Catalog Archive
Auction 196, Lot 363

One of Ortelius' Most Decorative Maps

"Islandia", Ortelius, Abraham

Subject: Iceland

Period: 1585 (dated)

Publication: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Color: Hand Color

19.4 x 13.3 inches
49.3 x 33.8 cm
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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. Italian text on the verso, published in either 1608 or 1612.

References: Van den Broecke #161.

Condition: B+

A nice impression on a lightly toned, watermarked sheet with a few small spots in the image. There are several stains, light soiling, and more noticeable toning all confined to the blank margins. Remnants of hinge tape on verso.

Estimate: $9,500 - $12,000

Sold for: $8,000

Closed on 2/7/2024