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Elaborate Map of the Ancient World by Famed Cartographer Franciscus Haraeus, Contemporary of Ortelius

Historical map of the Ancient Western world, based on biblical as well as classical sources. This map was created by the cartographer Franciscus Haraeus, a contemporary of Abraham Ortelius.

It was published in the last Moretus edition of Ortelius’ 1624 Parergon, the first historical atlas. Though Ortelius died in 1598, the Parergon’s popularity meant publishing continued for decades after, and skilled cartographers like Haraeus could benefit from its visibility by adding in their own maps.

This map is oriented northward and covers much of Europe and the Mediterranean region, stretching from North Africa (Africae pars) to the British Isles (Angliae pars) and from the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania) to the Aegean Sea (Mare Ageum). Cities are drawn with clusters of buildings, typical of an Ortelius-style map. This map also depicts smaller towns by a circle with a dot in the center.

This map is characterized by excellent attention to detail. The shape of the coastline is very accurate, which is unsurprising given that Europe was well mapped by this time. Rivers are carefully rendered, and throughout the map mountain ranges and a few forests give the land texture. The African coast, though clearly less comprehensive than Europe, is more detailed than many other maps from this time. Many coastal and inland cities are labeled, and some forests and foothills are drawn in the southeast corner (Marmarica).

The large water bodies in this map are shaded to give the textured appearance of waves, a more intricate design than regular stippling. The seas are decorated as well, with a large ship in the Cantabrian Sea (Mare Cantabricum) and a fanged sea monster off the coast of Libya (Lybia).

These decorations speak to the myths and histories portrayed throughout the map.

The title cartouche in the southwest corner is also quite ornate, with classic Ortelius strapwork complimented by fruits and animals. The title of the map indicates that it portrays the histories of the Western world, by Franciscus Haraeus.

Haraeus was a historian, theologian, geographer, and mapmaker from Antwerp and a contemporary of Ortelius. He is known for his work designing a globe in 1617, which was likely based off of Ortelius’ maps and others from the time. He was also a contributor on other atlases, including Hornius’ Orbis Antiquis of 1653.

Surrounding the map on three sides is an alphabetized list of places that can be found in this region that have historical and biblical importance, with some additional notes about the character of the place or its relation to the surrounding region. This additional writing allows for a deeper focus on important locations that would not be possible on the map alone. They also speak to Haraeus’ interest in history and theology.


This map appeared in the final edition of Ortelius’ Parergon. Although best known for his world atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the Parergon was a project of personal interest and the work that Ortelius himself considered his greatest achievement. He had a deep curiosity about classical antiquity which spurred him to create the Parergon maps, and the amount of time and detail he put into each map is clearly evident. Ortelius hand drew each map of the Parergon, which required considerable skill and knowledge of the area’s history and geography. It is considered the first historical atlas.

Parergon means supplementary and, accordingly, the first three Parergon maps were published as supplements to the 1579 edition of the Theatrum, which had already been in print for nine years. Over time, successive editions of the Theatrum were supplemented with more Parergon maps, and there are 55 known plates overall. The Parergon was also published as its own atlas separate from the Theatrum on two occasions, once in 1595 and again in 1624.

The Parergon was highly successful both as a supplement to the Theatrum and on its own. It was variously translated into French, German, Italian, and English and regularly printed until 1612. Further editions were more sporadic but still popular, such as the 1624 edition which was published twenty-six years after Ortelius’ death in 1598.

This striking map and indeed the entire Parergon blends geography, history, and myth, and the level of detail present indicates Haraeus’ skill. This would be a valuable addition to a collection of European and Mediterranean maps, Ortelius maps, or maps of classical antiquity.

Marcel P. Van den Broecke, "Cartographica Neerlandica Map Text for Ortelius Map No. 185," Cartographica Neerlandica, accessed July 6, 2019, JE
Abraham Ortelius Biography

Abraham Ortelius is perhaps the best known and most frequently collected of all sixteenth-century mapmakers. Ortelius started his career as a map colorist. 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 of 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 Basel. 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 70 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 (1598).