Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

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For Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive, Atlas novus by Blaeu 1635, see Atlas Maior.
In 1570 (May 20) Gilles Coppens de Diest at Antwerp published 53 maps created by Abraham Ortelius under the title Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, considered the "first modern atlas".[Note 1] Three Latin editions of this (besides a Dutch, a French and a German edition) appeared before the end of 1572; twenty-five editions came out before Ortelius' death in 1598; and several others were published subsequently, for the atlas continued to be in demand till about 1612. This is the world map from this atlas.

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (pronounced [tʰɛˈaːtrʊm ˈɔrbɪs tɛˈrːaːrʊm], "Theatre of the World") is considered to be the first true modern atlas. Written by Abraham Ortelius, strongly encouraged by Gillis Hooftman[2] and originally printed on May 20, 1570, in Antwerp,[3] it consisted of a collection of uniform map sheets and sustaining text bound to form a book for which copper printing plates were specifically engraved. The Ortelius atlas is sometimes referred to as the summary of sixteenth-century cartography.


Many of the maps in this atlas maps were based upon sources that no longer exist or are extremely rare. Ortelius append a unique source list (the "Catalogus Auctorum") identifying the names of contemporary cartographers, some of whom would otherwise have remained obscure.


After the initial publication of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Ortelius regularly revised and expanded the atlas,[3] reissuing it in various formats until his death in 1598. From its original seventy maps and eighty-seven bibliographic references in the first edition (1570), the atlas grew through its thirty-one editions to encompass 183 references and 167 maps in 1612.

The 1573 Additamentum to the atlas is notable for containing Humphrey Llwyd's Cambriae Typus, the first map to show Wales on its own.[4]

From the 1630s, the Blaeu family issued their work under a similar title, Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive, Atlas Novus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The first work that contained systematically arranged maps of uniform size, intended to be published in a book, thus representing the first modern atlas, was De Summa totius Orbis (1524–26) by the 16th-century Italian cartographer Pietro Coppo. Nonetheless, this distinction is conventionally awarded to Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.[1]


  1. ^ Mercator, Gerardu; Karrow, Jr., Robert W. Atlas sive Cosmographicæ Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (PDF). Library of Congress. p. 2.  line feed character in |title= at position 39 (help)
  2. ^ Gillis Hooftman: Businessman and Patron (engl.)
  3. ^ a b "Map of the Gold-Producing Region of Peru. Florida. The Guastecan Region.". World Digital Library. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "Map of Wales, 'Cambriae Typus' by Humphrey Lhuyd, 1573". Gathering the Jewels. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 

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