Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or The Theater of the World Atlas,1579, original antique atlas with 93 hand-colored engraved maps

$105,000 this week only (list price $135,000) Offer expires 4-2-2018

Laura Oppenheimer

Johann Elert Bode, Pl. 10 Pegasus, Equuleus, Delphinus; Uranographia sive astrorum descriptio..., 1797–1801, uncolored engraving


Abraham Ortelius, The Theater of the World Atlas, 1579, hand-colored engraving


Take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to acquire an exquisite copy of The Theater of the World Atlasone of the of most sought after and celebrated of all cartographic works, available this week only at a discounted price. Published in 1579, this is an early copy of what was then a new kind of book: the first modern atlas. Sometimes referred to as a summary of sixteenth-century cartography, in his comprehensive geographical atlas, Ortelius brought together in one convenient portable volume the finest maps of the day, representing the entire world for the first time. Used by explorers and merchants to navigate, Ortelius's authoritative atlas was a major innovation and significant milestone in history. 

This 1579 edition is especially desirable. Boasting brilliant original color, all 93 plates are in excellent condition. It was the pivotal publication among a long series of editions published between 1570 and 1624. It also comprises 33 additional plates while still containing the first and earliest states of most of the prior plates, including the much coveted world map.

Original antique atlas, published 1579, 17” height x 12” width x 2 1/2” depth (book), with 93 hand-colored engraved maps within original calf-skin binding; archival clam-shell, drop-spine book box in half-leather with label (18 1/4” height x 13 1/4” width x 3 5/8” depth).

$105,000 this week only (list price $135,000). Offer expires 4-2-18.


Click Here to Purchase

Abraham Ortelius (1527—1598) came to prominence during the latter part of the sixteenth century in Antwerp, Belgium. One of the great trading centers of Europe at the time, Antwerp proved to be fertile ground for the young Ortelius. A student of classical history and collector of books and old coins, the entrepreneurial Ortelius never attended university. After 1554, he worked as a professional illuminator and had an antiquary business. About 1560, he fell under the influence of the Flemish Renaissance cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594), who "transformed maps for the secular age" (Boorstin, The Discoverers, 1985, 273), looking beyond maps as a guide for the faithful seeking salvation, to the merchant class whose trade routes aspired to embrace entire world. With his invention of the "Mercator projection" which allowed for the sphericity of the earth in maps, Mercator greatly facilitated seafaring navigation, and In 1569 he created an important world map. It was Mercator who also coined the term "atlas" after the Greek mythological character condemned to hold up the sky.

The idea for Ortelius's atlas came from two Antwerp merchants, one by the name of Hooftman, who persuaded Ortelius to produce a series of maps in a uniform size for easy reference, inadvertently inventing the first modern geographical atlas. Together with his friend, Mercator, Ortelius collected the best maps of the day, reducing large-scale maps to a standard size. The Theater of the World Atlas was frequently revised to reflect new discoveries and also groundbreaking in its inclusion of an encyclopedic description of the world. A separate section, Catalogus Auctorum, lists a bibliography of the thirty-three cartographers whose maps Ortelius consulted, and eighty-seven geographers. Ortelius also collaborated with his friend, the influential printer and publisiher, Christophe Plantin, who printed the Theatrum.    

The Ortelius atlas was an immediate success and went into several printings. Known as Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or The Theater of The World, the atlas is a cornerstone of any cartographic collection.

For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.

Click Here to Purchase