World map: Typus orbis terrarum. Abraham ORTELIUS.
World map: Typus orbis terrarum.
World map: Typus orbis terrarum.

Typus orbis terrarum.
World map: Typus orbis terrarum.

Antwerp: Plantin, dated 1587, but issued 1592.

Engraved map, 362 x 492 mm (sheet size 465 x 590 mm); Latin text on verso; an excellent example, mounted.

A new edition of Ortelius' famous map

The great cartographer Ortelius' major world map, of great significance for the imagining of the Pacific and the Great Southern Land. One of the more remarkable aspects of the map is how fully it investigates the southern hemisphere, mixing old speculations with the latest reports from Spanish and Portuguese voyagers in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. First published in 1570, this revision is from a slightly later Latin edition, dated on the engraving 1587 but actually published around 1592 as part of Ortelius' great atlas project, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. This updated version includes some general improvements to the geography of the globe, notably some small but significant changes to the waters near Australia, including the moving of New Guinea further away from the landmass of the southern land (tentatively suggesting the existence of a channel to the south of the island); the newly-discovered Solomon islands are shown for the first time, correctly placed to the east of New Guinea. Four added medallions contain classical quotations, and the decorative clouds of the earlier edition have been replaced by a strapwork border housing the cartouches. Among other changes, the southwest coastline of South America has been reconfigured more accurately.

The great cartographer Ortelius' major world map, of great significance for the imagining of the Pacific and the Great Southern Land. One of the more remarkable aspects of the map is how fully it investigates the southern hemisphere, mixing old speculations with the latest reports from Spanish and Portuguese voyagers in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. First published in 1570, this revision is from a slightly later Latin edition, dated on the engraving 1587 but actually published around 1592 as part of Ortelius' great atlas project, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. This updated version includes some general improvements to the geography of the globe, notably some small but significant changes to the waters near Australia, including the moving of New Guinea further away from the landmass of the southern land (tentatively suggesting the existence of a channel to the south of the island); the newly-discovered Solomon islands are shown for the first time, correctly placed to the east of New Guinea. Four added medallions contain classical quotations, and the decorative clouds of the earlier edition have been replaced by a strapwork border housing the cartouches. Among other changes, the southwest coastline of South America has been reconfigured more accurately.

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) had an early career as an engraver and a book dealer but, partly through the encouragement of Gerardus Mercator, turned to scientific geography in the 1560s; his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was essentially the first and certainly the most influential modern atlas. His world map was based on a much larger and extremely rare wall-map by Mercator of 1569, but the accessible format of the Ortelius version meant that it would become the map that gave currency to the theories that would dominate scientific thinking for centuries. The central premise of the map, the notion of the "balancing" of the top and bottom of the globe, can clearly be seen by the two polar landmasses: a series of four large islands in the north, pierced by great waterways that seem to go through to the pole and, much more dramatically, the massive "Terra Australis Nondum Cognita," at the bottom.

The Great Southern Land is enriched with a series of (partly fictional) landfalls and displays as a complicated synthesis of classical geography, the travels of Marco Polo (Beach, Lucach, Maletur), a garbled account of what had originally been a description of parts of South America as the "kingdom of the parrots" (Psittacorum Regio), a completely speculative reworking of what truly lay below the southern banks of the Straits of Magellan and, lastly, the partial knowledge of New Guinea and the surrounding waters. Of course, while it is easy to dismiss the ways in which the map is a pastiche of early travellers' tales, it has been the subject of endless speculation because parts of the imagined coastline are so suggestive of parts of northern and western Australia, not formally mapped until the incursions of the Dutch in the seventeenth century.

Clancy, 'Mapping of Terra Australis', 5.7 (1570 edition); 'Ortelius Atlas Maps', 3; Shirley, 'The Mapping of the World', 158.

Price (AUD): $9,750.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504935

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