One of the great rarities of 16th-century mapmaking, the De Jode family's Speculum Orbis Terrarum represents over twenty-five years of work shared between two generations of the de Jode family. The work was published in two editions in the late 16th century, first by Gerard de Jode in 1579 and expanded later by his son Cornelis in 1593.
The Speculum cannot be discussed without its great rival, Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, first published in 1570. De Jode's work, though conceived very near in time to Ortelius's, languished unpublished for some years, which scholars have ascribed to political machinations by the author of the Theatrum. By the time it was finally brought to market, it could not hope to rival the Terrarum, which had already been published in four languages and many editions. Records show few sales for either the first or the second edition, and the early death of Cornelis along with the eventual sale of the copper plates to the Vrients publishing house--who were keen to suppress any competition to the Ortelius plates they had also acquired--put the De Jode family's lifetime achievement to permanent rest. This leads to the book's incredible rarity when compared to Ortelius's.
Scholarly and historical comparison between the Speculum and the Theatrum varies. The great cartographers of the late 16th- and early 17th-century, including Montanus, van den Keere, and von Aitzing used both as sources, and Hondius compared the former work favorably against the latter. Later scholarly review notes less consistency in the cartography in de Jode's work, particularly in some of the Germanic regions, although the craftsmanship of the engraving is praised.