The First Printed Map of the Pacific Ocean
Old color example of Ortelius' Maris Pacifici . . . , the first printed map of the Pacific Ocean.
Ortelius's Maris Pacifici map was first issued in 1590. The map is based upon Mercator's world map of 1569, with details from 25 Portuguese manuscript maps of Bartolomeo de Lasso, which Plancius obtained and later used for his own world map. Ortelius shows the Moluccas and the Philippines, already the site of considerable Dutch activity and a misprojected Japan. An odd Isla de Plata appears above Japan. Guam (Isla de Ladrones) is shown. New Guinea appears much different than on Ortelius' World map of 1588, suggesting he may have drawn additional information from an unrecorded voyage. Among other notable features, it is detached from Terra Australis. The Solomons or Melanesia are located, as are some of the islands of Micronesia. This was the first map to focus on the Pacific Ocean.
The map reflects a much smaller body of water than the true size of the Pacific. The treatment of America and most notably the Northwest Coast, is reminiscent of Hondius' America. This map and the Hondius/Le Clerc's rare map of 1589 (known only in the 1602 edition), have a curious and not fully understood relationship as to which is truly the first map of the Pacific, although because no example of the 1589 Hondius/ Le Clerk has been discovered, this map retains primacy.
Ortelius' The atrum Orbis Terrarum, is widely regarded as the first modern atlas. At the time of its publication, it was the most expensive book ever produced. Between 1570 and 1612, it was issued in 31 editions and 7 languages.
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.