ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527-1598). Theatrvm orbis terrarvm. [Colophon] Antwerpen: Anton Coppen Diesth, 1574.

$ 180,000.00

Folio (17 x 11 4/8 inches). Engraved architectural title-page, and 70 double-page engraved maps, all mounted on guards and with original hand-colour in full (prominent offsetting and oxidization, weaknesses repaired with archival tissue on versos). Late 18th-century tan calf backed sprinkled paper boards, gilt (extremities worn with minor loss, front hinge broken).

Fourth Latin edition, first published in 1570 with 53 maps. The world map "Typus orbis terrarum" is Shirley's first plate, with the crack in the plate at lower left emerging. Maps relating to the Americas are "Typus Orbis Terrarum" showing south America with a great bulge on the Chilean coastline, and New Guinea as a separate island, with the imaginary great south land "Terra Australis Nondum Cognita" covering the southernmost latitudes, and with the Terra del Fuego and Beach peninsulas marked; "Americae sive Novi Orbis Nova Descriptio" shows North and South America with the coastline of Chili a great bulge, New Guinea and Terra del Fuego are shown as peninsulas of the great southern land. "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 Ort 12; Shirley 122. Catalogued by Kate Hunter