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Abraham Ortelius:  (Atlas) Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Maps of the World

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Title: (Atlas) Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Map Maker: Abraham Ortelius

Place / Date: Antwerp / 1571

Coloring: Hand-colored

Size: 16.25 x 11.5 inches

Condition: VG+

Price: $57,500.00

Inventory ID: 51673


[39] preliminary text leaves (including engraved title), 53 hand-colored double-page engraved maps, all mounted on original guards.

Antwerp: Gielis Coppens van Diest, 1571.

Folio (16.25 x 11.5 inches), contemporary full vellum, spine in seven compartments, contemporary ink manuscript in the second “Theatrum Orbis Terrari”, manuscript decorative device in the third.

World map

Americas map

Asia map

Africa map

Scandinavia map

Tartary map

East Indies map

A Handsome, Clean, and Tall Copy of the Second Latin Edition of the ‘First Atlas’, with the Maps on Thick Paper.

This is one of the very earliest obtainable editions of the Theatrum, following the first edition by less than one year. The present volume contains the FIRST STATE, FIRST PLATE, of Ortelius’s famed world map.

Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (or "Theater of the World") is widely considered to be the first true modern atlas.  The Theatrum was the best available summary of 16th-century cartographic knowledge, covering much of the exploration of the world in the century following the discovery of America.

The atlas was first published in 1570 in Antwerp, and it was published consistently until 1612. Recent research has unearthed examples of the atlas with maps dated to 1640.

Ortelius was the artist of all of the maps; he drew them by hand, and those drawings were interpreted into prints by his engravers Frans Hogenberg, Ambrosius Arsenius, and Ferdinand Arsenius.

The broad appeal of the Theatrum saw demand from many consumers who preferred to read the atlas in their local language. Thus, in addition to Latin, the book was published with text in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and English.

After Ortelius's death in 1598, the copper plates for his atlas passed to his heirs. They, in turn, sold the collection to Jan Baptist Vrients (1522-1612) in 1601.  Vrients added new maps and published the atlas until his death in 1612.  Vrients's widow then sold the plates to the Moretus brothers, who were the successors of Christoffel Plantin.

Abraham Ortelius

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) was, along with Gerard Mercator, the most important cartographer of the 16th century.

He was born in Antwerp to a family with connections in printing and publishing. Ortelius's uncle, Sir Jacobus van Meteren, took over the role of raising Ortelius after the latter's father had died.

In 1545 at the age of 18, Ortelius began his career as a map colorist. His sister Anna was also an accomplished colorist. He entered the Guild of St. Luke as a colorist two years later, and in 1547, he was registered as a colorist with the publisher Plantin.

In 1564, Ortelius published his first map, a large wall map of the world titled "Typus Orbis Terrarum". Today the map is known in only one example. Between 1564 and 1570, Ortelius made at least six single- and multi-sheet maps of his own.

1570 was the year Ortelius first published the book that would become his defining masterwork: the first true modern atlas of the world, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.

In 1575, with the recommendation of Arias Montanus, Ortelius was appointed geographer to the King of Spain, Philip II.

Condition Description: A handsome copy overall. Housed in very attractive modern 1/4 black morocco clamshell box. Expertly repaired clean tears to map 7 and map 27. Light stain to the outer margin of first 8 text leaves. Box mislabeled "1573", which will be corrected by the binder.

References: Adams O-335; Van der Krogt IIIA, 31:002; Phillips 382; Shirley 122 (with the world map in his first plate, first state).

Related Categories:
Maps of the World
Maps of the World