Ortelius Holy Land 1570


Abraham Ortelius after Tilleman Stella. “Palestinae sive totius Terrae Promissionis, Nova Descriptio.” From Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Antwerp: Aegidius Coppen Diesth, 1570-1575. 14 x 18 7/8. Engraving. Full original hand color. With old pin-holes, folds and short tears in margins. Map professionally conserved and lined. Overall, very good condition.

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An original, antique map of the Holy Land from ‘the first modern atlas,’ Abraham Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, or ‘Theater of the World.’ The publication of this atlas marked an epoch in the history of cartography, for it is the first uniform and systematic collection of maps of the whole world based only on contemporary knowledge since the days of Ptolemy. In the sixteenth century there was a great increase in interest in maps and charts, and Ortelius, as a businessman with a passion for history and cartography, was at the forefront in meeting this demand. Through his collecting and his antiques business, Ortelius was able to research contemporary maps, becoming one of the greatest experts of his day. Ortelius based his work on the best maps available, drawing the maps himself with the plates done by Franz Hogenberg. Unlike other atlas-makers, Ortelius cited the authors of the original maps from which he compiled his work.

In this case, he based his map on the work of the prolific Tilleman Stella. Thus it is not only for his unprecedented achievement in issuing the first modern atlas, but also for his thoughtful and rigorous methodology, that Ortelius belongs amongst the first rank of cartographers. He is very aptly called ‘the father of modern cartography.’

This map is of particular significance because it was the first map of the Holy Land published by Ortelius. Done in original color, this map has many important decorative and geographic features. In the upper cartouche, Ortelius pays tribute to the promised land with all its goodness and holiness by quoting one of the most famous passages relating to the Holy Land. The map relays both biblical and modern geography and sets a precedent for maps of Holy Land for the next three centuries. Included in this map is the path taken by the Israelites from Ramses (Egypt) past Mount Sinai to Jericho. Biblical sites are depicted by churches, interestingly Jerusalem is not given great prominence in the map. The Holy Land is divided into the lands of the twelve tribes, Judeae and Samaria. Along with their historic significance, Ortelius’ maps are noted for their delightful design and unusual Dutch coloring. They are decorative pieces in the finest Renaissance tradition, with elegant lettering, elaborate mannerist cartouches, sailing ships, and other charming features. This map of Palestine is no exception, with two especially nice cartouches and illustrations including two flute-playing satyrs. First rate historically and aesthetically, a superb sixteenth-century document.