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1588 Ortelius map of the western hemisphere naming California

Place/Date: Antwerp / 1588
Title: Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio
35.5 x 38.5 cm (14 x 15.2 in)
Hand color
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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 was a cartographer and geographer, conventionally recognized as the creator of the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World). He was one of the most notable figures of the Dutch school of cartography during its golden age (approximately 1570s–1670s).

Condition Description

Left margin reinforced with paper on verso, ink notation on reverse; ink notation "Amerique" in top margin otherwise would be rated VG+.


Broecke, Marcel Van den. Ortelius Atlas Maps: an illustrated guide. Houten: Hes & de Graaf, 2011, Ort11. Burden, Philip D. The Mapping of North America a List of Printed Maps, 1511-1670. Rickmansworth: Raleigh Publications, 1996, 88. Wa-NWC 147. W-TW 15 ( Rep first state ). Martin & Martin, Maps of Texas and the Southwest, Plate 5 ( Rep ). Barron, Decorative Maps, Plate 8 ( Rep; this copy also has the crack in the plate ). California 49, map 5 (Rep, earlier state).

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