Ortelius, Abraham


Abraham Ortel, or Ortelius (1527-1598), was born in Antwerp in 1527 and was educated in Greek, Latin and mathematics. Ortelius began his career in cartography as a map colorist, and worked as a map and book dealer. Ortelius evolved into a keen and discerning expert on contemporary geographical knowledge and its expression in cartography, even traveling through Italy and France with Gerard Mercator (1512-1594), his friend and rival.
In the 1560’s Ortelius conceived of the project that would win him international acclaim, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, widely considered the first modern atlas. Ortelius collected the best contemporary maps available, and had each re-engraved by the talented Flemish artist Frans Hogenberg (1535-90) into a standard format and graphic style, appended scholarly text to their versos, and published them as a uniform edition. He maintained the highest quality of paper, engraving and coloring, resulting in some of the most beautiful maps ever produced.
The Theatrum proved to be a landmark advancement over previous collections of maps. Suddenly, curious Europeans truly seemed to have the world at their fingertips. From the time of its first printing until well after Ortelius’ death, international demand for the Theatrum continued
unabated. Between the first appearance of the Theatrum in 1570 and its final edition in 1612, it was printed in 31 editions and seven languages, a remarkable figure for the time.
Both decorative and functional, this map is one of the most famous and easily recognizable maps of America and had a profound influence on the future cartography of the New World. This map was published in 1570, 1579 and 1587, of which this is the third version. Each map reflects
ongoing revisions based on actual reports from explorers such as Cabeza de Vaca, De Soto, and Coronado.
This third and improved 1587 version contains some important changes by Ortelius, including the application of the name California to the whole peninsula, as opposed to merely the tip. This is one of the earliest printed maps to do so. Other changes include the removal of the bulge on the
southwestern coast of Chile, and new nomenclature on the northwest coast of America, such as the first appearance of Cape Mendocino. On the east coast the Indian name “Wingadekoa” appears;
this could be either Virginia or North Carolina and an inlet to the north is possible the first depiction of the Chesapeake Bay on a printed map. In addition, Chile is shown as a country rather than a town and the Solomon Islands are shown for the first time. Also added is an ornate cartouche
around the part of North America designated in Latin as “this territory is as yet unknown” and for the first time Ortelius’ name is on the map, along with a date.