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Italy by G. de l'Isle, published by Covens & Mortier. c. 1700

Covens & Mortier. A Map Publishing House in Amsterdam. 1721-1866.

During almost two centuries, the largest and most important Dutch publishing house in commercial cartography was the Amsterdam firm of Covens & Mortier. Concerning quantity, it was possibly even the biggest contemporary map-trading house worldwide. They distributed innumerable maps, atlases, globes, and books.

Pieter (Pierre) Mortier (Leiden, 1661 – Amsterdam, 1711)

Nothing is known about the youth of Pieter Mortier. He studied in Paris from 1681 to approximately 1685. There he must have come into contact with French 'libraires' and learned the bookselling trade. Beginning 1685 he returned to Amsterdam where he opened a small bookshop. In the same year, he became a member of the Book, Art Sellers' and Printers' guild.

Pieter sold books in Dutch and foreign languages, but he also published books on his own, usually in the French language. His business flourished such that in 1688 he was already forced to rent another house on the Vijgendam.

Pieter Mortier's first privilege for maps was granted by the States of Holland and West Friesland on September 15 1690. It refers to the maps of Sanson that he 'is printing and correcting with great pains and care'.

Pieter began the large scale publication of maps and atlases. By the beginning of the 18th century, Pieter had become so wealthy that he could purchase three houses in Amsterdam: on the Beurssluis, on the Vijgendam, and the Heremietensteeg. He rebuilt the house on the Vijgendam into a large prestigious house that would serve for over a century as a shop, business, and residential structure for Covens & Mortier's publishing house.

He died on February 13, 1711, after a brief illness. The company continued to exist under Pieter's widow's management, Amelia' s-Gravesande.

After she died in 1719, her son Cornelis, took over the management for a few years.

On November 20, 1721, a company was founded by Cornelis Mortier and Johannes Covens I. The latter was married the same year with Cornelis's sister. From that year on, the name of :

Covens & Mortier.

Their firm would see a massive expansion in the next 140 years. In 1732 the heirs sold the property to their brother Cornelis and his partner Covens. Their main competitors were Reinier & Josua Ottens and Gerard Valck & Petrus Schenck. After the death of Johannes Covens I (1774), his son Johannes Covens II (1722-1794) entered the business. From 1778, Johannes added a new company name :

J. Covens & Son.

Johannes Covens II was succeeded by his son Cornelis Covens (1764-1825), who, in turn, brought Peter Mortier IV, the great-grandson of Petrus Mortier I, into the business. The name was from 1794 to 1866:

Mortier, Covens & Son.

The last Covens in the series was Cornelis Johannes Covens (1806-1880).

Covens & Mortier had a large stock of atlases and maps, including those of: Delisle, Jaillot, Johannes Janssonius, Sanson, Claes Jansz. Visscher, Nicolaas Visscher, and Frederik de Wit. For decades, an impressive number of atlases came from the press.


Guillaume Delisle (Paris, 1675 – 1726)

Guillaume Delisle (de L’Isle), one of the key figures in the development of French cartography, is the son of Claude Delisle, a cartographer, and the half-brother of astronomers Joseph-Nicolas Delisle and Louis de l'Isle de la Croyère.

While his father has to be given credit for educating Guillaume, the boy showed early signs of being an exceptional talent. He soon contributed to the family workshop by drawing maps for his father's historical works. To perfect his skills, Guillaume Delisle became the student of the astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini. Early on, he produced high-quality maps, the first being his Carte de la Nouvelle-France et des Pays Voisins in 1696. Delisle's first atlas appeared around 1700, and in 1702 he became a member of the French Académie Royale des Sciences. He taught geography to the young Louis XV, and in 1718 he received the title of Premier Géographe du Roi. On a commission from Peter the Great, he produced a map of the Caspian Sea, a region barely known. Many of the place names he gave are still in use. His Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi (1718) is the first detailed map of this region.

A six-year-long plagiarism trial pits Delisle against Jean-Baptiste Nolin, cartographer. It is Nolin, the real plagiarist, who loses.

Delisle has remained famous for his astronomical-based corrections and the completeness of its topography. The high scientific quality of the work produced by the Delisle family contrasted with the workshop of Sanson. While Sanson knowingly published outdated facts and mistakes, Delisle constantly updated his maps to reflect widening knowledge of the World.

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L'Italie Dressee sur les Observations de l'Academie Royale des Sciences sur celles du R.P. Riccoli ... [Latin title above map:] Nova Italie Descriptio in Regna, Republicas et Status divisae, ...

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Item Number:  25924
Category:  Antique maps > Europe > Italy
References: Borri - #177

Old antique map of Italy with Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, by Guillaume Delisle, published by Covens & Mortier.

