Abraham Ortelius began as a print colorist, and as an art dealer buying and selling old objects. From about 1558, he is recorded as having purchased multiple copies of maps in order to color them and building a large personal map collection. In about 1560, possibly as a result of his friendship with Gerard Mercator, the great Dutch cartographer who produced the first book of maps literally to be called an “atlas,” Ortelius began to produce maps starting with Typus Orbis Terrarum, an eight-sheet world map.
Shortly thereafter, Ortelius commenced his greatest project, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. As the leading cartographic bibliographer of the period, Ortelius was able to prepare 53 map sheets based on the most up-to-date information. These were engraved by Frans Hogenberg with rich Mannerist details and strap work cartouches. The printed atlas with these engravings was first published in 1570 and was an immediate commercial success, being reprinted four times just that year. “The publication of [the first edition] of this atlas 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). In the next decades, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was reprinted numerous times in a variety of languages, with many of the maps re-engraved and updated. Additional maps were added; later editions contained up to 163 map sheets.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling. Few marginal tears professionally restored verso.
Tooley, R.V. Maps and Map-Makers. 4th Ed. New York: Bonanza Books, 1970. p.29.
van den Broecke, Marcel P.R. Ortelius Atlas Maps: An Illustrated Guide. Amsterdam: MS ‘t Goy, H&S Publishers, 1996. 159.
van der Krogt, Peter C.J. Koeman’s Atlantes Neerlandici. New Edition. Vol. III: Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, De Jode’s Speculum Orbis Terrarum, et al. ‘t Goy-Houten, Netherlands: Hes & De Graff, 2003.