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Striking example of the Jodocus Hondius' map of the Holy Land, first published in 1606.

Hondius's classic map of the Holy Land shows Palestine on both sides of the Jordan and the shoreline from Beirut to Gaza. The map is largely based on Ortelius's popular 1584 Terra Sancta, designed by Christian Schrot, which showed the region after the description of Petrus Laicstain (Peter Laicksteen, an astronomer who visited the Holy Land in the 16th century). Mercator borrows the prominent image of Jonah being thrown to the whale from Ortelius, and adds tiny vignettes of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah on fire in the Dead Sea, along with the towns of Admah and Zeboim.

Palestine is shown divided between five different biblical and classical entities. The Kingdoms of Edom, Judea, Samaria, Galilee are shown in full, along with part of Syria. While at the time this map was published the area would have been controlled by the Ottoman Empire, little mention of this is made. Instead, the map seeks to portray the Holy Land as informed from the bible. Most of the geopolitical entities shown did not survive past late antiquity. In addition, many more interpretations have been added that can be attributed to biblical interpretations, from the position of the tribes of Israel to the inclusion of Samochonitus Lacus [the Waters of Meron], a lake difficult to locate in the present but present in the bible.

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Jodocus Hondius Biography

Jodocus Hondius the Elder (1563-1612), or Joost de Hondt, was one of the most prominent geographers and engravers of his time. His work did much to establish Amsterdam as the center of cartographic publishing in the seventeenth century. Born in Wakken but raised in Ghent, the young Jodocus worked as an engraver, instrument maker, and globe maker.

Hondius moved to London in 1584, fleeing religious persecution in Flanders. There, he worked for Richard Hakluyt and Edward Wright, among others. Hondius also engraved the globe gores for Emery Molyneux’s pair of globes in 1592; Wright plotted the coastlines. His engraving and nautical painting skills introduced him to an elite group of geographic knowledge seekers and producers, including the navigators Drake, Thomas Cavendish, and Walter Raleigh, as well as engravers like Theodor De Bry and Augustine Ryther. This network gave Hondius access to manuscript charts and descriptions which he then translated into engraved maps.

In 1593 Hondius returned to Amsterdam, where he lived for the rest of his life. Hondius worked in partnership with Cornelis Claesz, a publisher, and maintained his ties to contacts in Europe and England. For example, from 1605 to 1610, Hondius engraved the plates for John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine.

One of Hondius’ most successful commercial ventures was the reprinting of Mercator’s atlas. When he acquired the Mercator plates, he added 36 maps, many engraved by him, and released the atlas under Mercator’s name, helping to solidify Mercator’s reputation posthumously. Hondius died in 1612, at only 48 years of age, after which time his son of the same name and another son, Henricus, took over the business, including the reissuing of the Mercator atlas. After 1633, Hondius the Elder’s son-in-law, Johannes Janssonius, was also listed as a co-publisher for the atlas.