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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Abraham Ortelius (1527-98)

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

RCIN 1046849

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This is a French version of Abraham Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarum, first published in Antwerp in 1570 with 53 maps, and 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 new geographic knowledge, and each version contained new maps and new information. The opening double-page spread of the world, engraved by Francis Hogenberg (c.1535-90), 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’.

The 1580s, when this edition was published, was a period of English exploration and discovery. Sir Francis Drake returned from circumnavigating the globe, and England was beginning to organise the colonisation of Virginia, named for the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I, by Sir Walter Raleigh. Elizabeth I’s support of exploration led to the expansion of England’s presence across the world, and anticipated the British Empire.