ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527–1598). Theatre de l'Univers. Antwerp: Christopher Plantin for the author, 1598.

$ 240,000.00

ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527–1598). Theatre de l'Univers, contenant les cartes de tout le Monde. Avec une brieve declaration d'icelles. Antwerp: Christopher Plantin for the author, 1598.

Folio (18 4/8 x 12 inches). Text in French. EVERY PAGE DOUBLE-RULED IN RED FOR PRESENTATION. EXCEPTIONALLY FINE, elaborate engraved allegorical title-page, with magnificent original hand-colour in full, HEIGHTENED WITH GOLD, portrait of Ortelius, 169 maps by Frans Hogenberg and others on 122 copper-plates and printed on 119 map-sheets, including a World Map and maps of each of the four Continents, each map richly embellished with figural cartouches, arms, sailing ships, sea monsters, and deities etc,  ALL WITH EXCEPTIONAL ORIGINAL HAND-COLOUR IN FULL, mounted on guards (some minor staining at beginning and end, last few maps with early minor marginal repairs, stain to inner margin of title and first few leaves, tiny abrasions to inner margin of Pacific map 6, map 23 with short marginal tear, map 119 with short internal tear). Contemporary, probably Parisian, brown morocco gilt, with the supra libros of Antoine Blondel , Vicomte de Vadencourt (died 1618), dated 1600 (Olivier 14), and his monograms 'VV' and  'ABD' stamped in each corner, the smooth spine gilt-ruled in 8 compartments, the title in the second, the others decorated with the Vicomte de Vadencourt's alternating monograms, all edges gilt (spine ends and corners skillfully restored, endpapers renewed).

Provenance: with the supra libros of the Vicomte Blondel de Vadencourt stamped in gilt in the centre of the front cover, and his his coat-of-arms, dated 1600, printed on the verso of otherwise blank Privilege page; Ex-Libris Jean R. Perrette, his sale, Christie's New York, 5th April 2016, lot 31.


A presentation copy to Antoine Blondel, Vicomte de Vadencourt, with the margins of each page ruled in red, probably in 1600, the date that appears on the coat of arms printed directly onto the verso of the "Privilege" leaf, and his supras libros and monograms on the binding. Vadencourt came from a distinguished aristocratic family whose seat was on the banks of the Ouse at Vadencourt, or Waudencort. He was an adviser to the Parisian Parliament, of Henri IV, and died in 1618 without direct heirs. In 1650 the Spaniards destroyed the Vadencourt castle and two years later, the village was looted by the troops of the Duke of Lorraine.

First published in French in 1572 with only 70 maps on 53 map-sheets, this enlarged edition includes a number of important maps. The world map used in this edition is printed from Ortelius's third and final "Typus orbis terrarium" plate (Shirley 122:3-1), which greatly improved the delineation of the southwest coastline of South America and depicted the Solomon Islands for the first time. Also included is the landmark map "America Sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio" (America, or New World, Newly Described), and "Maris Pacifici", the Pacific Ocean, which was first included by Ortelius in his "Additamentum" in 1590. It is the first printed map to be devoted to the Pacific Ocean, and also includes an early depiction of the west coast of North America, Japan and New Guinea. Nova Hispania (Mexico) and the California peninsula are shown quite accurately for the time. Primarily, however, the map celebrates the achievements of Magellan, the first to traverse the Pacific Ocean and to discover the strait at the southern tip of South America that would come to be named in his honor. Magellan's ship "Victoria" is depicted in the Pacific along with a celebratory Latin inscription. The map is unusually centered on the Pacific itself rather than on any landmass, thus showing the ocean in its entirety as it stretches from Asia to America. 

"All the elements of the modern atlas were brought to publication in Abraham Ortelius' "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum". This substantial undertaking assembled... the best available maps of the world by the most renowned and up-to-date geographers... each of Ortelius' maps was engraved specifically for his atlas according to uniform formats" (Shirley). 

Ortelius first published his "Theatrum…", arguably the first atlas in the modern sense of the word, in 1570, with 70 seventy copper engravings on fifty-three double-folio pages. A businessman native to Antwerp, Ortelius compiled the best existing maps, re-engraved them on a standardized format, and included them with the text in one volume. But, by 1570, he had been dealing in maps and charts for more than twenty years. The death of Ortelius' father in 1535, who had been a wealthy merchant, seems to have placed his family in financial difficulties. When Ortelius was as young as 19 he is recorded as having joined the Guild of St. Luke as 'afsetter' "or colourist of maps and prints. He seems to have reached a very advanced level of skill in this craft, as some customers continued to insist on buying atlases coloured by him personally at a time when he had already developed into a publisher and cartographer/merchant… Ortelius [also] became a trader in books, prints and maps. Much of this trading had to do with the house of Plantin [subsequently publisher of the 'Theatrum']…Soon he was attending the book fair in Frankfurt to buy and sell books, maps and prints for others as well as for himself. He first met Gerard Mercator there in 1554, which marked the state of a life-long professional relationship and personal friendship… " (van den Broecke page 14).

Through his work Ortelius became quite the cosmopolitan, he travelled extensively to France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Italy, England and Ireland, and as a result had command of several languages. With the publication of the "Theatrum" came tremendous success and wealth. Giving full credit to the original cartographers, the "Theatrum" was so successful that it was printed three times in 1570 alone. In 1574 Ortelius retained the position of Royal Cosmographer to Phillip II and was given a fine gold necklace, worth 1000 ducats. Between 1570 and 1612 the atlas was published in 42 editions and the 7 languages: Latin, German, Flemish, French, Spanish, English and Italian.. Alden & Landis 598/75. Burden 39 and 64; JCB (3) I:365; Koeman Ort 32; see PMM 91 (1570 edition); Sabin 57693; Shirley 122; Tooley Maps and Map-Makers p.30.