Ortelius Theatre de l'univers

Considered the creator of the first modern atlas, Abraham Ortelius helped to establish the Netherlands as the preeminent producer of works on cartography and navigation for over a century. Ortelius was a contemporary and friend of Gerhard Mercator, with whom he traveled around Europe and shared cartographic sources. Ortelius’ seminal atlas, Theatrum orbis terrarum, was published 25 years before Mercator’s work. The Theatrum was an immediate success and was translated from its original Latin into six other languages across more than forty editions within fifty years of first publication. The volume on display is a French translation, with Lehigh also holding a 1571 Latin edition and a 1606 English edition. What distinguished Ortelius’ work from earlier map publications is that it gathered maps charting the entire world, as known to Europeans, and organized them systematically by continent and region. By compiling the works of other cartographers and making it reproducible using copper plates, Ortelius helped to commodify maps. Inspired by the Theatrum orbis terrarum, Ortelius' friend and contemporary Georg Braun created a similar work dedicated to mapping individual cities around the world, titled Civitates orbis terrarum. Frans Hogenberg, who was the engraver of Ortelius’ maps, was also a publisher of Braun’s 1575 work. Braun’s work is also on display in this exhibit.

Bequest of Duncan Payne, class of 1963.

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598).
Theatre de l'univers, contenant les cartes de tout le monde: avec une brieve declaration d'icelles. [A Anvers]: [De l'Imprimerie de Christofle Plantin, pour Abraham Ortel, autheur mesme de ce liure], 1587.

Lehigh University Catalog Record: https://asa.lib.lehigh.edu/Record/00011677839