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De Jode’s Striking Map of the British Isles

Fine, old-color example of De Jode's map of the British Isles.

The map shows England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, part of the French coast, and outlying islands. Oriented with west at the top, the isles are filled with county names, settlements, forests, rivers, and lakes. In the finely-stippled waters surrounding the islands are several ships in full sail.

The title of the map, “a new description of England, Scotland, and Hibernia [Ireland],” is in a strapwork cartouche in the upper right corner of the map. A large paragraph of text is in another cartouche in the lower right corner. It contains information, in Latin, about the geographical features and cities including Oxford and London.

De Jode and the first modern atlases

This map appeared in De Jode's Speculum Orbis Terrarum, the second general atlas of the world, after Ortelius. In Antwerp in 1570, Ortelius published the first modern atlas; that is, a set of uniform maps with supporting text gathered in book form. Previously, there were other bound map collections, specifically, the Italian Lafreri atlases, but these were sets of maps—not necessarily uniform—selected and bound together on demand.

The first edition of Gerard De Jode’s atlas, Speculum orbis terrae, was published in Antwerp in 1578. Gerard De Jode (1509-1591) released his atlas in a golden age of Dutch atlas production: Ortelius’ atlas was released in 1570, also in Antwerp; the first town atlas in 1572, the first pocket atlas in 1577, the first regional atlas in 1579, the first nautical atlas in 1584, and the first historical atlas in 1595. De Jode’s atlas was intended as competition for Ortelius’. Mercator was also preparing an atlas at the time, and corresponded with Ortelius, but it would not appear in full until 1595, a year after Mercator’s death.

Although the Speculum was ready as early as 1573, it was not published until 1578. This is most likely due to Ortelius’ influence and his privilege over atlas production, which expired just before De Jode finally published. The atlas was the result of collaboration between De Jode, the geographer Jan van Schille of Antwerp, German physician Daniel Cellarius, and the etchers Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum. 

Although never as successful as Ortelius’ Theatrum, the Speculum did get republished in a second edition in 1593, two years after De Jode’s death, by Arnold Coninx. After his death, Gerard’s son, Cornelis (1568-1600), and his wife, Paschina, ran the shop. Unfortunately, Cornelis died young in 1600, aged only 32, and the stock and plates were sold to the publisher Joan Baptista Vrients. Vrients had also recently purchased the plates for Theatrum, giving him a monopoly over Antwerp atlas publication. Vrients acquired the De Jode atlas plates only to suppress them in favor of the Ortelius plates, thus the De Jode atlas maps are quite rare on the market today.

States of this map

There are three states of this map. The first was published in 1570, the second in the first edition of the atlas in 1578, and the third in the second edition of the atlas in 1593.

Condition Description
Old Color.