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Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Title Page for the First Modern Atlas

The title page for Abraham Ortelius's original Latin edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), considered the first modern atlas, includes allegorical figures posed around columns in a theatrical display. (The English translation of the title is Theater of the World.) A regal figure sits atop the architectural structure. Historian Jason Harris, an expert on Ortelius and his work, writes, "The title page reflects an imperial Europa commanding an ordered world in which Christianity rules supreme …"

This 1570 edition contained seventy maps which were bound into a volume with accompanying text. The maps were updated in subsequent editions, and the atlas continued to be published until 1612. The Theatrum was considered the most authoritative set of maps in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Original Author: Abraham Ortelius

Created: 1570

Medium: Title page; hand-colored copper engraving

Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

Typus Orbis Terrarum

This hand-colored, engraved map of the world is from the original Latin edition of Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), which is considered the first modern atlas. Ortelius was a Flemish scholar and geographer, and this map was based on an earlier work by his colleague, cartographer Gerard Mercator.

The 1570 edition of the atlas contained seventy maps which were bound into a book with an accompanying text. The maps were updated in subsequent editions, and the atlas continued to be published until 1612. The Theatrum was considered the most authoritative set of maps in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Original Author: Abraham Ortelius and Franz Hogenberg, engraver

Created: 1570

Medium: Map; hand-colored copper engraving

Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio.

This hand-colored, engraved map of North and South America is from the original Latin edition of Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), which is considered the first modern atlas. Though the outline of North America is fairly accurate, there are some errors: for instance, New Guinea is situated south of California, and the Pacific Ocean is depicted as a narrow body of water. The mythical kingdom of Anian, first mentioned by Marco Polo, is shown in the far northwest, though it was usually associated with Asia.

Ortelius was a Flemish scholar and geographer. This 1570 edition contained seventy maps which were bound into a book with an accompanying text. The maps were updated in subsequent editions, and the atlas continued to be published until 1612. The Theatrum was considered the most authoritative set of maps in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 

Original Author: Abraham Ortelius and Franz Hogenberg, engraver

Created: 1570

Medium: Map; hand-colored copper engraving

Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

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  • Title Page for the First Modern Atlas

    The title page for Abraham Ortelius's original Latin edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), considered the first modern atlas, includes allegorical figures posed around columns in a theatrical display. (The English translation of the title is Theater of the World.) A regal figure sits atop the architectural structure. Historian Jason Harris, an expert on Ortelius and his work, writes, "The title page reflects an imperial Europa commanding an ordered world in which Christianity rules supreme …"

    This 1570 edition contained seventy maps which were bound into a volume with accompanying text. The maps were updated in subsequent editions, and the atlas continued to be published until 1612. The Theatrum was considered the most authoritative set of maps in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

    Original Author: Abraham Ortelius

    Created: 1570

    Medium: Title page; hand-colored copper engraving

    Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

  • Typus Orbis Terrarum

    This hand-colored, engraved map of the world is from the original Latin edition of Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), which is considered the first modern atlas. Ortelius was a Flemish scholar and geographer, and this map was based on an earlier work by his colleague, cartographer Gerard Mercator.

    The 1570 edition of the atlas contained seventy maps which were bound into a book with an accompanying text. The maps were updated in subsequent editions, and the atlas continued to be published until 1612. The Theatrum was considered the most authoritative set of maps in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

    Original Author: Abraham Ortelius and Franz Hogenberg, engraver

    Created: 1570

    Medium: Map; hand-colored copper engraving

    Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

  • Americae Sive Novi Orbis, Nova Descriptio.

    This hand-colored, engraved map of North and South America is from the original Latin edition of Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), which is considered the first modern atlas. Though the outline of North America is fairly accurate, there are some errors: for instance, New Guinea is situated south of California, and the Pacific Ocean is depicted as a narrow body of water. The mythical kingdom of Anian, first mentioned by Marco Polo, is shown in the far northwest, though it was usually associated with Asia.

    Ortelius was a Flemish scholar and geographer. This 1570 edition contained seventy maps which were bound into a book with an accompanying text. The maps were updated in subsequent editions, and the atlas continued to be published until 1612. The Theatrum was considered the most authoritative set of maps in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 

    Original Author: Abraham Ortelius and Franz Hogenberg, engraver

    Created: 1570

    Medium: Map; hand-colored copper engraving

    Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division