ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527-1598). Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. [Colophon:] Antwerp: in officina Plantiniana, 1592.

$ 220,000.00

ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527-1598). Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Opus nunc denuo ab ipso auctore recognitum, multisque locis castigatum, & quamplurimis nouis tabulis atque commentarijs auctum. [Colophon:] Antwerp: in officina Plantiniana, 1592.

3 parts in one volume. Folio (15 6/8 x 11 2/8 inches). Collation: [A1r], engraved title-page with contemporary hand-color (remargined); [A1v], Schottus's poem (lower margin renewed); [A2r] - A3v, dedication to D. Philippo Austriaco Caroli V; [A4r] - [A5r], "…benevolis lectoribus" dated 1570, "Ornitissimo…" signed by Mercator; [A5v] - B2r, "Catalogus…"; B2r - B4r, "Index…"; B4v - [B5r] "Epigrammata…" signed by Paulus Meliffus Francus; [B5v], "Hadriani Ivnii Hornani…"; [B6r] engraved portrait of Ortelius with contemporary hand-color; [B6v], poem signed by Io. Posthius med. D.; 108 fine numbered engraved double-page maps with contemporary hand-color and descriptive text on the rectos mounted on guards (a few strengthened at an early date from behind at the foot of the guard, map 56 "Franconia" with closed vertical tear across the right-hand side, maps 66 "Helvetia", 71 "Mediolanensis", 100 "Tartaria" with short closed marginal tears just touching the image, maps 90 "Hungaria", 91 "Hungariae", 95 "Livonia" with early repairs at the foot of the gutter just affecting the image, maps 99, 100, 103-105 with some marginal worming); [a1r], engraved sectional title-page "Parergon" with contemporary hand-color; a2r - [a3r] "Ornatissimo Viro…" dated 1578; [a3v], "In Regium Geographum"; [a4r] "Regionum sive Insularum…"; [a4v], blank; 24 (of 26) fine numbered engraved double-page maps with contemporary hand-color (lacking maps 24 "Vallis Silvestris" and 25 "Orbis Romanus"); [2A1r], letterpress sectional title-page "Nomenclator Ptolemaicus" with hand-colored vignette in a contemporary hand dated 1591; 2A2- 2G3r "Nomenclator…"; [2G3v] - 2G6 "De Mona Druidim…"; [2G7r], priviledge; [2G7v}, colophon dated 1592 (repaired in the gutter, last text leaves a bit spotted). 17th-century calf with Ecclesiastical supra libros blind stamped in the centre of each cover (rebacked to style, extremities scuffed, some surface wear).

Provenance: The near contemporary supra libros of ecclesiastical library of F.W.A.Z blindstamped on each cover; ink library stamp of Hugo Toman, Czechoslovak historian and native of Rychnov nad Kneznov; bookplate of Karel Polacek (1892-1945), Czech writer, humorist and journalist also native of Rychnov nad Kneznov.


This Latin edition of 1592 was vastly expanded from the first edition of two decades earlier and includes the appendix of historical maps known as the "Parergon" that represents Ortelius's most personal contribution to the volume. Abraham Ortelius first published his atlas, "Theatrum orbis terrarium" in 1570, and as Rodney Shirley noted in his study of world maps, ushered in an era when "pre-eminence in map publishing was transferred from Italy to the Netherlands, leading to over a hundred years of Dutch supremacy in all facets of cartographical production."

Ortelius was a true pioneer in map publishing, and his innovations brought momentous changes to the world views of contemporary Europeans. Little is known about his training and early career, but his true accomplishment, was the publication of the "Theatrum". To compile the atlas, he drew upon his many contacts in the growing network of European cartographers to secure the best existing maps. He then had them re-engraved by the talented Flemish artist Frans Hogenberg (1535-90) such that all conformed to a standard format and graphic style, appended scholarly text to their versos, and published them as a uniform edition. The result was an atlas that was truly without precedent. Previously, collections of maps had been assembled into book form, but none conformed to the modern definition of the geographical world atlas. These earlier volumes fell into two categories. The first comprised map books made to order according to the desires and needs of an individual client ("composite atlases," sometimes called "Lafreri atlases"), and no two were alike. In contrast to Ortelius's atlas, few of these books included explanatory text, and they contained a motley assortment of maps by different makers that showed little or no uniformity. The second category consisted of editions of Ptolemy's "Geography", which were more keyed to revising the text of the ancient geographer than to providing a comprehensive, up-to-date cartographic world picture. In the "Theatrum", Ortelius also took the step - quite rare in the sixteenth century, when plagiarism was rampant - of crediting the original authors of the maps included (in a section entitled "Catalogus auctorum").

Between the first appearance of the "Theatrum" in 1570 and its final edition in 1612, it was printed in thirty-one editions and seven different languages - a remarkable figure for the time. Lloyd Arnold Brown, "The World Encompassed", exh. cat. (Baltimore, 1952), nos. 135, 136; Rodney W. Shirley, "The Mapping of the World" (London, 1983), nos. 122, 153, 158; Philip D. Burden, "The Mapping of North America: A List of Printed Maps 1511-1670" (Rickmansworth, 1996), 51-2, 65-6, 79-81. Catalogued by Kate Hunter