ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527-1598). Theatrum Orbis Terrarum... The Theatre of the Whole World. London: John Norton and John Bill, 1606.

$ 260,000.00

2 parts in one volume. Folio (18 x 12 inches). 2 hand-colored engraved title-pages, arms of James I, epitaph, portrait, small globe on final verso, and 157 (of 161) hand-colored double-page engraved maps, some HEIGHTENED IN GOLD, the "Life" of Ortelius here bound after the dedication (without 4 maps, Koeman numbers 19, 71, 152, 154 - two from the main atlas “Valentia” and “Italie”; and two from the “Parergon” “Tempe Thessalica” and the second map of the “Foundation and Order of the Germane Empire in the West”, some expert marginal repairs to the title-page and dedication, preliminary leaves and upper outer corners of first 10 maps, occasional minor spots or areas of abrasion, repaired tear along fold of map 157, repaired loss at edge of final leaf). Late 17th-century English panelled black goatskin, elaborately tooled in gilt and blind, both covers with triple border enclosing owner Elizabeth Cairnes's name, cornerpieces incorporating acorn tools, further ornament with urns and flowerheads (expertly rebacked to style).

Provenance: front cover gilt-lettered Elizabeth Cairnes (d.1731), wife of Sir Alexander Cairnes; and by descent, through her granddaughter, the wife of the 1st Lord Rossmore, to the 7th Lord Rossmore.

THE RARE ENGLISH EDITION OF ORTELIUS'S "THEATRUM", based on the Latin edition of Ortelius's atlas, published by Vrients in 1603. Before sending the plates from Antwerp to England, the versos were erased, the English text then being printed at the Eliot's Court Press by Bradwood. The likely translator of the text from Latin into English is William Bedwell (1561-1632). With 161 maps and further five engraved plates, the English "Theatrum" was "the tallest volume printed in England up to that date... also the largest collection of intaglio prints in a single book yet published in England" (Skelton). Truusje Goedings, renowned expert in Dutch colourists of the 17th-century, writes of this copy: "Very de-luxe coloured copy, contemporary coloured and heightened with gold and silver by one hand. The printer's borders, initials and vignettes in the text were also coloured, these more sober. Gold has been applied to several maps, including the lettering on some. Vrients took prints of the copperplates himself for the whole English edition of ca. 160 maps and plates (Parergon and Add. included), and sent these to the London publisher Norton. Norton printed his English version of the text on verso, and had all maps bound into one volume, creating herewith the tallest volume with the largest amount of prints existing at the time in England. Coloured copies will have been very costly, let alone de-luxe coloured copies. Therefore, Norton will have organized the colouring in England. It was too costly to have it done in advance in Flanders. He will have arranged a master-model, a good coloured copy obtained from Vrients in loose sheets.
The colouring of this de-luxe copy is clearly based on the Flemish style, with full colouring in warm hues variating in transparancy and combinations, though it is less monumental and somewhat more precise. This might be due to regional preferences but also to a slightly less routined, so a more careful handling, which gives this colouring an extra value. Evident English traits are the brighter and lighter use of pigments, and especially the use of a different green pigment in a brighter hue. This green is often seen in coloured maps of English provenance. It has been preserved much better than the somewhat heavier green applied in the Dutch Ortelius-editions that often turned into brownish yellow.
The warm colour schemes and handling of the colours indicate a colouring around the time of publishing - and not in the time of the actual private binding dating from the end 17th century" (Truusje Goedings).
"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.
From the distinguished library of Elizabeth Cairnes, the wife of Sir Alexander Cairnes (d.1732), the 1st Baronet, a banker in Dublin and London, and Member of Parliament for County Monaghan (1707-27) and the borough of Monaghan (1727-32). Sister of Sir Nathanial Gould, Lady Cairnes was evidently a notable bibliophile; her bookplate was engraved by Louis du Guernier around 1715, and has been cited as an early example of allegorical bookplates. Purchased at Christie's 17th November 2004, lot 124. Koeman/Van der Krogt, III, 31:5. Catalogued by Kate Hunter