Leen Helmink Antique Maps

British Isles by Ortelius




Anglia, Scotiae et Hiberniae Sive Britannicar: Insularum Descriptio.


Antwerp, 1570


34.5 x 49.5 cms


Copper engraving

Stock number





$ 1250


"Abraham Ortelius map of the British Isles is based directly on the large map by his friend Gerard Mercator, to whom due acknowledgement appeared among the many prominent cartographers listed by Ortelius in the preamble of his new atlas, the 'Theatrum Orbis Terrarum'. Unlike Mercator, Ortelius was not an engraver and only prepared a few maps himself, notably those appearing under his name in the classical section of his atlas, or the 'Parergon'. Rather, he was an entrepreneurial map dealer, a keen collector of coins, and an active traveller and correspondent. He was the first publisher to have the latest maps from the best sources engraved to a uniform size for his atlas. Through its launching, pre-eminence in map publishing was transferred from Italy to the Netherlands, leading to over 100 years of Dutch supremacy in all facets of cartographical production.

Ortelius' British Isles map is distinguished by a more sophisticated and ebullient style of engraving than most of the German and Italian examples hitherto. The cartouche containing descriptive text is surrounded by ornate strapwork; there is a royal coat of arms, a compass and scale, and five ships. Many of the maps in Ortelius' atlas were engraved by Francis Hogenberg, but whether he was personally responsible for the British Isles map is not established for certain. Flemish influence - and/or a misreading of the text - is evident in the rendering of some of the names, e.g. Ormyskyrk for Ormskirk and Dantre for Daventry, and the omission of the relatively important see of Peterborough."


"This is probably the earliest map of the British Isles still readily available in the early 1980s, and the collector will at once see that the proportions of Ireland and Scotland compared with England and Wales are not correct; but, nevertheless, it was an influential map with a very wide circulation.

Many of the names betray its ecclesiastical sources; it was issued only about thirty years after the dissolution of the Monasteries and quite a number of religious institutions shown on it no longer existed when it was published.

No roads, rivers or bridges are shown, although towns where fords would have been are indicated, but it would have been practically useless as a route map. It should be remembered, of course, that speeds were so much slower when travelling in the sixteenth century that exact directions could easily be obtained by word of mouth provided the general route was known.

Examples of this map may be found with original colour or uncoloured and whilst an early coloured example is preferable for a collection, the extra premium on the price may put this beyond many collector's pockets."

(Moreland & Bannister).