An attractive example of Ortelius' seminal 1579 map of Tartary, one of the first maps to focus on the North Pacific. While the map is intended to detail Asia under the Great Khan, it is also notable for what it presents of America. The map includes what is now the west coast of the United States, northwestern Canada, and Alaska, lands then almost entirely unknown. It is the earliest obtainable map to name California. It also displays a strait separating Asia and America - the Strait of Asian - appearing long before Vitus Bering's exploration proved the existence of such. The map is a partial conic projection with coverage extending from the Black Sea to the Gulf of California, and from the Arctic to southern China, what Europeans then considered the extent of the Tartar Kingdom. In fact, much of the content north of China is mythical or loosely derived from the journals of Marco Polo, the legends of Prester John, and Biblical sources.
A Groundbreaking Map
This is one of the earliest maps to attempt the mapping of northeast Asia. Prior maps relied on ancient geographers, whose concrete data seldom reached beyond Eastern Europe. The present map is also informed by Marco Polo's 13th century voyages, but Ortelius does much to reconcile the medieval knowledge of Asia with 16th century revelations of the Western Hemisphere. The Pacific Ocean is optimistically narrow, particularly at the Strait of Anian, encouraging the notion of a close connection between the Americas and the orient.
Treasure Cities in the Americas
Near America's peninsular California, six of the legendary Seven Cities of Gold are noted: Chicuich, Axa, Tiguas, Totonteas, Chicana, and Coana. The legend of the Seven Cities emerged in Europe long before Columbus, during the Moorish invasion of Spain. It was believed that when the Moors invaded Porto in the early 8th century, the city’s seven bishops took their substantial wealth and fled to sea. They landed on an island in the Atlantic called 'Antilla.' There, each of the seven bishops established a city. The island of Antilla actually appears on many early portolan charts of the Atlantic, but as explorers failed to discover the Antilla, the Seven Cities were relocated to the unexplored American southwest.
Richly Decorative and Evocative
The map is superbly engraved, with an elaborate strapwork-and-floral cartouche. The Pacific Ocean features a flying fish and a sailing ship plying the Strait separating Asia and America (something no European would do for centuries). In the upper right, the Grand Duke of Muscovy sits in a splendid tent and, in Central Asia, another tent houses the Great Khan.
A Text-Rich Map
The Asian portion of the map is heavily annotated, revealing much of Ortelius' sources:
In Arctic Russia, beyond 70 degrees north:The Nephalites are named Neptali after one of the 10 tribes with a Hebrew name, and after the Danites, who by way of punishment were called the Danes of the dark North, and they were on account of the claims of Rachel Balbah placed to the side, in the area of the Hudores or Iehudeores; in the year 476 they were victorious in their battle against Perosa. Others call them incorrectly Euthalites.
In the ocean corresponding to the East Siberian Sea:The Scythian ocean, according to Pliny, has sweet water, and he also says it contains many islands, as M. Paulus [Marco Polo] also says, but neither of the two tells about their number or location.
Siberia:Tabor or Tybur, center of the area of the Tartars, where once the Holy Books got lost, yet they are united under one king, who in 1540 first reached France and king Franciscus, and later, at the initiative of Charles the Fifth was burnt at the stake for his heresy, because he had secretly endeavored to convert Christian kings to the Jewish religion, about which he had spoken with Charles the Fifth.
At the furthest extreme of northeastern Asia:ARSARETH: Here the ten tribes retreated, and changed from the Tatar or Tartar area to Scythia. Since then they are called Gauths or Gauthens, confirming Gods highest glory, and here lies the splendid kingdom of Cathai.
Turkestan, in Central Asia:Turkestan. The area from which the 10 tribes as allies living on this side of the mountain range have been called 900 years ago by the Persians to fight the armies of Ismael the Muslim.
In the vicinity of Mongolia or Northern China:Argon. Once there was in Asia a Christian kingdom, known to Prester John, and D. Thomas founded it [this city] in this place, so that it was in contact with the church of Rome, and was subjected to Rome through Prester John of Africa. Before it was defeated by the Goths, it was known as Crive Romove.
In the Lower-Left Cartouche:This map contains the area of Tartaria, with the remaining part of East Asia to the Morning Ocean, subject to the great Khan whose might is bounded by the river Ob, Lake Kataia, the Volga, the Caspian Sea, the river Chesel, the mountains of Usson, the area of Tibet, the river Caromora and the Ocean.
Marco Polo's Japan:The isle of Japan, called Zipangri by Marco Polo of Venice, formerly [called] Chrÿse, once attacked by the great Khan in war, but without success.
Publication History and Census
This map was first issued in 1570 to accompany Ortelius' great Atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
, and was one of the first fifty-three maps included in the work. This map appears in four states, of which this is the second. The typography of the text on the verso identifies this specific example as belonging to a 1579 Latin edition of the atlas. Ortelius' masterpiece was successful and is well represented in institutional collections.
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...
Ortelius, A., Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, (Antwerp: Plantin) 1579.
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.
Very good. Manuscript marginal page numbering well away from image. Fine hand color; else excellent.
Rumsey 10000.103(1570). van den Broecke, M. Ortelius Atlas Maps, Ort 163. Van der Krogt, P. C. J., Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici, (3 Vols) 8050:31. Wheat, C. I., Mapping of the Transmississippi West, 1540 - 1861, #16. Wagner, H. R., The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America To the Year 1800, #81. Cortazzi, H., Isles of Gold: Antique Maps of Japan, plate 16. Walter, L., Japan: A Cartographic Vision: European Printed Maps from the early 16th to the 19th Century, #11E.