Ortelius's map provides detailed and meticulously compiled representation of Etruscan Tuscany. First published in 1584, the map provides a fine view centered on Florence, giving insights into the region's geography during the times of the Etruscan civilization.
One of the foundational elements of this map is its use of primary sources. According to Van Den Broecke, Ortelius's main geographical foundation for "Tusciae Antiquae Typus" came from Bellarmati's depiction of Tuscany, as documented by Meurer (p. 113) and Karrow (10/1, p. 78-80). Bellarmati's cartographic work in the 16th century was known for its precision and the map's alignment with this source adds a layer of credibility to its design.
However, Ortelius's endeavor was not limited to contemporary cartographic sources. Recognizing the rich history of Tuscany, he sought to intertwine modern geography with historical context. To achieve this, he turned to classical sources that chronicled the history and geography of the region: Livius, Plinius, Cato, Vergilius, Halicarnassæus, and Plutarchus. By consulting these ancient authors, Ortelius ensured that his map was a synthesis of both the spatial realities of the 16th century and the historical narrative of the Etruscan era.
The map depicts the coastlines in detail, punctuated by various islands. The inclusion of a sailing ship serves as a subtle nod to the maritime activities that were prominent in the region. Furthermore, the three large cartouches on the map likely held essential information about the region or perhaps added a touch of artistic design typical of cartographic conventions of the time.
The map is known in 2 states:
- 1584-1592: No Roman Roads Shown.
- 1595 and after: Roman Roads added
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).