1595 Mercator Map of Transylvania (First Edition)

Transylvania. - Main View

1595 Mercator Map of Transylvania (First Edition)


First edition of Mercator's Map of Transylvania.


  1595 (undated)     13.25 x 16.75 in (33.655 x 42.545 cm)     1 : 800000


This is a superb example of Gerard Mercator's 1595 map of Transylvania, covering what is now central Romania, in its first edition.
A Closer Look
The region is defined on the map by its surrounding mountain ranges, here dramatically presented in profile: The Eastern Carpathian mountains to the northwest, and the Hargita mountains to the northeast, bordering with Ukraine (labeled Russia here.) The Southern Carpathians, also known as the Transylvanian Alps, lie to the south and east form a border between Transylvania and Wallachia. These mountains surround the Transylvanian Plateau, and it is this region whose cities are detailed in the map. Based on the pictorial depictions of the cities indicating their relative size, Alba Iulia, Cluj-Napoca (Clausenburg), Hermannstadt,(Sibiu,) and Corona (Kronstadt / Brasov) appear as the primary cities. The predominance of German city and town names throughout the map reveals Mercator's main source for the map: the Transylvanian Johannes Honter's 1532 Chorographia Transylvaniae, the first printed map of Transylvania. (surviving in a single institutional example.) Honter, an ethnically German Transylvanian Saxon, primarily used Germanic placenames in his map.
Publication History and Census
This map was drawn by Gerard Mercator, and probably also engraved by him for inclusion in his atlas; it would not be printed until 1595 in Mercator's posthumous Atlas, sive Cosmographicæ meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura. The map continued to be printed in the Mercator/ Hondius atlas until 1623. Thereafter it was replaced with Hondius' map of the same title. While the present map is not difficult to find in later printings, this 1595 first edition is quite scarce.


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...

Johannes Honter (1498-1549) was a Transylvanian cartographer, born in Kronstadt (now Brasov, Romania.) Nothing is known of his youth, but he was sufficiently educated to enroll in the university of Vienna in 1515, and receive his bachelor's degree in 1517 and his master's in 1525. The university was rich in humanists and cosmographers; he was a classmate of Peter Apian. It is just as well he was there: in the 1520s Transylvania under assault by the Turkish Army, and the Hungarian army was knocked back on its heels. He eventually had to flee Vienna in the face of the 1529 Turkish siege of the city. The next year would find him at the University of Krakow; while there he published a grammar and his cosmography, Ioannis Honter Coronensis Rudimentorum cosmographiae... In 1531 he traveled to Basel, to work as a proofreader. While there, he met Simon Grynaeus and publisher Heinrich Petri, as well as Sebastian Münster. He appears to have worked as a formschneider in Basel as well. His first full size map was his 1532 Chorographia Transylvaniae, Sybembürgen, the first printed map of that region. But he was unsatisfied with the work and prevented it from being broadly distributed. Only a single copy of the map survives, although a copy appears to have reached at least Joahannes Sambucus, whose Transylvania map copied Honter's. It also constituted the basis for Sebastian Münster's map of the place. Ortelius' maps of Transylvania, though credited to Sambucus, can be recognized as containing Honter's cartography. He would return to Kronstadt in 1533, where he would become involved in public affairs, and would work to establish Lutheranism in his homeland. To this end he started a school and a printing press. He did not neglect cosmography: he published a verse cosmography in 1542 which contained thirteen woodcut maps, which he executed himself. Learn More...


Mercator, G., Atlas, sive Cosmographicæ meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura, (Duisberg: Busius) 1595.    


Excellent. Some marginal soiling. Centerfold reinforced at bottom margin, not impacting image. Else fine with a bold strike and generous margins.


OCLC 633692064. Rumsey 10501.148 (1607) Van der Krogt, P. C. J., Koeman's Atlantes Neerlandici, (Vol. 1), 7700 1:A.1.