Abraham Ortelius

Abraham Ortelius (Abraham Ortels) (1527-1598) was a Flemish cartographer and geographer who is now generally recognised as the creator of the first modern atlas.

Aspiring to become a map-engraver, Ortelius entered the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke in 1547 as an illuminator of maps. He supplemented his income by trading in books, prints, and maps and his journeys included annual visits to the Frankfurt book and print fair where, in 1554, he met Gerhard Mercator; it is Mercator who is credited with steering Ortelius towards the career of a scientific geographer1.

Detail of Humphrey Llwyd’s 1568 Map of Wales Abraham Ortelius, 1606. Theatrum orbis terrarum Abrahami Orteli Antuerp. geographi regii. The theatre of the whole world set forth by that excellent geographer Abraham Ortelius

Detail of Humphrey Llwyd’s 1568 Map of Wales Abraham Ortelius, 1606. Theatrum orbis terrarum Abrahami Orteli Antuerp. geographi regii. (The theatre of the whole world set forth by that excellent geographer Abraham Ortelius). London: Printed by John Norton. (PHI 00231). Presented to St. David’s College by Thomas Phillips in 1834

The first edition of Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, containing fifty-three maps, was published in Antwerp in 1570. Many of the maps collated by Ortelius were drawn by other artists and it was the Welsh cartographer, Humphrey Llwyd (1527–1568) who contributed his 1568 manuscript map of Wales, to Ortelius's 1573 edition of theTheatrum. Llwyd’s Cambriae Typus is notable in that it was the first map which presented Wales as a territory on its own, as opposed to an adjunct of England.

Llwyd’s map delineates the extent of Wales’ borders c.1568 and illustrates its principal rivers, the extent of its forested areas and uplands and the location of its most important towns; although the town of Lampeter is not marked, there was a settlement here from at least Norman times onwards. 

The inscription Tibius flu. L. Teifi B. hic fluvius solus in Britannia castores habet asserts that the River Teifi, which flows through Lampeter and meets the coast at Cardigan, was the only British river where beavers could still be found.

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