Fine example of Ortelius's map of Germany, from his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas of the world. The present map first appeared in 1570, in the first edition of Ortelius's atlas, and was in every edition through 1602, thereafter being replaced by Vrients's Deutschland.
This regional map is wide-ranging in scope and provided a useful and widely disseminated map of a region that was at the heart of the late 16th-century Northern Renaissance. The map extends from the English Channel to the Baltic, the Vistula and Poland in the northeast, Budapest, Venice and the Adriatic in the southeast, and Milan and Geneva in the south. Many cities and rivers are shown and named.
In the lower-left corner is an illustration of an elaborate coat of arms, possibly a configuration of Maximillian II, Holy Roman Emperor. The ship shown here in the English Channel is the same design that was used in Ortelius's maps of Angliae, Scotiae et Hiberniae as well as Flandria. A small sea monster appears in the Baltic.
Sources of the Map
Ortelius's primary source for this map was a nine-sheet map by Christiaan Sgrooten (Meurer p. 238, Karrow 70/8 p. 483), one of the luminary Dutch cartographers of the latter part of the 16th century. Sgrooten was one of the foremost mapmaker-artists of all time, but his work appeared almost exclusively in manuscript form, and thus he is not well-known today. Sgrooten compiled many published and unpublished sources for his map, which may have included Stella's 1560 map of Germany. In his catalog of sources, Ortelius credits Carolus Heydanus, Mercator's mapping from 1590, Sebastian Munster, and Tilemannus Stella from 1567.
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).