An attractive antique map of the region around the headwaters of the Vistula, in south-central Poland. Accompanying text describes the outflow of another of the great rivers of Europe, the Danube.
The towns of Zatoriensis [Zator] and Osroiczensis [Oswiecim] give their name to the title of this map and other prominent cities of the region can be located, including present-day Bielsko-Biala and Skoczow. The Duchy of Oswiecim dates back to the fragmentation of Poland in the 14th century, and it was split into several smaller duchies, including the Duchy of Zator in 1445. The Duchies would be rejoined with Poland shortly after, and these lands would remain Polish until the First Partition in 1772.
Oswiecim is, of course, most famous for its eponymous concentration camp, taken from the German translation of its name Auschwitz. The death camps would be located just west of the city, across a small branch of the Vistula.
This work appeared in the unauthorized Italian version of Ortelius's Epitome, the Theatro del Mondo. This was first printed in 1598, then subsequently at least seven times between 1655 and 1724, well after Ortelius's own Epitome ceased to be published. These later editions had several printers, including Turrini, Banca, Curti, and Lovisa.
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.