ORTELIUS, Abraham (1527-98). Theatrum orbis terrarum. Antwerp: Plantin, 1591 [colophon reads 1592].
3 parts in one volume, 2° (440 x 290mm). Text in Latin. 2 hand-coloured engraved title-pages within architectural border, 124 (of 134) hand-coloured double-page maps; the omitted maps are partly replaced by the later insertion of 8 additional maps: 5 double-page uncoloured maps from another edition depicting Palestina sive totius Terrae Promissionis nova descriptio, Cyprus Insula with Candia, olim Creta, Septentrionalium regionum descriptio, Russia, Moscovia et Tartariae descriptio and Tartariae sive Magni Chami Regni; a double-page contemporary hand-coloured map of Tabula Hungaria by De L'Isle; a bifolium with an engraved map and letterpress text of Francesco Piacenza's Succinto estratto della Morea, e sue parti printed in Modena by Soliani in 1686; and a double-page hand-coloured map derived from Jan Baptist Vrients's Serenissimae Reipublicae Genuensis Ducatus et Dominii nova descriptio. (Lacking portrait and 10 plates, somewhat stained and browned, repaired tears, occasionally with some loss, margins of some plates renewed at the end of the 17th-century, a few modern restorations.) Modern brown calf. Provenence: contemporary Italian annotations.
An interesting copy of this celebrated atlas enriched by the annotations in an early scholarly hand reflecting a close reading of the maps. On the plates depicting the four continents the notes refer to astronomical motions and geographical descriptions, with several corrections to the cartographer's errors as well as measurments of the continents in Italian and German miles, and historical annotations. On the plate of the Americas, among other information, we read: "Il nome di questa parte del mondo viene da' Amerigo Vespucci fiorentino, che comandando à vascelli d'Emanuele Re' di Portogallo vi approdò per primo nel 1491. Nel 1492 Cristoforo Colombo Genovese non haveva scoperto se non le Isole Spagnola, Cuba, e Gamaica". Linked by cross-references, the other annotations report profusely on the history of Flanders in the second half of the 16th century with mention of all the major battles and wars that took place in the Spanish Low Countries and northern Germany.
First published in 1570, the Theatrum orbis terrarum is universally recognized as the first modern atlas. It was the most authoritative and successful of such works during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and it made Abraham Ortelius one of the most prominent geographers of his time. The atlas is the first to contain maps printed in a uniform style and format and to display a catalogue of the authors whose source Ortelius used in the drawing of the maps. Several editions were printed at the Officina Plantiniana at the end of the XVI century and from 1585 Ortelius began to include historical maps in a section called Paregon. By the present 1592 edition the Theatrum contained 55 new or revised maps, 26 maps in the Paregon and an index called Nomenclator Ptolemaicus that lists all the names mentioned in Ptolemy's Geographia. Phillips Atlases, 396.