Typus orbis terrarum…
Typus orbis terrarum...

Antwerp: Plantin, 1570.

Hand-coloured engraved map, 465 x 590 mm. (sheet size), old central crease (as always), Latin text verso; some marking and browning to the margins, very good.

One of the most influential world maps: imagining the southern hemisphere

An excellent copy with bright original colour: the major world map of the great cartographer Ortelius, of the highest 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, depicting the speculations of classical geographers and the vague reportage of Marco Polo, jostling with the very latest reports from Spanish and Portuguese voyagers in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

An excellent copy with bright original colour: the major world map of the great cartographer Ortelius, of the highest 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, depicting the speculations of classical geographers and the vague reportage of Marco Polo, jostling with the very latest reports from Spanish and Portuguese voyagers in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

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, and published his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum ("theatre of the world") at the end of the decade, widely considered to be the first and certainly most influential modern atlas.

This world map is 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.

Unlike for the Arctic, which is largely non-descript, the Great Southern Land is enriched with a series of (partly fictional) landfalls. The Southern Land, that is, is 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 fragmentary 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.

The present example is the first issue of the plate, engraved by Francis Hogenberg, second state of the plate, recognised by the very faint line or crack at lower left, and some subtle changes to the cloud border.

Clancy, Mapping of Terra Australis, 5.16 (1570 issue); Koeman, 31:351 (map 109); Ortelius Atlas Maps, 166; Shirley, 122.

Price (AUD): $16,750.00  other currencies     Ref: #4504956