Catalog Archive
Auction 196, Lot 77

Rare First Plate of Ortelius' Influential Map of the New World

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

Subject: Western Hemisphere - America

Period: 1573 (published)

Publication: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Color: Hand Color

20 x 14.5 inches
50.8 x 36.8 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. Frans Hogenberg engraved this map, and it 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 is from the uncommon first plate (second state), published in the 1573 Dutch edition. This plate had a relatively short life and was published only between 1570 and 1575. There are two small plate cracks in the upper left portion of the image (and another small crack in the top right border that was present in all editions of this plate). These cracks were repaired for the 1575 edition, but the plate quickly developed another crack and was subsequently replaced by a new plate for the 1579 edition.

References: Burden #39.2; Goss (NA) #11; Van den Broecke #9.2.

Condition: A

An early impression with full contemporary color that has been partially refreshed, and issued on a sheet with the crossed arrows watermark commonly found on Ortelius maps. There are a couple of tiny holes adjacent to the centerfold that have been professionally infilled with a minute amount of facsimile in the stippled sea. The left side margin is narrow, but adequate, for framing and a tiny edge tear in the bottom margin has been closed on verso with archival tape.

Estimate: $6,000 - $7,000

Sold for: $9,500

Closed on 2/7/2024