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A gorgeous example of Ortelius' map of the travels of St. Paul the Apostle through the Mediterranean, extending west to Italy and east to the Euphrates, including parts of the Red Sea and the Black Sea. Several sailing ships and sea monsters in the Mediterranean.

Ortelius titles this work with an apology that this map is not as detailed as others of Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean, but that he preferred to focus on place names which had New Testament significance. The map labels many of the cities of the modern and Roman eras in the large area where Paul was believed to have exercised his ministry. The map shows all the places of interest in the life of Paul: Damascus, where he was converted, Malta, where he converted the local populace, Corinth, the city to which he wrote his epistles, Rome, where he died, and many more. Interestingly, these places are not explicitly associated with Paul's life in the map.

Two ornate scenes from St. Paul's travels are illustrated with unusual detail. They depict the two major conversion scenes in Paul's life: first when he is converted, and second when he converts the inhabitants of Malta.  Paul's conversion occurred while he was on the road to Damascus, persecuting the new Christians. Having fallen from his horse, he was blinded for three days before Jesus appeared to him, and he converted. We see this on the left. In the right-hand side image, we see Paul bitten by a viper while lighting a fire and surviving after having been shipwrecked. This act of survival was enough to convince the local population to convert.

At the bottom of the image is a quote from Corinthians which scholars and theologians attribute to Paul. In his two epistles, Paul describes what he saw while in Corinth and the various ways in which the inhabitants strayed from the path that Jesus had set forth. This particular verse written in Latin details that as the true believer walks by faith and not sight, they make it their aim to please the Lord whether at home or abroad. This was a key verse for pilgrims and exemplifies the difference between spatial and spiritual pilgrimage.

This work was published in Ortelius's Parergon sive veteris geographiae aliquot tabulae, which featured the areas traveled by famous figures of the ancient world. Five maps are devoted to sacred history, and those regarding the travels of Abraham, Moses, and Paul are the best known in this series.

Ortelius's Parergon

Although best known for his world atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the Pareregon 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.

Van den Broecke 181; Laor 545; Karrow 16c.
Ad ductum itineris et dispositonem mansionum ostendendam: Meditation, Vocation, and Sacred History in Abraham Ortelius's Parergon Melion 60
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).