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Abraham Ortelius: Typus Orbis Terrarum

Map: WLD4185
Cartographer: Abraham Ortelius
Title: Typus Orbis Terrarum
Date: 1592
Published: Antwerp
Width: 19 inches / 49 cm
Height: 14 inches / 36 cm
Map ref: WLD4185
A cornerstone map of the world, published on an oval projection, showing the latest geographical corrections, particularly to the coast of South America.

At the age of twenty, Abraham Ortelius, who had studied Greek, Latin and mathematics, established himself as a map colourist and salesman in Antwerp. With the assistance of his sister he would buy and colour black and white maps. He also provided a small outlet for the books of the great printer, Christoph Plantin, who was later to become his publisher. The business prospered and Ortelius to create a thriving network with his contemporaries at home and abroad.

His greatest work, the "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum", appeared in 1570 marking the beginning of a new epoch in the history of cartography. It was the first modern atlas, a uniformly sized and systematically laid-out bound collection of maps of the world; its information was current and although initially the contents were mainly European, it also contained maps of the separate continents and a world map. The first edition contained 53 maps, but this number gradually increased until the 42nd edition in 1612 contained over 160. Information was drawn from every possible source - Ortelius selected only the best maps of his contemporaries for inclusion.

Ortelius died on 23rd June 1598, a very wealthy and respected man, and was buried at St. Michael's in Antwerp.

This example of the “Typus Orbis Terrarum” or world map, is from the 1592 edition and much changed from the map which appeared in 1570. Damage to the copper plate of the first map forced Ortelius re-engrave it; he took advantage of this to both correct previous errors and introduce newly discovered geography. Although, the main geographical source was still Gerhard Mercator’s wall map of 1569, there have been several substantial changes. The North Pole shown on this map is now one landmass as opposed to the four islands shown previously. Probably the most salient feature is the correction of the shape of South America, which has been re-drawn into a far more recognisable shape. There are also greater details on North America and the newly discovered Solomon Islands are shown east of New Guinea. However, “Terra Australis Nondum Cognita” or Unknown Great Southern Land remains unchanged and Ortelius continues to credit Marco Polo and the obscure but intriguing Ludovico di Varthema for the geography of Asia and the East. As previously, this citation is on the peninsula marked “Beach” on the eastern side of the Southern Land. Another addition is Ortelius’s own signature and the engraving date of the map, 1587 below this credit.

A major change has also occurred in the border decoration of the map. Instead of a border featuring clouds, it is now surrounded by strap work and a medallion featuring quotes from Cicero and Seneca is present on each corner.

Although this map is dated 1587, that was its engraving date. There was quite a delay between its fabrication date and its issue date of 1592. The example offered is from the 1592 edition, thus a first edition of this new corrected state. It has also been embellished with particularly rich original hand colour.

Framed. [Shirley 158] [WLD4185]