Mercator Atlas (1636)

Mercator (Gerhardus). G.Mercatoris et I.Honii Atlas.

(Amsterdam: H.Hondius, 1636)


Gerard Mercator was the first map-maker to use the word ‘Atlas’ for a collection of maps. The first truly comprehensive collection of maps however was that of his friend Abraham Ortelius, who called them Thartrum Orbis Terrarum (1570).

The work of Ortelius and Mercator was, in a sense, a response to the rediscovery of Ptolemy’s ‘Geography’ in 1410, and to the sophisticated demand for maps resulting from the geographical discoveries of the intervening period. But whereas Ortelius published other people’s maps with antiquarian piety, Mercator, trained as an instrument maker and surveyor, laid the foundations of the truly scientific map.

He was much concerned with mathematical projection of the surface of the globe – hence the subtitle of his first Latin atlas: ‘Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi’. The edition shown here is of 1636.