1581 Ortelius Map of Transylvania

Transilvania / Hanc ultra Transilvaniam, quae et Panodacia, et Dacia Ripēsis, vulgo Sibemburgē Dicitur, edidit Viennae Ao. 1566 Nobiliss. atque Doctiss. Ioês Sâbucus Pannonius. - Main View

1581 Ortelius Map of Transylvania


Transylvania, from the first modern atlas.


Transilvania / Hanc ultra Transilvaniam, quae et Panodacia, et Dacia Ripēsis, vulgo Sibemburgē Dicitur, edidit Viennae Ao. 1566 Nobiliss. atque Doctiss. Ioês Sâbucus Pannonius.
  1575 (dated)     13 x 17.75 in (33.02 x 45.085 cm)     1 : 500000


This is Abraham Ortelius' 1575 map of Transylvania, from the first modern atlas, covering what is now central Romania. It is a superb engraving, dramatically presenting the mountains and forests of this frontier region of Europe and the Turkish Empire.
A Closer Look
The map covers an area from the Körös River in the west to Bucharest in the east and from as far north as Bistrița and as far south as Branizka and part of the lower Danube. The cities of Cluj-Napoca (Clausenburg), Alba Iulia, Bistrița, Hermannstadt (Sibiu) Corona (Kronstadt / Brasov), and Bucharest (Bocaretz) appear, among many others. Ortelius credited Johannes Sambucus' 1566 map, but this in turn was copied from Johannes Honter's 1532 Chorographia Transylvaniae, the first printed map of Transylvania. (These only survive in institutional collections: one example of the Haunter and three of the Sambucus.).
Publication History and Census
This map was engraved in 1575 for inclusion in Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. This example conforms to the 1581 French text edition, of which van den Broecke estimates there were 400 printed. In various editions, the separate map is well represented in institutional collections.


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...

János Zsámboky, or Johannes Sambucus,(June 1, 1531 - June 13, 1584) was a Hungarian humanist polymath. He is best known for his emblem book, Emblemata cum aliquot nummis antiqui operis, published in five editions starting in 1564. He had studied in Vienna, but traveled broadly: he studied and worked in Leipzig, Wittenberg, Ingolstadt, Strasbourg, Paris, Venice, Padua, Genoa, Naples, Milan, Ghent, and Antwerp. He would be appointed court physician of Emperor Maximilian II, and prospered in that association, allowing him to amass wealth, influence, and an impressive library. His works included several maps - Hungary, Transylvania and Illyricum - which provided the basis for Abraham Ortelius' maps of those regions. Ortelius' decision to use Sambucus' maps speaks both to his influence, as well as a shared interest: Like Ortelius, Sambucus collected coins. Learn More...

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...


Ortelius, A., Theatre de l'univers, contenant les cartes de tout le monde, (Antwerp: Plantin) 1581.     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.


Excellent. Filled wormholes near lower centerfold not impacting printed image. Else fine with a bold, sharp strike and generous margins.


OCLC 633540432. Rumsey 10001.286 (1601). van den Broecke, M., Ortelius Atlas Maps, #153.