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Fine Old Color Example of Ortelius’ Map of Bulgaria and Romania

Admirable early map of Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea, from Ortelius' Parergon, the world's first historical atlas. 

Oriented northward, this map shows the regions of ancient Dacia and Moesia, which correspond roughly to modern-day Bulgaria and Romania. The map extends from Germany in the west to the Black Sea (Ponti Euxini) in the east, and from Eastern Europe in the north to Greece in the south. The land is separated into five Roman provinces: Sarmatia, Germania, Pannonia, Dalmatia, and Thracia.

Though the Black Sea only occupies a small part of the map, it is intricately shaded to give the appearance of choppy waters. In one area, Stethe, sandbars would cause considerable problems for navigators.

Numerous mountain ranges and rivers cross the land, giving the reader a sense of the physical geography of the area. In particular, the Danube River (Danubius flu.) is carefully rendered as it cuts through the center of the map, separating various regions. Cities are drawn as miniature views and are especially emphasized along the Danube, though they are certainly present in other regions as well.

This map is adorned with three strapwork cartouches. The title cartouche contains a list of cities whose locations remain uncertain. This cartouche is the most elaborate, with texture and some small figural elements included. The cartouche in the upper right corner dedicates the map to the Bavarian Duke Johann Georg of Werdenstein, a well-known bibliophile.

The third cartouche contains a passage from Ovid’s Tristia ex Ponto about the Greek leader Flaccus at the Bosporus Strait. In addition to Ovid, other well-known ancient scholars are cited, such as Ptolemy, Pliny, and Arrian, who had extensively traveled the Black Sea and written a Periplus, or a log of the places he traveled.

This map first featured in the 1595 edition of the Parergon. It was included unchanged until 1624, when several of the place names were re-engraved. For example, "Ruconi|um" at bottom left was changed to "Ruconi:|um". At the middle left top "Zirida:|va" was added. "Zingidava" was changed to "Singidava". At central right "Sextantaprista" was changed to "Sextanta Pristis". At middle right "Bizon" was changed to "Bizona".

The Roman provinces of Dacia and Moesia

The largest city on the map is Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa (spelled here Zarmizogethusa), the capital of the Roman province of Dacia. Dacia was a Roman province from 106 CE, entering the empire after Trajan conquered its predecessor, the Dacian kingdom ruled by Decebalus. The Romans heavily colonized the area and used it as a major stage for operations in the Balkans. However, Roman rule was always contested there and Emperor Aurelian formally relinquished the province by 275 CE.

Another notable Dacian city is Romulianum, which, as a note on the map states, was built by the Roman Emperor Galerius in the fourth century CE. It was also the site where he was buried.

Moesia, also mentioned in the title, experienced a period of political upheaval in the first century BCE. The Romans began to take over during this time, although Moesia did not become a Roman province until around 6 CE, under the Emperor Augustus. After an attack from Dacia, the Romans consolidated their power, reorganized the province, and split it in two along the Cebrus River, here the Ciabrus. It is from Moesia that Dacia was conquered. After the fall of Roman Dacia, Moesia was reorganized several times. It was also invaded several times, most notably by the Goths, who eventually seized control.

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.

Condition Description
Fine Original Color
Marcel P. Van den Broecke, "Cartographica Neerlandica Topographical Names for Ortelius Map No. 212," Cartographica Neerlandica, JE with KAP
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).