ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527-1598). Theatre de l'univers, contenant les cartes de tout le monde. Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, 1587.
Folio, (16 x 11 inches). Title within engraved architectural border with allegorical figures (creased and lightly soiled), engraved portrait of Ortelius, 112 double-page engraved maps, mounted on guards and all HAND-COLOURED IN FULL IN A CONTEMPORARY HAND (early repairs to the preliminary gutters and maps 3, 6, 11, and 48, maps 7,12 and 42 each with an abrasion or stain partially effacing several place names, small rust hole map 83, occasional creasing, some offsetting and show-through, and marginal dampstaining). Contemporary vellum, title in manuscript on the spine (later leather ties, one or two stains, endpapers renewed).
Provenance: Contemporary pen-trials of "Brandreth" on the verso of the title-page, and one or two annotations to map versos; Pierre S. DuPont III, his sale Christie's 8th October 1991, lot 193.
Third French edition, and the first to include the second state of the important map of America, with the date 1587, and the mythical bulge on the coast of South America removed. Koeman suggest that this edition was also the first to include Ortelius's second world map, but this copy agrees with Shirley 122 (second state of the first plate). The map of ancient Egypt is in the first state on two sheets.
"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. Koeman III, Ort 22 Phillips Atlases, 392. Catalogued by Kate Hunter