Title: L'Italie Dressee sur les Observations de l'Academie Royale des Sciences sur celles du R.P. Riccoli ... [Latin title above map:] Nova Italie Descriptio in Regna, Republicas et Status divisae, ...

Cartographer: Guillaume Delisle.

Copper engraving, printed on paper.
Map size: 500 x 595mm (19.69 x 23.43 inches).
Sheet size: 535 x 635mm (21.06 x 25 inches).
Verso: Blank.
Condition: Original coloured in outline, excellent.
Condition Rating: A+.
References: Borri, #177

From: Composite Atlas. Amsterdam, c. 1700.

Covens & Mortier. A Map Publishing House in Amsterdam. 1721-1866.

During almost two centuries, the largest and most important Dutch publishing house in commercial cartography was the Amsterdam firm of Covens & Mortier. Concerning quantity, it was possibly even the biggest contemporary map-trading house worldwide. They distributed innumerable maps, atlases, globes, and books.

Pieter (Pierre) Mortier (Leiden, 1661 – Amsterdam, 1711)

Nothing is known about the youth of Pieter Mortier. He studied in Paris from 1681 to approximately 1685. There he must have come into contact with French 'libraires' and learned the bookselling trade. Beginning 1685 he returned to Amsterdam where he opened a small bookshop. In the same year, he became a member of the Book, Art Sellers' and Printers' guild.

Pieter sold books in Dutch and foreign languages, but he also published books on his own, usually in the French language. His business flourished such that in 1688 he was already forced to rent another house on the Vijgendam.

Pieter Mortier's first privilege for maps was granted by the States of Holland and West Friesland on September 15 1690. It refers to the maps of Sanson that he 'is printing and correcting with great pains and care'.

Pieter began the large scale publication of maps and atlases. By the beginning of the 18th century, Pieter had become so wealthy that he could purchase three houses in Amsterdam: on the Beurssluis, on the Vijgendam, and the Heremietensteeg. He rebuilt the house on the Vijgendam into a large prestigious house that would serve for over a century as a shop, business, and residential structure for Covens & Mortier's publishing house.

He died on February 13, 1711, after a brief illness. The company continued to exist under Pieter's widow's management, Amelia' s-Gravesande.

After she died in 1719, her son Cornelis, took over the management for a few years.

On November 20, 1721, a company was founded by Cornelis Mortier and Johannes Covens I. The latter was married the same year with Cornelis's sister. From that year on, the name of :

Covens & Mortier.

Their firm would see a massive expansion in the next 140 years. In 1732 the heirs sold the property to their brother Cornelis and his partner Covens. Their main competitors were Reinier & Josua Ottens and Gerard Valck & Petrus Schenck. After the death of Johannes Covens I (1774), his son Johannes Covens II (1722-1794) entered the business. From 1778, Johannes added a new company name :

J. Covens & Son.

Johannes Covens II was succeeded by his son Cornelis Covens (1764-1825), who, in turn, brought Peter Mortier IV, the great-grandson of Petrus Mortier I, into the business. The name was from 1794 to 1866:

Mortier, Covens & Son.

The last Covens in the series was Cornelis Johannes Covens (1806-1880).

Covens & Mortier had a large stock of atlases and maps, including those of: Delisle, Jaillot, Johannes Janssonius, Sanson, Claes Jansz. Visscher, Nicolaas Visscher, and Frederik de Wit. For decades, an impressive number of atlases came from the press.


Guillaume Delisle (Paris, 1675 – 1726)

Guillaume Delisle (de L’Isle), one of the key figures in the development of French cartography, is the son of Claude Delisle, a cartographer, and the half-brother of astronomers Joseph-Nicolas Delisle and Louis de l'Isle de la Croyère.

While his father has to be given credit for educating Guillaume, the boy showed early signs of being an exceptional talent. He soon contributed to the family workshop by drawing maps for his father's historical works. To perfect his skills, Guillaume Delisle became the student of the astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini. Early on, he produced high-quality maps, the first being his Carte de la Nouvelle-France et des Pays Voisins in 1696. Delisle's first atlas appeared around 1700, and in 1702 he became a member of the French Académie Royale des Sciences. He taught geography to the young Louis XV, and in 1718 he received the title of Premier Géographe du Roi. On a commission from Peter the Great, he produced a map of the Caspian Sea, a region barely known. Many of the place names he gave are still in use. His Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi (1718) is the first detailed map of this region.

A six-year-long plagiarism trial pits Delisle against Jean-Baptiste Nolin, cartographer. It is Nolin, the real plagiarist, who loses.

Delisle has remained famous for his astronomical-based corrections and the completeness of its topography. The high scientific quality of the work produced by the Delisle family contrasted with the workshop of Sanson. While Sanson knowingly published outdated facts and mistakes, Delisle constantly updated his maps to reflect widening knowledge of the World.

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