On the day when the first Atlas was published, let's celebrate its inventor's life and work.
Abraham Ortelius is a key figure in the history of human knowledge.
He is known as the inventor of the atlas - a book bringing maps together in one format and with the same display - and was the first person to discover continental drift.
On the anniversary of the First Atlas, two prestigious Antwerp institutions come together to celebrate the geographer’s legacy.
Alas, things take a turn for the worst.
The political situation in the Netherlands changes dramatically from the year 1560 onwards.
A revolt against the Spanish king breaks out and the Eighty Year’s War commences. As a result the Netherlands are separated once and for all. Antwerp enters a period of economic downfall.
The 16th century is a time of fundamental changes.
Journeys of exploration, revolutionary inventions and the rediscovery of classical authors lead to new insights as well as a new view of the world.
This engraving shows some of the greatest inventions and discoveries of the humanist era. In the center, for example, you can observe the printing press.
His many interests and wide network led Ortelius to travel a lot: to Italy, France, the Netherlands, England and Ireland.
On one of his travels he is accompanied by the cartographer Gerard Mercator. The journey will inspire him to start producing maps himself.
Here, we see Ortelius and his companions engraving their names on a Dolmen, during a trip to Poitiers.
Again, Joris Hoefnagel's name can be spotted. Can you find it on the stone?
During the 16th century world maps are the most appropriate instrument for showing discoveries, as well as communicating the presumed shape of the world.
At that time, maps are still a mixture of facts, speculation and pure fantasy.
The world map (Typus orbis terrarum), the first in Ortelius' atlas, is his most famous map.
This representation of the world had an enormous cultural impact, as it synthesized all the latest knowledge related to the size and shape of the continents.
The unknown Southland: Terra Australis Nondum Cognita
Already in Antiquity, people believed that the earth was round. Because there is a continent above, it is presumed there is also land below. If that were not the case the world would be out of balance!
But in Ortelius' time the southern oceans had not yet been explored, so on this map the Southland is only a hypothesis.
The continental drift
Abraham Ortelius is the first in history to observe the continental drift.
He writes that "the coastlines of the continents are so similar that they seem to have been torn apart at some point in time."
This is very well visible in Ortelius' atlas, when looking at the Latin American and African coasts.
Christophe Plantin is known as one of the leading intellectuals and businessmen of his time.
Around 1550, he moved to Antwerp where he founded a printing office: the Officina Plantiniana.
Plantin's printing enterprise would go on to become one of the most eminent publishing firms in the world.
Plantin was famous for the extremely high standard of his work, guaranteeing high quality paper, exceptional typography, accurate texts and the very best illustrations.
The Plantin-Moretus Museum was the home and workplace of Christophe Plantin and the Moretus family.
Many intellectuals, including Abraham Ortelius, visited it as friends and clients of Christophe Plantin.
Knowledge and ideas travelled from this house to the four corners of the world, beyond the frontiers of Europe.
For 300 years, books were the heart and soul of this place, and they remain so today.
Downstairs you can meet Christophe Plantin: family man, businessman, manager, humanist, publisher and printer.
Upstairs you can take a closer look at the beautiful books that were printed in this house, from richly illustrated bibles to simple almanacs, including the revolutionary work of Abraham Ortelius.
This exhibit was curated by the Plantin-Moretus Museum.
To know more about Abraham Ortelius, Christophe Plantin and the other men and women who shaped the Humanist era, visit the Plantin-Moretus and Rockoxhuis museums in Antwerp!