By: Abraham Ortelius
Date: 1570 (Published) Amsterdam
Original Size: 13.5 x 19.5 inches (34.3 cm x 49.5 cm)
This is a fine print reproduction of a most important map of the world that appeared in the 1570 first edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius.
It is centered on the Atlantic Ocean and covers the entire world from the North to the South Pole. Much of the geography of North America is speculative. Although the continent had been explored to some extent by the Spanish in the early decades of the 16th century, much of what they discovered and charted is not depicted by Ortelius. The Mississippi River does not appear on the map, while at the same time, the northeast reveals the discoveries made by Verrazzano and Cartier, with the St. Lawrence clearly denoted. Nova Francia is also named even though Champlain had not yet been born at the time the map was first published, and there is no trace of the Great Lakes.
Many place names north of Mexico correspond to indigenous Indian place names as they had been noted by De Soto and Coronado. The geography of the Pacific Northwest is primarily based on reports of various mythical kingdoms and even reference to places named by Marco Polo, a clear indication of the confusion amongst cartographers of the time regarding the precise geographical relationship between Asia and North America.
Southwestern and Central America are dotted with settlements and place names familiar today, such as Los Angelos and even the Galapagos Islands, which are shown very close to their actual geographic location. Due in part to the inclusion of the Amazon and De Plata river systems, along with a number of names such as Lima, Cusco and Caracas, South America is fairly familiar despite its bulging west coast. The Andes chain of mountains is fairly accurately depicted, running almost the entire length of the continent.
Most of Europe, Africa and Asia are depicted in almost modern form, with countless place names which have not changed over the centuries. While the Caspian Sea (Mar de Bachu) is incorrectly oriented, both it and the Black Sea are depicted. Many famous places are noted and many are omitted. For example, Troy of Iliad fame is depicted in ‘Natolia’ in almost its precise geographic position, while China’s Great Wall is absent.
Much of the southern hemisphere is filled by an enormous continent called Terra Australis, which, according to Aristotle’s theory of balance, had long been speculated on as filling a space to keep the globe in balance. At the time the map was published the Americas were seen to counterbalance Europe and Africa, thus the southern hemisphere must have a land mass to counterbalance all of Asia.
A frigate plies the Pacific at full sail, and a number of fanciful sea monster/creatures frolic in various parts of the high seas. Along the bottom of the map there is an apt quote by Cicero which says in translation, 'Who can consider human affairs to be great, when he comprehends the eternity and vastness of the entire world?.'