Decorative example of Abraham Ortelius's map of Russia, based upon Anthony Jenkinson's rare map of Russia drawn in 1562, from the rare 1573 Latin edition of Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, of which only 75 copies were printed.
The map covers the region from the Gulf of Finland, Lithuania and the Black Sea to the Sur River, Tashkent, the Kossack Regions, Colmack, etc.
The map is filled with fascinating indigenous scenes, including a scene in the lower right corner, above Tashkent, which describes the method of worship among the Kirgese peoples, which notes that
The Kirgessen people live in troops or hordes. They have the following custom: when a priest performs a religious ceremony, he obtains blood, milk and dung of beasts of burden, and mixes it with earth. He pours this in a specific vessel and climbs a tree with it, and when there is a gathering, he sprinkles it over the people, and this sprinkling is considered to be divine, and is worshipped. When someone of them dies, that person is hung up in a tree by way of burial.
From Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas. The map was engraved by Franz Hogenberg from an original by Anthony Jenkinson of the English Muscovy Company, drawn in 1562. Jenkinson travelled to Bukhara in 1557-59 and to Russia three more times thereafter, but into Asia (as far as Persia) during only one of these trips. The vignettes are based upon Marco Polo's travels, and include over a dozen indigenous and mythical scenes, costumed locals and animals.
Abraham Ortelius is perhaps the best known and most frequently collected of all sixteenth-century mapmakers. Ortelius started his career as a map engraver. In 1547 he entered the Antwerp guild of St Luke as afsetter van Karten. His early career was as a business man, and most of his journeys before 1560 were for commercial purposes. In 1560, while traveling with Gerard Mercator to Trier, Lorraine, and Poitiers, he seems to have been attracted, largely by Mercator’s influence, towards a career as a scientific geographer. From that point forward, he devoted himself to the compilation his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World), which would become the first modern atlas.
In 1564 he completed his “mappemonde", an eight-sheet map of the world. The only extant copy of this great map is in the library of the University of Basle. Ortelius also published a map of Egypt in 1565, a plan of Brittenburg Castle on the coast of the Netherlands, and a map of Asia, prior to 1570.
On May 20, 1570, Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum first appeared in an edition of 53 maps. By the time of his death in 1598, a total of 25 editions were published including editions in Latin, Italian, German, French, and Dutch. Later editions would also be issued in Spanish and English by Ortelius’ successors, Vrients and Plantin, the former adding a number of maps to the atlas, the final edition of which was issued in 1612. Most of the maps in Ortelius Theatrum were drawn from the works of a number of other mapmakers from around the world; a list of 87 authors is given by Ortelius himself
In 1573, Ortelius published seventeen supplementary maps under the title of Additamentum Theatri Orbis Terrarum. In 1575 he was appointed geographer to the king of Spain, Philip II, on the recommendation of Arias Montanus, who vouched for his orthodoxy (his family, as early as 1535, had fallen under suspicion of Protestantism). In 1578 he laid the basis of a critical treatment of ancient geography with his Synonymia geographica (issued by the Plantin press at Antwerp and republished as Thesaurus geographicus in 1596). In 1584 he issued his Nomenclator Ptolemaicus, a Parergon (a series of maps illustrating ancient history, sacred and secular.) Late in life, he also aided Welser in his edition of the Peutinger Table in 1598.