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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Atlas of the Day: sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi, et Fabricata Figura]. Atlantis Pars Altera. MERCATOR, Gerard (1512-1594).

  • Fine engraved portrait of Mercator and sectional title-page both with original hand-color.
For nearly sixty years, during the most important and exciting period in the history of modern mapmaking, Gerard Mercator was the supreme cartographer, his name, second only to Ptolemy, synonymous with the form 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 bearings could be plotted on charts in straight lines, thereby providing seamen with a solution to an age-old problem of navigation at sea.
The influence of his revolutionary ideas 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. Unlike the work of Abraham Ortelius, a contemporary and equally celebrated cartographer, Mercator's maps are original. While Ortelius engaged in the reduction and generalization of already existing maps, Mercator checked current knowledge of the earth's topography against its fundamental sources and drew maps in an original manner.
Mercator was born in Rupelmonde in East Flanders. He studied in Louvain under Gemma Frisius, a Dutch astronomer and mathematician, and began his career as a cartographer in that city, where the excellence of his work eventually won him the patronage of Charles V. In order to escape religious persecution, he moved in 1552 to Duisburg. There, he continued to produce maps, globes and instruments, including his most celebrated work, a world map on eighteen sheets drawn to his new projection (1569).
In later life he devoted himself to the preparation of his three-volume collection of maps to which, for the first time, the word "atlas" was applied. The word was chosen, he wrote, "to honor the Titan, Atlas, King of Mauritania, a learned philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer." Mercator's sons and grandsons were all cartographers and made their contributions in various ways to the great atlas. His son Rumold, in particular, was responsible for the complete edition of 1595
Offered at $375,000.
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