Mercator, Gerard, 1512-1594 (Cartographer)
Mercator, Rumold, approximately 1545-1599 (Cartographer)
For nearly sixty years, during the most important and exciting period in the history of modern map making, Gerard Mercator was the supreme cartographer, his name, second only to Ptolemy, synonymous with forms of map projection still in use today. Although not the inventor of this type of projection, he was the first to apply it to navigational charts in such a form that compass bearing could be plotted on charts in straight lines, thereby providing seamen with a solution to an age-old problem of navigation at sea. Mercator's monumental world map of 1569, which survives today in only three copies, was his major statement propounding the use of such a projection, and demonstrating how it might be drafted. The influence of his revolutionary ideas as illustrated by that map transformed land surveying, and his research and calculations led him to break away from Ptolemy's conception of the size and outline of the continents. This drastically reduced the longitudinal length of Europe and Asia and altered the shape of the Old World as visualized in the early sixteenth century. Unlike the work of Abraham Ortelius, a contemporary (and equally celebrated) cartographer, Mercator's maps are original. Ortelius did what most of the atlas-makers of our time are engaged in: the reduction and generalization of already existing maps. Gerard Mercator, with his sense that scientific work should be original and new, checked the current knowledge of the earth's topography against its fundamental sources and drew maps in an original manner.
This splendid map represents a re-working of Mercator's great world map of 1569 by his son and successor Rumold, who transformed it into double-hemispherical form in 1587 and incorporated it into editions of Mercator's long-lived and influential Atlas from 1595 onwards. It had first appeared in Isaac Casaubon's edition of Strabo's Geographia in 1587. The engraving is a model of clarity and neatness, with typical cursive flourishes to the lettering of the sea names. Surrounding the hemispheres is a strapwork border, while between them at the top margin is an armillary sphere and at the bottom an elaborate compass rose. Gerard Mercator's prominent southwest bulge to the coastline of South America is retained. This superb map represents a seminal moment in the history of cartography, for it was primarily this map that diffused knowledge of Mercator's Projection -- still widely in use today -- throughout the world.
The Abstract/Description provided for this map is taken from an accompanying gallery schedule.
Early American and European Maps
Double Hemisphere Maps
Mercator projection (Cartography)
A 16th century surge in trade and travel kindled early European cartography, particularly within the county of Flanders. Prominent mathematicians and scientists such as Gerardus Mercator challenged classical ideas about the physical world, presenting alternatives based on leading theories of topography and cosmology. Mercator’s vast travels endowed him with experience to create increasingly precise maps, such as his world map Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio, notable for its relatively successful depictions of continental coastlines. Mercator’s maps, widely used during the 16th and 17th century, provided a reference for his cartographic successors, from Abraham Ortelius to Joan Blaeu. The intellectual Dutch climate within which Mercator worked fostered a network of collaboration that promoted discovery, change, and scientific accuracy.