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Abraham Ortelius (1527-98)

Theatre de l'univers : contenant les cartes de tout le monde, avec une brieve declaration d'icelles 1587

42.3 x 29.8 x 6.8 cm (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1046849

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  • This is a French version of Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum, considered to be the first modern atlas. Ortelius was one of the leading humanists of the Low Countries and was acquainted with many European intellectuals. Theatrum orbis terrarum was incredibly successful, despite being the most expensive book produced in the second half of the sixteenth century. Interest in it was extended by the continued issue of updated versions. Produced during the European Age of Discovery, new editions reflected the latest geographic knowledge, and each version contained new maps and information.

    Theatrum orbis terrarum translates as 'Theatre of the lands of the world'. The idea of the world as a theatre is echoed by William Shakespeare in his naming of the 'Globe' theatre, and in Jaques's famous speech in As You Like It, beginning 'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players'. The influence of Elizabethan exploration and the ideas of new and strange lands and peoples are reflected in many of Shakespeare's plays.

    The opening double-page spread of the world in this book, engraved by Francis Hogenberg, is among the most widely reproduced early-modern maps. It reflects contemporary theories about what remained undiscovered: Ortelius believed there to be a large southern continent which he named Terra Australis Nondum Cognita, or Southern Land Not Yet Known.

    Most likely acquired since the re-establishment of the Royal Library at Windsor by William IV in the 1830s

  • Measurements

    42.3 x 29.8 x 6.8 cm (book measurement (conservation))

  • Alternative title(s)

    Theatre de l'univers : contenant les cartes de tout le Monde avec une Brieve declaration l'icelles / par Abraham Ortelius.

  • Place of Production

    Antwerp [Belgium]