Title Section From Gerard Merctor's Wall Map of the British Isles (20th Century Facsimile)
Early 20th Century facsimile of the title section and central part of this larger wall map of British Isles by Gerard Mercator. The map dates from 1564 and was produced in Duisburg and is now
Mercator's wall map was a major new depiction of the British Isles at the time. It is a giant map, measuring approximately 3ft by 4ft and was engraved on 8 copper plates by Mercator himself, drawn on a scale of 14 miles to 1 inch.
It is likely that the draft from which Mercator developed this image of the British Isles was made by either Laurence Nowell or John Rudd, to whom Christopher Saxton was apprenticed. A few years before Mercator's map was published, Laurence Nowell had produced pen-and-ink drawings of the British isles and by 1563 had compiled a manuscript atlas of 19 sheets which was never printed. It is possible that Nowell's unpublished atlas could have been used by Mercator as a source.
The significant developments made by Mercator's depiction is that the outline of Wales is considerably improved with the Bay of Cardigan shown for the very first time and Scotland is more accurately represented than previously, so much so that it remained unchanged on subsequent maps for the next 100 years. There are still inaccuracies though, notably that the representation of Ireland is incorrect, and the south coast of England is exaggerated in length by 15%, although it features more place names than before.
A nice decorative facsimile example of an unobtainable original.
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.