“Lille/Insula/Ryssels.” From Volume III of Civitates Orbis Terrarum. Cologne: Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg, 1581. 13 x 17. Original hand color. Light waterstain in margin and some wear at lower centerfold. Map expertly conserved and lined.
Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum is one of the most important works from the early days of modern cartography and topographical illustration. Georg Braun, the editor, and Frans Hogenberg, the engraver, worked for over twenty years to produce their “towns of the world,” the first systematic depiction of views of cities throughout the world. This impressive production, issued in six volumes from 1572 to 1617, was a monumental piece of Renaissance learning and was designed to complement Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas. These two atlases, both firsts of their type, were in response to a new interest in the nature of the world by the Western European population. This nascent interest was spurred both by the existence of a growing middle class and the relatively new general availability of printed books.
This lovely view shows the northern French city of Lille (Ryssel in Flemish), which was the medieval capital of Flanders and the residence of the Dukes of Burgundy during the 16th century. The town, clearly presented as the island after which it was named, is laid out neatly from above, surrounded by fields. Three costumed figures stand in the foreground besides a numbered key in an elaborate cartouche. Two crests in the upper corner complete the artistic elements of the image.