Rare modern map of Switzerland, published in Cologne by Johannes Metellus in 1579 in fine original color.
The map is one of the earliest obtainable modern maps published by the so-called Cologne School of mapmakers, which consisted primarily of Flemish and Dutch cartographers fleeing the religious persecution then being experienced in the Low Countries, which were then under the control of Spain.
Itinerarium Orbis Christiani
The present map comes from the extremely rare and early Cologne School atlas Itinerarium Orbis Christiani (also known as Itinerarium Europae Provinciae), which was published circa 1579 to 1588. The atlas, which is known in very few copies, was published anonymously but probably by Frans Hogenberg, with contributions from Johannes Metellus and Michael von Eitzing.
The aforementioned mapmakers, along with Matthias Quad, comprised the core of the Cologne School of cartography, which tried -- mostly unsuccessfully -- to compete with the Low Countries-based map publishing houses at the end of the 16th century. For more on the Cologne School, see: Meurer, Atlantes Colonienses. Die Kolner Schule der Atlas Kartographie 1570-1610.
Johannes Metellus Jean Mattel (called Johannes Matalius Metellus), (Poligny, ca. 1517-1597), was a French jurist who spent much of his early life traveling and building a network of fellow humanists in Italy. Later Metellus moved to Louvain. He made his last home in Cologne, where he became involved in that city's nascent cartographic publishing industry. Metellus's cartographic publishing career began around 1579, when he is thought to have contributed to the Itinerarium Orbis Christiani. He also contributed a description of Lyon to Braun & Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum.
Metellus was a friend to Matthias Quad, whose name is sometimes associated with the posthumous completion of the Metellus atlas of the Americas (it was published in 1598; Metellus is thought to have died in 1597). The cartographer was also in correspondence with Abraham Ortelius. At one point he gave Ortelius assistance collating Ptolemy's Cosmography with manuscripts in the Vatican. This was evidently needed for the completion of Ortelius's Parergon Theatri. (See, H. P. Kraus, Monumenta Cartographica, items 45 and 52).
Only a few examples of this atlas are known to survive. Maps from this work are extremely rare on the market.
Johannes Matalius Metellus, also known as Jean Matal or Johannes Metellus Sequanas, was born in Poligny, Burgundy, France in ca. 1517. A humanist scholar, he was a polymath devoted to cartography, geography, law, paleography, and antiquarianism. Late in life he published a series of atlases; all his maps and atlases are rare and highly sought-after.
Matal was educated at Dole, Freiburg, and several Italian institutions. At Bologna, he met Antonio Agustín, a Spanish legal scholar, who recruited Matal to be his secretary. Together, the men researched ecclesiastical law, with an especial emphasis on Roman legal manuscripts, with trips to Venice, Florence, and elsewhere in Italy to study codices. In 1555, the two traveled to England to meet with Queen Mary on a mission for the Church.
After leaving his employment with Agustín, Matal traveled in the Low Countries and eventually settled in Cologne. There, he mixed with other savants, including especially Georg Cassander and Pedro Ximénez. It was in Cologne that Matal began his serious interest in mapmaking. He contributed to Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitae Orbis Terrarum; Georg Braun described him in glowing terms, “vir omni scientiarum genere praestans"—"a man outstanding in every form of knowledge."
Late in life, Matal began preparing a set of maps of the entire world. In 1594, he published an atlas of France, Austria, and Switzerland (39 maps), in 1595 an atlas of Spain (10 maps), and, posthumously, an atlas of Italy (37 maps), and one of Germany and the Netherlands (55 maps). Many of these maps were combined and augmented into atlases of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the world’s islands. In 1602, a compendium work showcased all of these previous works called Speculum Orbis Terrae; this atlas was well received by contemporaries like Walter Raleigh and is very rare today. Many of these maps and atlases were released after his death in 1598, they were finished by his friend and fellow mapmaker Conrad Loew (Matthias Quad).