One of Ortelius' Most Decorative Maps Featuring Fantastical Sea Monsters
"Islandia", Ortelius, Abraham
Period: 1585 (dated)
Publication: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
Color: Hand Color
19.5 x 13.3 inches
49.5 x 33.8 cm
This is one of the most spectacular of all decorative maps, filling the Icelandic seas with a Boschian array of sea monsters. A lettered key on the verso gives descriptions of the creatures. Some of the beasts can be linked to a real sea creature, particularly whales and walruses, while others are wholly fantastic, such as the aquatic hyena (D) and seagoing cow (K). A Latin note near the coast explains a group of foxes holding each others tails suspended down a cliff as follows: Sly little foxes reaching for bird's nests to rob. The upper right corner accurately depicts polar bears gamboling and fighting on ice flows, while below them an expanse of driftwood makes its way to the northern coast. Driftwood was and still is an important natural resource in coastal Iceland after it floats down from Siberia. Ambergris is noted as well (O), with the description on the verso linking it to sperm whales. The interior of the island shows its mountainous topography, including Mt. Hekla in all its volcanic fury, spewing flames and rocks. Ortelius attributed the cartography to Andres Sorensen Vedel, a Danish historian, who acquired the information from a now lost map by Bishop Gudbrandur Thorlaksson. French text on verso, published in 1598.
References: Van den Broecke #161.
A sharp impression on a bright sheet with archival repairs to a couple of short tears near the center of the image, minor toning along the centerfold at top and bottom, and small remnants of hinge tape on verso.