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Holsatiae Descriptio et al: Ortelius c. 1595

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  • Title: Holsatiae Descriptio et al
  • Author: Abraham Ortelius
  • Date: c. 1595
  • Medium: Hand-colored copperplate engraving
  • Condition: Very Good - age toning, foxing, marginal separations at issued center fold
  • Inches: 21 1/8 x 16 1/8 [Paper]
  • Centimeters: 53.66 x 40.96 [Paper]
  • Product ID: 318007

Map of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein south of Denmark. Depicts the city of Hamburg. Adjacent is a map of the islands of Rügen, Usedom, and Wolin along the Baltic coast of the historic German state of Pomerania (today at the border between Germany and Poland).

Abraham Ortelius was born April 4, 1527.  His father was an antique dealer of some means, and thus Abraham received a classical education including instruction in Latin, Greek and mathematics.  He became a map colorist at the age of 19 and achieved an advanced level of skill.  Leveraging his success as well as his familiarity with maps and atlases, Ortelius became a trader in books, prints and maps, travelling widely in northern Europe to map and book fairs.  In 1564 he completed his first cartographic production, an eight-sheet wall map of the world. The only surviving example of this magnificent map is in the library of the University of Basel.

Real prosperity arrived with the publication of the world’s first atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in 1570, with 53 maps.  Ortelius was the first to engrave maps in a uniform format, specifically for this atlas, and provide uniform content.  Prior to this, atlases were made to order affairs, with no consistency in size or content.  His success was such that four printings occurred in 1570 to meet demand, and the publication of the Theatrum launched 100 years of Dutch supremacy in cartography.  Its enduring influence and popularity can be measured by the fact that more than 30 editions were printed, in both Latin and vernacular versions, over half by the Plantin press. 

Abraham Ortelius was a true Renaissance man; Cosmographer to Phillip II, King of Spain, book dealer, cartographer, numismatist, naturalist, and historian.  He had wide interests in classical scholarship, spoke six languages and had reasonable command of two others.  He was without doubt one of the most prominent citizens of Antwerp in the late Sixteenth century, when the city was a global trading center, “...the city of cities…”.  He had contacts throughout Europe from his extensive travels and counted the brightest intellectuals and entrepreneurs of his day among his friends. 

As he became more prosperous, he moved to more and more spacious accommodations to house his collection of books, maps, coins and objects of natural history until his became the greatest privately owned (the only kind that existed) museum in northwest Europe.  His connection with scholars and cartographers continued to develop as the fame of the Theatrum grew.  He exhorted his contacts and readers to send him corrections and additional maps to increase the accuracy and coverage of his atlas.  Abraham Ortelius died at the age of 71 on June 28, 1598. 

Reference:  Ortelius Atlas Maps, Marcel van den Broecke.