This stunning folio map is from Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum – Parergon – Nomenclator Ptolemaicus. The work was published in Antwerp by Plantin Press in 1595 (date only present to the Nomenclator title page from this edition). The work was first published in 1570 and this edition improved and enlarged upon including an atlas of ancient geography. The edition published only 500 copies.
The engraved map features Latin text to verso and exquisite original hand-coloring. The maps have been described as “the most outstanding engravings depicting the wide-spread interest in classical geography in the 16th century.” (Van der Krogt) The beautiful maps feature Renaissance-style cartouches and decorative work including vessels, sea and myhtological monsters, birds, medallions, et al. Noted art historian, James A. Welu, comments on “their richness of ornamentation, [they are] a combination of science and art that has rarely been surpassed in the history of mapmaking… Ortelius’s Theatrum is known for its numerous decorative cartouches, which undoubtedly added to the atlas’s long popularity.” (Art and Cartography, pp. 145-146)
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum is widely recognized as the first modern atlas which shaped the future of cartography throughout the 17th century. It utilized text and maps to fully explore the known world. “The publication of this atlas [Theatrum, 1570] marked an epoch in the history of cartography. It was the first uniformly sized, systematic collection of maps of the countries of the world based only on contemporary knowledge and in that sense may be called the first modern atlas.” (Tooley) Frans Hogenberg also worked on the publication of this atlas.
Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) was one of the most influential cartographers of the 16th century. He was born in Antwerp, Belgium but traveled throughout Europe where he eventually met Mercator. Ortelius became one of the most important cartographers in history. His largest accomplishment was certainly his atlas entitled Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. He was also appointed Royal Cartographer to King Philip II of Spain.