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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Map of the Day: "Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio..." Gerard (1512 - 1594) and Rumold (1545 - 1599) Mercator


Gerard (1512 - 1594) and Rumold (1545 - 1599) Mercator
Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio. . .
Engraving with original hand-color
from Strabonis Rerum Geographicarum
21 x 15 1/2 inches
Duisburg, 1587 (1595)

Gerard Mercator was the supreme cartographer of the late sixteenth century. His name is still widely known because the "mercator projection" is still used in maps today.  He did not actually invent this type of projection, but the way he applied it to navigational charts first allowed seamen to plot compass bearings in straight lines on their charts.  This solved an age-old problem of navigation at sea and made his name a household word.  

Mercator's 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.  His son and successor Rumold Mercator continued his work, and created this map's double-hemispherical form.  He kept his father's prominent south-west bulge to the coastline of South America, although he corrected this later. 

Gerard Mercator was born Gerhard Kremer on March 5, 1512, in Flanders, and changed his name when he became a student at the University of Louvain in1530. Though Mercator studied philosophy and theology, he also developed an interest in astronomy, mathematics, geography, art and engraving. From 1530 until 1552, Mercator made scientific instruments and worked as a surveyor, while making his first maps and globes. His earliest globe was finished about 1536, and he published his first map in 1537. In 1552, Mercator moved to Duisberg in what is now Germany, where he was employed by the Duke of Cleves. Mercator did his most significant work under Cleves's patronage in Duisberg.

Offered at $32,000

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