Ortelius’ Map of Ancient Britain


Britannicarum Insularum typus

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Ortelius’ Ancient Britain







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Date of publication


Printed Area Measurements

37 x 51 cm



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Copper engraving, 37 x 51 cm, modern hand colour, trivial spotting at centrefold, Latin text on verso. Ortelius’ single-sheet map of ancient Britain, reduced from the two sheet version in the ‘Parergon’, drawn from material supplied by Diodorus Siculus, Pliny, Appian, Tacitus, Caesar, Strabo and other ancient writers.

Van den Broecke draws attention to the modern, ‘state of the art’ vessels, and notes: “The text is among the longest in the entire “Theatrum”, demonstrating Ortelius’ keen interest in the history of Great Britain”. Our example was published by Balthasar Moretus at the Plantin Press, in the final edition of the Parergon. Ortelius’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum is generally considered the first modern atlas of the world, originally published in 1570. Ortelius gathered and selected the best available cartographic knowledge and presented it in a single volume, duly credited and finely engraved in a consistent style, with explanatory text. The Theatrum was very decorative and hugely popular amongst the wealthy and educated, running into over forty editions in Latin and the major European languages. For Ortelius himself, however, his accompanying atlas of ancient geography, the Parergon, was a “personal work” (Koeman). He seems to have regarded himself, first and foremost, as an antiquary and, rather than copying other people’s maps, he drew the originals himself; they were subsequently engraved for him by the master engraver Jan Wierix. The results “have to be evaluated as the most outstanding engravings depicting the wide-spread interest in classical geography in the 16th century” (Koeman). Shrley, British Isles, 186. Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici, Ort 46. Van den Broecke 192.1