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Typus Orbis Terrarum: Ortelius 1608 [1612]

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  • Title: Typus Orbis Terrarum
  • Author: Abraham Ortelius
  • Date: 1608 [1612]
  • Medium: Hand-colored copperplate engraving
  • Condition: Excellent - presented here in the most mellow and attractive contemporary color, centerfold expertly reinforced, old mounting hinges at top
  • Inches: 20 x 14 3/4 [Image]
  • Centimeters: 50.8 x 37.47 [Image]
  • Product ID: 317031

Ortelius’s Renaissance Masterwork, One of the Greatest World Maps

One of the most famous world maps, from the rare Italian language Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. The map is a simplified one-sheet reduction of Gerard Mercator's large world map of 1569. Rather than the extensive embellishments of Mercator, Ortelius positions the world in an elegant strapwork surround in the mannerist style, with corner medallions featuring excerpts form Cicero and Seneca. A quote from Cicero at the bottom reads Who can consider human affairs to be great, when he comprehends the eternity and vastness of the entire world? 

This is the third state of the map, introduced in 1579, which remained in use for the remainder of the Theatrum editions up to 1641. The distinctive bulge in South America has been rectified, but Tierra del Fuego still appears as a peninsula of the “Great Unknown Southern Land." The Arctic regions are separated from America and Asia by the hoped-for northwest passage, the desired shortcut to Asia with all its riches. This belief was not dispelled until McKenzie’s and Lewis and Clark’s epic continental journeys many generations later. A prudent comment, quae an sit insula aut pars continentus Australis incertum, adjacent to New Guinea asks whether this large island is part of the great southern continent, or not. 

Abraham Ortelius was a true Renaissance man. He served as Cosmographer to Phillip II, King of Spain, and in addition worked as a book dealer, cartographer, numismatist, naturalist, and historian. He had wide interests in classical scholarship and made his fortune in bookmaking and selling. He 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 stood as 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. 

Ortelius was the first to engrave maps in a uniform format, specifically for his atlas, and provide uniform content, with 53 maps in all. 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.