1595 Abraham Ortelius Map of the World

Typus Orbis Terrarum. - Main View

1595 Abraham Ortelius Map of the World


Superb original color.


Typus Orbis Terrarum.
  1587 (undated)     14.5 x 20 in (36.83 x 50.8 cm)     1 : 80000000


One of the most iconic maps of all time, this is Abraham Ortelius's 1589 map of the world, in an original color example of the third plate. This map was published in Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern published atlas. It embraces the entirety of the known world and represents the most widely-disseminated and eagerly-copied image of the world available to the European reader at the end of the 16th century. In compiling this map, Ortelius drew on the best cartography available, including Gerard Mercator's map of 1569, Giacomo Gastaldi's 1561 World Map, Diego Gutierrez's portolan of the Atlantic, as well as other works by Sebastian Cabot, Jodocus Hondius, Orontius Finaeus, Petrus Plancius, Gemma Frisius, Laurent Fries, and more.
'Terra Australis Nondum Cognita' or the Speculative Southern Continent
The map exhibits a host of striking features, but perhaps none stand out more than the enormous continent at the base of the map identified as Terra Australis Nondum Cognita (Unknown Southern Land). Medieval scholars imagined a massive continent encompassing the south pole - Aristotelian thought supposed the world to be a place of balances, and so it was natural to assume that the masses of land in the north hemisphere would be balanced symmetrically to the south. Many explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries, fueled by such images, sought the Great Southern Continent, but Antarctica - much smaller than supposed - itself would not be discovered until Edward Bransfield and William Smith sighted the Antarctic Peninsula in 1820.
Marco Polo's Geography
Much of the speculative geography here relates to interpretations of Marco Polo's Travels. Among these are several identified lands in Terra Australis, including 'Beach', 'Lucach', and 'Maletur'. All three locations appear in Polo's Travels, but where Polo was describing places in Java, later cartographers ascribed them to the speculative southern continent. This is probably related to a printing error in the 1532 edition of Polo's Travels wherein Java Minor appeared disproportionally gigantic. Attempting to reconcile the 1532 Polo geography with actual discoveries in the East Indies, cartographers relocated 'Beach', 'Lucach', and 'Maletur' further south and attached them to the Southern Continent.

Similarly, the land of Anian is identified in the far northwestern part of America in what might today be considered a proto-Alaska. At this time no European navigator had explored these extreme Arctic seas but again, cartographers turned to Marco Polo. Polo described a Chinese province named 'Ania' located on a large gulf. This was in fact the Gulf of Tonquin, near modern day Vietnam, which then was referred to as Anian. Polo's description was vague enough that the cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi included it on the northwest coast of America on his world map of 1562. This error was followed by numerous subsequent cartographers including Zaltieri, Mercator, and of course, Ortelius. The identification of this region as 'Anian Regnum' persisted until the late 18th century, when Cook, La Perouse, and Vancouver recorded their explorations of the Pacific Northwest.
Cities of Gold
Also in North America, several cities appear, among them Quivara (Quivira), Cibola (Ceuola), Tiguex (Teguayo), Totonte, Axa, and Granata - these are known in aggregate as the Seven Cities of Gold. The origin of the Seven Cities may connect to legends of Antilla, a mythic island that appears on some early portolan charts of the Atlantic and even appears here on Ortelius's map at the center of the Atlantic as Sept Cites (Seven Cities). The legend describes how when the Moors invaded Porto in the early 8th century, the city's seven bishops took all their wealth and fled to the sea. In response to their prayers, they were granted a refuge in the form of a magical paradise in the Atlantic where each bishop established a mighty city. When navigators failed to discover Antilla in the Atlantic, legends pushed the Seven Cities further west into unexplored lands north of Mexico. Years later, the gold and glory-seeking conquistador Hernando Coronado ploughed through the region with a massive army sacking several Zuni Pueblos (generally associated with Cibola) and a city on the Great Plains known as Quivira, but failed to find the gold he sought.
The Seas of the North
Far to the north, open water can be seen circling the globe. The notion that the oceans of the north might be navigable led to eager searches for a Northwest Passage (to the north of America) and Northeast Passage (over Asia), affording European navigators easy access to the rich Asian markets of spices, silks, and other trade goods coveted in Europe. The dream of finding such a passage spurred many voyages of exploration at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries. Ortelius’ map still bears the fraudulent cartography of Nicolo Zeno in the northern extremes of the Atlantic (witness the phantom islands of Frisland and Drogeo and the imaginary monastery-city on the coast of Greenland). Accurate mapping of the northern parts of the world would wait.
Publication History and Census
This map exists in three plates, all of which were published in editions of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the world's first proper atlas. The first plate appeared in 1570 and lasted many editions of the atlas, with many instances of repair. A second plate was engraved to replace it completely in 1586, dated but without significant changes. This third plate was engraved in 1587 and is so dated. It contains both cartographic and aesthetic changes, notably replacing the earlier plates’ cloud borders with an elegant strapwork design, with its corner medallions containing quotes from Cicero and Seneca. It was not included in the Theatrum until it appeared in some copies of the 1589 German edition. The present example conforms typographically with the 1595 Latin edition of the Theatrum. Eight examples of this edition of the complete atlas are cataloged in OCLC. The separate map in its various editions is well represented in institutional collections, although we see only two listed of this edition.


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...


Ortelius, A., Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, (Antwerp: Ortelius) 1595.     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. Some faint scuffing at centerfold, else a fine example with generous margins and full original color.


OCLC 551920293. Rumsey 10001.057 (1608 edition). van den Broecke, M. Ortelius Atlas Maps: An illustrated Guide (second edition) #3. Shirley, Rodney W., The Mapping of the World:  Early Printed World Maps 1472-1700, #158.