Catalog Archive
Auction 194, Lot 55

Ortelius' Influential Map of the New World - Second Plate in Contemporary Color

"Americae sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio", Ortelius, Abraham

Subject: Western Hemisphere - America

Period: 1579 (published)

Publication: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Color: Hand Color

19.6 x 14.2 inches
49.8 x 36.1 cm
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This is one of the most famous maps of America, and one that had enormous influence on the future cartography of the New World. The map is primarily based on Gerard Mercator's great multi-sheet world map of 1569. The most recognizable features of the map are the bulbous Chilean coastline and the exaggerated breadth of the North American continent. North America shows a lengthy St. Lawrence River reaching across the continent to nearly meet the fictitious, westward flowing Tiguas Rio. The strategically placed title cartouche hides the unknown South Pacific and therefore most of the conjectural great southern continent, which is shown attached to both New Guinea and Tierra del Fuego.

This map is from the second copper plate that contains identical geography to the first plate [1570]. In this plate the largest ship in the Pacific is now sailing east and away from the viewer. Due to religious persecution Ortelius had been forced to leave Antwerp and as a result there was a four year lapse in the publication of the Theatrum. When he reestablished himself in Liege he used the great printing house of Christopher Plantin to resume publication with a number of revised plates. This plate had a relatively short life of only 8 years, being replaced in 1587 with the plate easily distinguished from the revised shape of South America. Latin text on verso.

References: Burden #52; Goss (NA) #11; Van den Broecke #10.

Condition: A

An early impression with full contemporary color on a sheet with the crossed arrows watermark commonly found on Ortelius maps. There is light soiling that is mostly confined to the edges of the sheet, with two faint stains in the image at top by Frislant and in the North Pacific. There are two archivally repaired tears in the side margins.

Estimate: $5,500 - $6,500

Sold for: $6,000

Closed on 9/13/2023