Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Abraham Ortelius, 1588.

By Google Arts & Culture

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Theatrum Orbis TerrarumArchivos Estatales

Flemish scholar and merchant Abraham Ortelius (Antwerp, 1527–98), cosmographer for King Philip II of Spain, created this atlas, which brings together all the cartographic information known about the world at the time.

The map of the known world used until the early 16th century came directly from the classical tradition of the Greek geographer and mathematician Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century CE). Spurred on by the first expeditions beyond Europe, humanists found a more accurate way to describe and map out the Earth's terrain. Using astronomical calculations and observation, they discovered how to use longitude to determine the position of ships at sea in relation to a specific point.

In the 16th century, Abraham Ortelius published an atlas that brought together all the maps of the known world, as well as new discoveries.

In doing so, he depicted the Americas, the discovery of the Pacific by Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513, and the strait discovered by Magellan.

All in all, Ortelius used 87 maps created by other travelers and cartographers. His work included comments about each map, an index, and a nomenclature showing the ancient place names in Latin and their modern equivalents.

The first edition of the Theatrum appeared in 1570. It was so well received that up to 40 editions were released in different languages in a short space of time, with further addendums and supplements adding more maps. That made it one of the most complete map collections of the time.

The 1588 edition, printed in the workshops of French humanist Cristophe Plantin, was lavishly illustrated using copper plates colored by hand, measuring 17.7 x 11.8 inches (45 x 30 cm).

Ortelius' atlas introduced a new cartographic concept for the modern world, despite containing errors that were later corrected through its numerous printed editions.

Credits: Story

Adaptation of the text created by Carmen Lozano Polo, librarian of the Archivo General de Indias, for the catalogue "El viaje más largo".

Image: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. General Archive of the Indies. Library, L.A. S. XVI-1. Ministry of Culture and Sports. Spain.

Credits: All media
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