Amsterdam, Henrici Hondij, 1619.
Large folio [480 x 315 mm], full ivory vellum, covers entirely decorated with gilt borders, large central pattern and fleurons in the corners decorated with gilt and azure tools, decorated flat spine, small restorations on few ll. Contemporary binding.
Mercator’s superb atlas printed in Amsterdam in 1619 composed of an engraved title, a double-page plate representing Mercator and Hondius at their work table, four engraved titles for the Galliae, Belgiis inferioris, Germaniae et Italiae, Sclavoniae et Graeciae, and of 156 engraved maps, all contemporary watercolored and with a text in French.
Koeman, II, Me 26 A.
Moreover it is the very first true “atlas” – word chosen by Gérard Mercator himself to refer to a collection of maps, and which will be used only later by all geographers.
All the maps are on double-page except one (page 160).
Two maps bear the numbers 151/152. Two maps of Ireland by Nicolas Janson were added between the pages 52-53 and 56-57.
The Atlas is dedicated to “Most high, most potent And most renowned Prince, Louis XIII House of Bourbon, by the Grace of God King of France and Navarre, etc.”
“Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) especially applied himself to philosophy and mathematics and this with so much zeal, that he often spent days without eating and nights without sleeping in order to give all his time to the study. He also dedicated himself to engraving that he learnt in Gemma Frison’s workshop. Recommended in 1541 to Charles V by cardinal de Granvelle to which he had presented a terrestrial globe executed with special care, he made for this prince two other globes, superior to anything that had been made until then but that were destroyed during a fire. Towards 1559, Mercator settled in Duisburg; little time after that he was appointed cosmographer of the duke of Cleves. Towards the end of his life, he dedicated himself to theology, and published about the Scripture a few works that were put on the Index.
Mercator allowed great progresses to geography that he and his friend Ortelius freed from Ptolemy’s yoke. Kind and ingenuous in character, Mercator delayed the publication of his maps until Ortelius’s last copies, published little time earlier, were sold out: until Guillaume de l’Isle and Danville’s works, Mercator and Ortelius’s maps remained the most accurate.
We also owe him a notable improvement in the making of nautical charts. Mercator suggested to represent the parallels and the meridians by straight lines cutting across one another in right angle, which can only be made by using a greater scale and by extending the degrees and circles of latitude as one gets closer to the poles; but he was not able to determine the law of this extension that was discovered by Writh few years later”.
« Contrary to the maps in Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarium, Antwerp 1570, Mercator’s maps are original. Abraham Ortelius did what most of the atlas-makers of our time are engaged in: the reduction and generalization of already existing maps.
Gerard Mercator, with his sense of scientific word (which should be original and new) checked the current knowledge of the configuration of the earth’s topography against its fundamental sources and drew new maps in his original conception. This method of map-making took more time than it would have by mere copying. But he had not the intention to compete with Ortelius’s best-selling atlas” (Koeman).
A superb wide-margined copy, illustrated with 162 engravings, most of them on double-page, entirely contemporary watercolored, preserved in its beautiful contemporary decorated vellum binding.