Places in the World: Treasures from the Venable Collection
Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598)
Abraham Ortelius was one of the great mapmakers of the sixteenth century, notable for his learning and artistic skills. His maps are characterized by a humanist and historicist approach: Ortelius tended to focus on Europe rather than the discoveries being made in the Americas. Encouraged by his friend Gerhard Mercator (1512-1594), Ortelius published the first modern atlas Theatrum orbis terrarum in 1570. For the first edition, Ortelius and a group of collaborators did not introduce any new maps but instead redrew older maps in a uniform style and size. Unusually, Ortelius included a catalogue of currently active cartographers in the Theatrum, whether they had contributed to the atlas or not, which he kept up to date as he published new editions. Some of these cartographers are only known from Ortelius’s lists. The Theatrum went through over forty editions by 1641 and Ortelius was granted the title of Royal Geographer by King Philip II of Spain for it.
This exhibit contains two maps associated with Ortelius:
- Americae sive novi orbis, nova descriptio (1587)
(A new description of the Americas, or the new world)
- Presbiteri Iohannis, sive Abissinorum Imperii descriptio (1598)
(A depiction of Prester John’s [empire], or the empire of the Abyssinians)