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Description

Fine example of Bertius' reduced size version of Gerhard Mercator's highly important and influential map of the North Pole, first published in 1595.

Gerard Mercator was the first cartographer to create a polar projection of the earth. His map, the first separate map devoted to the Arctic regions, is drawn from an inset on Mercator's world map of 1569. The map is extended to 60 degrees, to incorporate the recent explorations in search of the Northwest and Northeast Passages by Frobisher and Davis. California is identified as Spanish Territory and El Streto de Anian is clearly shown. The pole itself is made up of four surrounding islands, which myth had it, were separated by four strong flowing rivers. These carried the oceans of the world towards a giant whirlpool at the pole where there stood a large rock. An account of this myth in Mercator's own hand still exists.

Published one year after his death by his son Rumold, Gerard Mercator's classic map of the arctic is in hemispherical form, framed by four medallions and a handsome floral border. Three of the medallions contain inset maps of the Faeroe Isles, the Shetland Isles and the mythical island of Frisland.

Bertius' map shows Mercator's work in the second state, which was revised to show an unknown coastline on the central island at the lower right. The first state of Mercator's map can be distinguished from later editions by its inclusion of a definitive coastline in the lower left of the 4 islands surrounding the pole (Pygmei). Later editions omit part of the coastline.

Petrus Bertius Biography

Petrus Bertius was a Flemish historian, theologian, geographer, and cartographer. Known in Dutch as Peter de Bert, Bertius was born in Beveren. His father was a Protestant preacher and his family fled to London around 1568. The young Bertius only returned to the Low Countries in 1577, to attend the University of Leiden. A bright pupil, Bertius worked as a tutor and was named subregent of the Leiden Statencollege in 1593. He ascended to the position of regent in 1606, upon the death of the former regent, who was also Bertius’ father-in-law. However, due to his radical religious views, he eventually lost his teaching position and was forbidden from offering private lessons.

His brothers-in-law were Jodocus Hondius and Pieter van den Keere, who were both prominent cartographers. Bertius began his own cartographic publishing in 1600 when he released a Latin edition of Barent Langenes’ miniature atlas Caert Thresoor (1598). He published another miniature atlas that first appeared in 1616.  

By 1618, Bertius was named cosmographer to Louis XIII. He converted to Catholicism and took up a position as professor of rhetoric at the Collège de Boncourt (University of Paris). In 1622, Louis XIII created a chart of mathematics specifically for Bertius and named him his royal historian. He died in Paris in 1629.