Lovely 1574 Ortelius map of England and Wales with elaborate cartouche.

Angliae Regni Florentissimi Nova Descriptio, Auctore Humfredo Lhuyd Denbygiense


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SKU: NL-00011 Category:
Cartographer(s): Abraham Ortelius
Date: 1574
Place: Antwerp
Dimensions: 38 x 47 cm (15 x 18.5 in)
Condition Rating: VG+


This beautiful map of England and Wales is a part of the 1574 Latin edition of Abraham Ortelius’ famous Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which is considered the first modern atlas of the world.

The map showcases England in intricate detail but also includes parts of Scotland, France, and Ireland. Within the scope of England and Wales, cities, towns, and villages are all marked by distinct red dots, while England’s topography and ecology have been added in the form of mapped-out waterways and ample pictorial vignettes of forests and mountains. In some cases, such as that of Clapham, the forests have been drawn as specifically encircling the town; in other cases, they simply fill in empty spaces on the map.

The gorgeously stipple-engraved seas surrounding the British Isles are almost as densely filled with information and impressions as the landmass. The many islands associated with the English mainland have been carefully drawn in, with the Isles of Scilly labeled as the Sorlinges insule; the Isle of Man simply labeled MAN, and the southern Isle of Wight labeled Wijght in Flemish phonetics. The seascape itself is adorned with pictorial embellishments such as sailing ships and sea monsters, and in the uncharted space of Ireland, a humorous element is added in the form of grazing sheep.

The highly ornamental style of Ortelius is also evident from the strap-work of the elaborate title and scale-bar cartouches. While the text cartouche on the left contains the title and date of the map, the privilege of its maker, and the royal crest flanked by herons and naked female figures holding laurel staves, the other, situated in the top right corner of the map, displays the scale in English miles.

The map is based on a combination of Mercator’s 1564 eight-sheet wall map of the British Isles and Welsh cartographer Humphrey Llwyd’s (often spelled Lhuyd) 1568 survey of Wales. It is an extremely attractive design that provides extensive detail without compromising on the visual impact and integrity.


The map has been dated using Van den Broecke as a guide — “1584L11 (750 copies printed) (last line, left aligned: Rogersius cognatus meus. Idem de Romanorum in Britannia imperio præ manibus habet.)”


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

Verso repair at lower central crease, mild soiling, very good, attractive.


Ort 19; 1584L11

(Koeman/Meurer: 55, Karrow: 1/79, van der Krogt AN: 5100:31A)