Antique engraved map of the Perche region of central northwestern France.
This example comes from an English-language edition of the Mercator-Hondius miniature atlas.
Jodocus Hondius the Elder (1563-1612), or Joost de Hondt, was one of the most prominent geographers and engravers of his time. His work did much to establish Amsterdam as the center of cartographic publishing in the seventeenth century. Born in Wakken but raised in Ghent, the young Jodocus worked as an engraver, instrument maker, and globe maker.
Hondius moved to London in 1584, fleeing religious persecution in Flanders. There, he worked for Richard Hakluyt and Edward Wright, among others. Hondius also engraved the globe gores for Emery Molyneux’s pair of globes in 1592; Wright plotted the coastlines. His engraving and nautical painting skills introduced him to an elite group of geographic knowledge seekers and producers, including the navigators Drake, Thomas Cavendish, and Walter Raleigh, as well as engravers like Theodor De Bry and Augustine Ryther. This network gave Hondius access to manuscript charts and descriptions which he then translated into engraved maps.
In 1593 Hondius returned to Amsterdam, where he lived for the rest of his life. Hondius worked in partnership with Cornelis Claesz, a publisher, and maintained his ties to contacts in Europe and England. For example, from 1605 to 1610, Hondius engraved the plates for John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine.
One of Hondius’ most successful commercial ventures was the reprinting of Mercator’s atlas. When he acquired the Mercator plates, he added 36 maps, many engraved by him, and released the atlas under Mercator’s name, helping to solidify Mercator’s reputation posthumously. Hondius died in 1612, at only 48 years of age, after which time his son of the same name and another son, Henricus, took over the business, including the reissuing of the Mercator atlas. After 1633, Hondius the Elder’s son-in-law, Johannes Janssonius, was also listed as a co-publisher for the atlas.
Michael Mercator (ca. 1567-1600) was the son of Arnold Mercator, and brother to Gerard Mercator the Younger. His grandfather (1512-1594), of course, is one of the most famous cartographers of all time. Unlike their sire, unfortunately, his sons and grandsons tended to die young, cutting short their careers as geographers and engravers.
Gerard 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. Arnold (1537-1587) produced his first map in 1558 and took on the quotidian operations of the family business. The second son, Bartholomeus (1540-1568), taught geography in Duisberg, but he died in 1568, aged 28. Rumold, the third son, also became an engraver and mapmaker. He spent much of his adult life in London, but returned to Duisberg in 1587; it was he who spearheaded the atlas’ publication in 1595.
Arnold died the same year Rumold returned, leaving his three sons (Gerard, Johann, and Michael) to help Rumold and their grandfather. As previously mentioned, Gerard the Younger, Arnold’s older son, contributed to the atlas, as did Johann. Michael’s contribution is perhaps the most celebrated today, although he could not help his brothers bring out a second edition of the atlas in 1602, having died in 1600. Rumold had also died, in 1599.
Michael is only known to have engraved one map, although he is also known for another cartographic work. This is the Drake silver medal, a double-hemisphere medallion commemorating Francis Drake’s circumnavigation (1577-1580). It is the only medal that he ever made. However, both pieces have earned him an enduring reputation.