When Abraham Ortelius published his atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in 1570, it included the Catalogus Auctorum, a list of cartographers who were sources for the Theatrum's maps. The great scholar Leo Bagrow produced an important study of these map-makers (A. Ortelii Catalogus Cartographorum, 1928-30). Since Bagrow's time, much research has taken place. Recently, Dr. Peter Meurer published an update of Bagrow based on the 183 cartographers named in the 1601 edition of the Theatrum plus maps added to the 1608 edition (Fontes Cartographici Orteliani... Weinheim: VCH Acta Humaniora, 1991; 360 pp.; DM228). Meurer's book is less than half the length of Karrow's while covering more than twice the number of mapmakers, and individual entries are of necessity much shorter. Thus, the two are complementary, Meurer providing breadth and Karrow depth. (Meurer's book was reviewed in Imago Mundi #45 and in The Map Collector #62.)
The heart of Karrow's book is a series of biographical essays of Ortelius and of 87 map-makers named in the 1570 editions of the Catalogus Auctorum. Many familiar names such as Gastaldi, Mercator, Munster, Sylvanus and Waldseemuller appear, though an equally great contribution lies in the material on obscure mapmakers whose work is less well known to most readers.
Within each essay are bibliographical descriptions of maps, books, globes, etc. produced by the subject. The interspersing of biography and bibliography is effective, showing the development of a corpus of work. Descriptions of individual items can readily be found through the comprehensive indexes. Each essay ends with a short note summarizing the most important literature on the subject.
The writing is clear and straightforward, though occasionally it takes a literary turn as in this passage describing the Theatrum's significance:
It was owned by kings and poets: Philip II kept a copy close at hand, and for Christopher Marlowe, we are told, Tamburlaine was "a great game of chess, with kings and conquerors for pieces, and for chess-board the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum"The book is set in Palatino, an attractive typeface used extensively by 16th century map-makers, reflecting a sympathetic publisher.
The biographies alone would be a worthy contribution to the literature. When one adds the carto-bibliographies, many new illustrations, an extensive list of references, and thorough indexes for access to this mass of material, one must conclude this is a significant book that will be regarded as essential to the study of 16th century European mapping. The price of $110.00 is modest for such a work. It is highly recommended.
Jon K. Rosenthal, 1994
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