Gorgeous 1588 Ortelius map of the western hemisphere naming California.

Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio


In stock

Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist
SKU: NL-00019 Category:
Cartographer(s): Abraham Ortelius
Date: 1588
Place: Antwerp
Dimensions: 35.5 x 38.5 cm (14 x 15.2 in)
Condition Rating: VG+


The third of the plates that Ortelius used for maps of the American continent, the first two appearing in 1570 and 1579, respectively, the present one easily identifiable by the absence of the bulge in the west coast of South America, as well as the many additional ships in the oceans. This is the only one of the three plates with Ortelius’s imprint, in which he states he is the author.

This state is first map to apply the name California to a region, lying along what is now Baja California. On the first state as well as this one, the tip of Baja California is labeled C. California.

In comparing this state to earlier ones, Burden remarks that “at first glance not much appears to have been altered, but close inspection reveals a great deal. The Solomon Islands are here shown for the first time since they were discovered in 1568 by Alvaro de Mendaña. On the west coast of North America some new nomenclature appears, R. de los estrechos, C. Mendocino, and California. The most important introductions on the east coast are the Indian name WINGANDEKOA, and just to the north an inlet. They both originate from the unsuccessful English attempts at colonising the Outer Banks of present day North Carolina. It has been suggested that the inlet could be the first depiction of Chesapeake Bay on a printed map…”

An original plate crack is visible in the upper right hand corner.

In separate cartouche: Ulterius Septentrionem versus sue regiones incognitæ adhuc sunt., Cum Privilegio decennali Ab. Ortelius delineab. et excudeb. 1587.

The verso of this map is blank, which is not common. Ortelius preferred to place text on the back of his maps, but this was not important to all buyers, who could visit the Plantin publishing workshop and have the map pulled immediately as desired.


Abraham Ortelius

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) was born in Antwerp to Flemish parents in 1527. After studying Greek, Latin, and mathematics, he and his sister set up shop as book dealers and a ‘painter of maps.’ In his heart, Ortelius was, nevertheless, first and foremost a historian. He believed geography was the ‘eye of history,’ which explains why he collected maps and historical documents with such passion. Ortelius traveled widely in pursuit of his interests, building contacts with mapmakers and literati all over the European continent.

Ortelius reached a turning point in his career in 1564 with the publication of a World Map in eight sheets, of which only a single copy survives. In 1570, he published a comprehensive collection of maps titled Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theatre of the World). The Theatrum is conventionally considered the first modern-style atlas. It was compiled by collecting maps and charts from colleagues across the continent, which Ortelius then had engraved in a uniform size and style. The engraver for most of the maps in Theatrum was none other than the famous Frans Hogenberg, who also served as the main engraver for the 16th-century urban atlas Civitates Orbis Terrarum, published with Georg Braun in 1572.

Hogenberg’s re-drawn and standardized maps formed the basis of the first atlas in history (even though it was Mercator who was the first to use the term a few decades later). Unlike many of his contemporaries, Ortelius noted his sources openly and in the first edition, acknowledged no less than eighty-seven different European cartographers. This ‘catalogus auctorum tabularum geographicum‘ is one of the major innovations of his atlas. The list of contributing mapmakers was kept up-to-date for decades after Ortelius’ death. In the first edition of 1570, this list included 87 names, whereas the posthumous edition of 1603 contained no less than 183 names.

While compiled by Abraham Ortelius in the manner described above, the Theatrum was first printed by Gielis Coppens van Diest, an Antwerp printer experienced with cosmographical books. Van Diest was succeeded by his son Anthonis in 1573, who in turn was followed by Gillis van den Rade, who printed the 1575 edition of Ortelius’ atlas. From 1579, Christoffel Plantin took over, and his successors continued to print Theatrum until Ortelius’ heirs sold the copperplates and the publication rights to Jan Baptist Vrients in 1601. In 1612, shortly after Vrients’s death, the copperplates passed to the Moretus brothers.

Condition Description

Left margin reinforced with paper on verso.


Broecke, Marcel Van den. Ortelius Atlas Maps: an illustrated guide. 2011, Ort11.

Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of North America a List of Printed Maps, 1511-1670. Rickmansworth: Raleigh Publications, 1996, 88.