Mercator's Atlas Minor

Gerhard Mercator published the first modern atlas posthumously in 1595, marking the first time that the term “atlas” was used to describe a geographic work of collected maps. Mercator’s world map projection, or two-dimensional representation of the spherical Earth, became the dominant visualization of the world for centuries. The defining feature of Mercator’s projection is that the latitudes and longitudes form a grid that could be reliably used in maritime navigation to plot accurate courses. However, Mercator’s maps could only be used for navigation in the mid-18th century, after the invention of the maritime clock, which made it possible to determine longitude, and a better understanding of magnetic declination. In order for this projection to function, Mercator enlarged the area of landforms further from the equator. While map projections with more accurate relative land areas have been developed since Mercator’s 17th century work, his projection has enjoyed renewed interest and use due to the Web Mercator projection. This digital map became a de facto standard for web mapping due to its incorporation into Google Maps in 2005.

This work, published 36 years after Mercator’s death, was produced by Jodocus Hondius, who purchased the copper plates used to print Mercator’s maps in 1604. This edition is titled “minor” due to its reduced size, which made it more accessible to a wider audience.

Bequest of Duncan Payne, class of 1963.

Gerhard Mercator (1512-1594).
Atlas minor Gerardi Mercatoris à I. Hondio plurimis aeneis tabulis auctus et illustratus: denuo recognit, additisque novis delineationibus emendatus.
Amsterodami: Ex officina Ioannis Ianssonii, 1634.

Lehigh University Catalog Record:

A version of this text has been digitized and is available through The Internet Archive.

Digitized Version