Maris Pacifici

Stunning 1595 example of Ortelius’ landmark map of the Pacific Ocean.

Cartographer(s): Abraham Ortelius
Date: 1595
Place: Antwerp
Dimensions: 34.5 x 49.7 cm (13.6 x 19.6 in)
Condition Rating: VG

Out of stock

Description

This was the first printed map to be devoted solely to the Pacific, and the first to name North and South America separately. Lower right a large presentation of Ferdinand Magellan’s ship “Victoria” sailing westward on the first voyage around the world.

The map includes most of North and South America, with a vast Terra Australia Sive Magellanica Nondum Detecta which slopes north sharply to join with Java a myth started by Mercator, who had misunderstood Marco Polo.

It was also the first map to depict the islands of New Guinea and Japan as being closer to Asia than America, although the Pacific is still many degrees too narrow, a mistake that continued partly out of the desperate desire of many sailors to sail west to the Indies. Japan is drawn in a turtle-shape with a large Isla de Plata above.

Ortelius used Spanish manuscripts to correct many of his misconceptions about America, but it is unclear what his sources were for some of the other corrections. He has corrected the width of America considerably, so that it is now quite narrow on the Tropic of Capricorn; as Wagner points out, this has the effect of moving the peninsular of California, correctly, to the east.

Cartographer(s):

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 an historian. Geography, he believed, was the ‘eye of history’, which explains why he collected maps and historical documents with such passion.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 to 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

Good margins. Minor discoloration on the extremities of the center fold. Repair of split lower part center fold, 4cm. into the engraved area. Very good condition.

References

Burden 74; Koeman, I.C. Atlantes Neerlandici, III, p. 62; Wagner, H. Cartography of the Northwest Coast, p. 74, no. 156.