Striking old color example of the second edition of Mercator's Ptolemaic map of the Middle East, first issued in the 1695 edition of Mercator's Geographia, based upon the works of Claudius Ptolemy.
Mercator's map was a landmark in the mapping of the Arabia Peninsula, being the last published edition of Ptolemy and without question the most heavily researched and studied of all editions by its maker. Ptolemy had originally drawn on the accounts of travelers and sailors and though the information was secondhand and often inaccurate it represented the most advanced account of the world's geography at that time. In the case of Arabia, Ptolemy overestimated both the width of the southern part of Arabia and the size and shape of the Persian Gulf. Arabia Petrea and Arabia Deserte are both placed in the north and Arabia Foelix is the term applied to the whole peninsula, rather than to the southern portions of it. Ptolemy's map, as interpreted by European cartographers such as Mercator, was hugely influential and served as a standard for European mapping of the peninsula for many years.
While perhaps most famous for his maps of the modern World and the first to use the name "Atlas" to describe a book of maps, one of Mercator's life works was a corrected and improved edition of maps based upon the work of Claudius Ptolemy. T
Gerard Mercator is one of the most famous cartographers of all time. Mercator was born in Flanders and educated at the Catholic University in Leuven. After his graduation in 1532, Mercator worked with Gemma Frisius, a prominent mathematician, and Gaspar a Myrica, a goldsmith and engraver. Together, these men produced globes and scientific instruments, allowing Mercator to hone his skills.
With his wife, Barbara, Mercator had six children: Arnold, Emerentia, Dorothes, Bartholomeus, Rumold, and Catharina. In 1552, Mercator moved to Duisburg from Leuven, where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1564, he was appointed the official cosmographer to the court of Duke Wilhelm of Cleve.
Mercator’s most important contribution was the creation and popularization of a projection which now bears his name. On Mercator projection maps, all parallels and meridians are drawn at right angles to each other, with the distance between the parallels extending towards the poles. This allowed for accurate latitude and longitude calculation and also allowed navigational routes to be drawn using straight lines, a huge advantage for sailors as this allowed them to plot courses without constant recourse to adjusting compass readings.
Mercator’s other enduring contribution to cartography is the term “atlas”, which was first used to describe his collection of maps gathered in one volume. The Mercator atlas was published in 1595, a year after Mercator’s death, thanks to the work of his sons, particularly Rumold, and his grandsons.