Title/Content of Map: Asiae Nova DescriptioDate Printed: 1588Cartographer: Abraham OrteliusMaterial/Medium: No color, strong impression. Spanish text on verso. From the first modern atlas- the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum by Abraham Ortelius.Size: 16 x 21 inches
300 copies printed originally. Very few loose copies remaining. Copies of this map start selling at $1,500 from dealers. More background: Map of Asia with a misprojection of Japan and Southeast Asia. Very distinct Northeast Passage. Includes sailing ships and other embellishments. The map extends from Portuguese India in the west, through China, Japan, Southeast Asia and the East Indies (Indonesian archipelago), including New Guinea, to the Northwest coast of America. Sumatra and Java are shown heavily distorted in shape together with the principal spice islands, but the emergent shape of Borneo and the Philippines is apparent as well as the general configuration of the East Indian archipelago. Java is shown as an island but with a greatly inflated shape and no topographical information along the south coast, separated from Beach, a presumed promontory on the southern or 'fifth' continent. Borneo is mapped in the place of the fictitious 'Java Minor' that frequently appeared at that latitude on the 'modern' Ptolemaic maps of the region, although only the part of Borneo north of the equator is shown to the west of a barely recognizable Celebes (Sulawesi), where no hint is given of the very distinctive peninsula geography of the island. OnTitle: ASIAE NOVA | DESCRIPTIO [A new depiction of Asia] (lower left corner, faintly visible:) "Cum priuilegio". [With privilege]. (Upper right:) "MARE SCYTHICVM | & TABIN. Plinius, & | M.P. Venetus multas in eo | insulas eße dicunt, sed nu:|merum neq.sitû tradunt. [Scythian sea and Tabin. Plinius and Mr. P. Venetus say that there are many islands here, but they do not mention their number nor their location.] (Upper centre:) "HIC MAGNUS CHAM TARTARO|RVM ET CHATAIAE IMPERATOR |LONGE LATE:|QVE DOMINA:|TVR". [Here the great Cham, the chief who rules far and wide over the Tartars and Chataiae]. (Centre to the right:) "Hic Rhabarbarû tanta copia | prouenit vt hinc ad ões | orbis partes vehatur". [Here one finds medicinal rhubarb in such quantities that it is exported to all parts of the world.] Upper right:) "Hic vasa porcellina | dicta finguntur". [Here vases of so-called porcelain are made.] (Upper right:) "Pons marmo:|reus 300 paß:" [Here is a bridge made of marble, 300 strides long.] ((Top right:) "Vrbs Quinsai habet vt | M.P.Venetus refert 100 | mill.paß: in circuitu | habetq. 12000 pontes" [The city of Quinsai, according to Mr. P. Venetus, is 100 miles in circumference, and has 12000 bridges.] (From leading Ortelius scholar Marcel van den Broecke.)
Abraham Ortelius (1527 - 1598) was a Flemish cartographer & geographer, celebrated as the creator of the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World). Ortelius' work, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, was the first uniformly sized, systematic collection of maps; this work can therefore be called the first atlas (although the term was not used until 20 years later by Mercator).
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