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America by A. Ortelius

"One of the most famous and easily recognised maps of America, and one that is both functional as well as decorative." (Burden)

This is the third of three copperplates that Ortelius used to depict the American continent. The first, of 1570, had by now developed a number of cracks. It is almost identical to the earlier plate with the exception of the following:

1570 plate: The largest ship in the Pacific is sailing westwards, and the Equator is shown with no graduations between the longitudinal marks.
1579 plate: The largest ship in the Pacific is shown sailing eastwards, and there now appear graduations along the equatorial line.
1587 plate: The bulge to the south-western coast of South America is removed.

Ortelius depicts the discoveries of several people on this map. The general shape of the continent is derived from Gerard Mercator's great twenty-one sheet world map of the previous year. The two of them had a close relationship and shared their knowledge openly with each other. It is recorded that they travelled together through France in 1560. A strategically placed cartouche hides a complete lack of knowledge of the southern waters of the Pacific. Once through the Strait of Magellan, the voyager's sea route took him on an almost direct course for the East Indies. No sight had been made of a vast continent, but conventional wisdom had it that there had to be as much land in the southern hemisphere as in the northern. This was not entirely dispelled until the second voyage of the remarkable Captain James Cook in 1772-75. The west coast of North America is shown too far west, as was common at the time. There is no new nomenclature shown.


Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598)

The maker of the 'first atlas,' the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), was born on 4 April 1527 into an old Antwerp family. He learned Latin and studied Greek and mathematics.
Abraham and his sisters Anne and Elizabeth, took up map colouring. He was admitted to the Guild of St. Luke as an "illuminator of maps." Besides colouring maps, Ortelius was a dealer in antiques, coins, maps, and books, with the book and map trade gradually becoming his primary occupation.
Business went well because his means permitted him to start an extensive collection of medals, coins, and antiques, as well as a library of many volumes. He traveled a lot and visited Italy and France, made contacts everywhere with scholars and editors, and maintained an extensive correspondence with them.

In 1564 he published his first map, a large and ambitious wall map of the world. The inspiration for this map may well have been Gastaldi's large world map. In 1565 he published a map of Egypt and a map of the Holy Land, a large map of Asia followed.
In 1568 the production of individual maps for his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was already in full swing. The atlas was completed in the year 1569, and in May of 1570, the Theatrum was available for sale. It was one of the most expensive books ever published.
This first edition contained seventy maps on fifty-three sheets.The maps were engraved by Franciscus Hogenberg.
Later editions included Additamenta (additions) that later resulted in Ortelius' historical atlas, the Parergon, mostly bound together with the atlas. The Parergon can be called a truly original work of Ortelius, who drew the maps based on his own research.

The importance of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum for geographical knowledge in the last quarter of the sixteenth century is difficult to overemphasize. There was nothing else like it until Mercator's atlas appeared twenty-five years later. Demand for the Theatrum was remarkable. Altogether some 24 editions appeared during Ortelius's lifetime and another 10 after his death in 1598. Editions had been published in Dutch, German, French, Spanish, English, and Italian. The number of map sheets grew from 53 in 1570 to 167 in 1612, in the last edition.

In 1577, engraver Philip Galle and poet-translator Pieter Heyns published the first pocket-sized edition of the Theatrum, the Epitome. The work was very popular. Over thirty editions of this Epitome were published in different languages.

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Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio. - Abraham Ortelius, 1612.

€4200  ($4704 / £3780)
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Item Number:  5158
Category:  Antique maps > America > The Americas

Old map of America by A. Ortelius

Engraved by Frans Hogenberg.

Date of the first plate, first edition: 1570
Date of the third plate, first edition: 1587
Date of this map: 1612

Copper engraving
Size: 35.5 x 48.5cm (13.7 x 18.9 inches)
Verso text: Latin
Condition: Contemporary old coloured, mint.
Condition Rating: A+
References: Van der Krogt 3, 9000:31c; Van den Broecke, 11; Burden 64, state 1; Wagner, 80; Clancy, p.55 Map 4.1.

From: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Abrahami Ortelii Antverp. Antwerpen, Plantin Press (J. & B. Moretus), 1612. (Van der Krogt 3, 1:055)

"One of the most famous and easily recognised maps of America, and one that is both functional as well as decorative." (Burden)

This is the third of three copperplates that Ortelius used to depict the American continent. The first, of 1570, had by now developed a number of cracks. It is almost identical to the earlier plate with the exception of the following:

1570 plate: The largest ship in the Pacific is sailing westwards, and the Equator is shown with no graduations between the longitudinal marks.
1579 plate: The largest ship in the Pacific is shown sailing eastwards, and there now appear graduations along the equatorial line.
1587 plate: The bulge to the south-western coast of South America is removed.

Ortelius depicts the discoveries of several people on this map. The general shape of the continent is derived from Gerard Mercator's great twenty-one sheet world map of the previous year. The two of them had a close relationship and shared their knowledge openly with each other. It is recorded that they travelled together through France in 1560. A strategically placed cartouche hides a complete lack of knowledge of the southern waters of the Pacific. Once through the Strait of Magellan, the voyager's sea route took him on an almost direct course for the East Indies. No sight had been made of a vast continent, but conventional wisdom had it that there had to be as much land in the southern hemisphere as in the northern. This was not entirely dispelled until the second voyage of the remarkable Captain James Cook in 1772-75. The west coast of North America is shown too far west, as was common at the time. There is no new nomenclature shown.


Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598)

The maker of the 'first atlas,' the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), was born on 4 April 1527 into an old Antwerp family. He learned Latin and studied Greek and mathematics.
Abraham and his sisters Anne and Elizabeth, took up map colouring. He was admitted to the Guild of St. Luke as an "illuminator of maps." Besides colouring maps, Ortelius was a dealer in antiques, coins, maps, and books, with the book and map trade gradually becoming his primary occupation.
Business went well because his means permitted him to start an extensive collection of medals, coins, and antiques, as well as a library of many volumes. He traveled a lot and visited Italy and France, made contacts everywhere with scholars and editors, and maintained an extensive correspondence with them.

In 1564 he published his first map, a large and ambitious wall map of the world. The inspiration for this map may well have been Gastaldi's large world map. In 1565 he published a map of Egypt and a map of the Holy Land, a large map of Asia followed.
In 1568 the production of individual maps for his atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was already in full swing. The atlas was completed in the year 1569, and in May of 1570, the Theatrum was available for sale. It was one of the most expensive books ever published.
This first edition contained seventy maps on fifty-three sheets.The maps were engraved by Franciscus Hogenberg.
Later editions included Additamenta (additions) that later resulted in Ortelius' historical atlas, the Parergon, mostly bound together with the atlas. The Parergon can be called a truly original work of Ortelius, who drew the maps based on his own research.

The importance of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum for geographical knowledge in the last quarter of the sixteenth century is difficult to overemphasize. There was nothing else like it until Mercator's atlas appeared twenty-five years later. Demand for the Theatrum was remarkable. Altogether some 24 editions appeared during Ortelius's lifetime and another 10 after his death in 1598. Editions had been published in Dutch, German, French, Spanish, English, and Italian. The number of map sheets grew from 53 in 1570 to 167 in 1612, in the last edition.

In 1577, engraver Philip Galle and poet-translator Pieter Heyns published the first pocket-sized edition of the Theatrum, the Epitome. The work was very popular. Over thirty editions of this Epitome were published in different languages.