Gerard & Cornelius de Jode

Gerard de Jode (1511-91) was a Dutch printer and mapmaker born in Nijmegen, but working from the metropolis of Antwerp. One of the most competent and reputable Dutch cartographers of the 16th century, he did not fare so well business-wise, as competition was stark and his mercantile sense perhaps not so shrewd. In 1547 he was accepted into the Guild of St Luke’s in Antwerp and began working as a publisher and printer. De Jode quickly won recognition as an expert mapmaker in a city that already was renowned for its cartographic output. His greatest achievement was a magnificent two-volume atlas entitled Speculum Orbis Terrarum, which came out in 1578. The idea was to create an atlas that could compete with Abraham Ortelius’ hugely popular Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which had been published to great acclaim only eight years earlier. Despite De Jode’s status and reputation, however, his atlas was not a commercial success. The lack of circulation in 1578 has a lasting legacy today in that it is now one of the most rare and sought after atlases, with only about a dozen copies known to exist.

Despite this lack of commercial success (or perhaps because of it), Gerard began working on a new and revised atlas. For this task he recruited his son, Cornelis De Jode (1568-1600), as an assistant and together they compiled another great and innovative atlas entitled Speculum Orbis Terrae, which was published in 1593. Sadly, Gerard de Jode died of old age a little less than two years prior to its publication, but perhaps he was spared the embarrassment of another commercial failure. Even though the new atlas contained both Gerard’s original maps, it also included a number of key revisions, and perhaps most importantly, a range of entirely new maps compiled by Cornelis himself.

Like their 1578 predecessors, these 1593 maps are also very rare, especially since after Cornelius’ death, the engraving plates were sold to his competitor, J. B. Vrients (who also owned the Ortelius plates), who assured the complete work was never published again. Thus while myriad editions of Ortelius were published and survive today, only the 1578 and 1593 form the legacy of the De Jode family.

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