the reports of Virgil and Thucydides. The details include the Fountain of Arethusa, the fountain on the island of Ortygia in the historical center of the city. This fresh water fountain was reputed to be the place where Syracuse's patroness, the nymph Arethusa, returned to earth's surface after escaping from her undersea home in Arcadia.
Historical and Mythical Locations
Many of the features included here are of concrete historical nature, although some of are placed with more confidence than was deserved. For example, Ortelius places Sicily's Via Valeria running straight from Lilybaeum (modern Marsala) to Messina (The Via Valeria actually hewed to the coastline.) Much of the detail comes from the pages of Greek mythology. The volcano Aetna is here noted as the 'Pillar of Heaven.' At the center of the island appears 'Lake Pergus, also the navel of Sicily. Here Prosperina was captured by Pluto.'The lake does indeed exist. It is the site of the famous racetrack Autodromo di Pergusa the ruins of an old fortified village, with walls constructed around the 9th millennium BC, and an ancient temple most appropriately dedicated to Demeter. (Demeter being the mother of Persephone, the Greek analog for Prosperina.) Of the coastline northwest of Messina, it is noted that in antiquity it was believed the cattle of the sun god were stabled there (the same cattle of Helios molested by Odysseus' crew, incurring their divine punishment and Odysseus' unendurable servitude to the nymph Calypso.) The passage between Sicily and the tip of the Italian boot features the sites of the Homeric Scylla and Charybdis, the twin perils that menaced Odysseus back when he still had a ship and a crew.
Publication History and Census
Ortelius' map was engraved in 1584 and appeared in all subsequent editions of Ortelius' Biblical and historical atlas, Parergon, which was itself generally bound into Ortelius' Theatrum. This specific example matches van den Broecke state 5, and typographically corresponds to the map appearing in the 1608 Italian edition of Theatrum / Parergon. This edition was published by Ortelius executor, Vrients, whose editions of the atlas are prized for their unusually rich and beautiful hand coloring (evident in the present example).


Abraham Ortelius (1527 - 1598) was one of the most important figures in the history of cartography and is most famously credited with the compilation of the seminal 1570 atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, generally considered to be the world's first modern atlas. Ortelius was born in Antwerp and began his cartographic career in 1547 as a typesetter for the Antwerp Guild of St. Luke. In this role Ortelius traveled extensively through Europe where he came into contact with Mercator, under whose influence, he marketed himself as a "scientific geographer". In this course of his long career he published numerous important maps as well as issued several updated editions of his cardinal work, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Late in his career Ortelius was appointed Royal Cartographer to King Phillip II of Spain. On his death in July fourth, 1598, Ortelius' body was buried in St Michael's Præmonstratensian Abbey , Antwerp, where his tombstone reads, Quietis cultor sine lite, uxore, prole. Learn More...

Johannes Baptista Vrients (1552-1612) was a Flemish engraver, publisher and mapseller. Little is known of his early years, but it is to be assumed he came up as an apprentice among the mapmakers of Antwerp, where the guild named him a master in 1575. In the 1590s he executed world maps for Plancius and Linschoten. (In 1600 he became executor for Ortelius, and acquired the plates for the Theatrum after that mapmaker's death. He would go on to publish further editions of the Ortelius atlas between 1606 and 1612. Vrients also acquired the plates for De Jode's Speculum in and around 1600, but he did not republish that work - though he would preserve the De Jode plates depicting the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, reprinting it in his editions of the Ortelius atlas after 1603. Vrients' editions of the Theatrum were not published in Antwerp (that city having fallen during the Dutch war with Spain) but in Amsterdam. Learn More...

Giocomo Gastaldi (c. 1500 - October, 1566) was an Italian astronomer, cartographer, and engineer active in the second half of the 16th century. Gastaldi (sometimes referred to as Jacopo or Iacobo) began his career as an engineer, serving the Venetian Republic in that capacity until the fourth decade of the sixteenth century. During this time he traveled extensively, building a large library relating to voyages and exploration. From about 1544 he turned his attention to mapmaking, working extensively with Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Nicolo Bascarini, and Giovanbattista Pedrezano, as well ask taking private commission for, among others, Venice's Council of Ten. He is credited with the fresco maps of Asia and Africa still extent in the map room of the Doge's Palace. Gastaldi was also one of the first cartographers to embrace copper plate over woodblock engraving, marking and important development in the history of cartography. His 1548 edition of Ptolemy's Geographia was the first to be printed in a vernacular; it was the first to be printed in copperplate. As with his Swiss/German contemporary M√ľnster, Gastaldi;'s work contained many maps depicting newly discovered regions for the first time, including the first map to focus on the East Coast of North America, and the first modern map of the Indian Peninsula. His works provided the source for the vast majority of the Venetian and Roman map publishers of the 1560s and 70s, and would continue to provide an outsize influence on the early maps of Ortelius, De Jode, and Mercator. Learn More...


Excellent. Marginal reinforcements at extremes of centerfold, not impacting printed image. Some marginal staining well away from borders. Generous margins and superb original color.


OCLC 867001107. Rumsey 10001.397. van den Broecke, M. Ortelius Atlas Maps: An illustrated Guide (second edition) 211.5.