Leen Helmink Antique Maps

East Indies by Ortelius




Indiae Orientalis


Antwerp, 1570


35.5 x 50.5 cms


Copper plate engraving

Stock number





$ 3750


One of the most splendid maps of Ortelius, this map has everything that makes sixteenth century maps so attractive. Lovely mermaids, gruesome sea monsters and shipwrecks included. The cartography is distorted. Many elements of Marco Polo have been used, as well as the latest discoveries. Japan has the typical kite shape introduced by Mercator. The Portuguese coat of arms is shown prominently to underline that this is "Portuguese India".

Published in Antwerp by Abraham Ortelius in his legendary atlas "Theatrum Orbis Terrarum", the "Theatre of the World", the first printed atlas of the world.

"This important map follows Mercator's world-map of 1569 as regards the geographical positions of the coasts. In the depiction of the islands also, there is a great similarity to Mercator, although there could have been a common source in the form of manuscript sea-atlases. A striking feature is the improved shape of Japan in comparison to the Tartaria map. The lack of details of the dangerous south coast of Java is also noteworthy. The difficulty of mapping this archipelago was such that for a century more, maps of the area remain very faulty."


"A flamboyant depiction of the western Pacific/eastern Indian Oceans, adorned with ships and mermaids. The northwest coast of America is visible in the upper right. This map derives its geography in large part from the work of Mercator."


Marcel van den Broecke translated all texts on this map, repeated here:

INDIAE | ORIENTALIS, | INSVLARVMQVE | ADIACENTI:|VM TY:|PVS. [A map of the East Indies and surrounding islands].

(Bottom right:)
"Cum Priuilegio." [With privilege].

[On banner near Moluccas:]
"Insulæ Moluccæ ob maximam | aromatum copiam, quam per | totum terrarû orbem trans|ferunt, 5.sunt, iuxta Gilolo | nempe, Tarenate, Tidore, | Motir, Machia et Bachia."
[Of the famous Moluccas islands there are next to Gilolo five, exporting all over the world a great abundance of fragrant spices, namely Tarenate, Tidore, Motir, Machia and Bachia.]

(Bottom right:)
"NOVA GVINEA | quam Andreas Corsalis Ter:|ram Piccinaculi appellare vi:|detur. An insula sit, an pars | continentis Australis incer:|tum est".
[New Guinea, which seems to be called Piccinaculusland by Andreas Corsalis. Whether this is an island or part of the South Land is uncertain.]

(Text top left, around coat of arms:)
"PERSIAE | siue So:phorum Im:|perij li:mites ad In:|dum flu:uium vsque | pertin:gunt".
[The borders of Persia, or the empire of the Sophies, extend all the way to the river Indus].

Plate size: 347 x 496 mm
Scale: 1 : 22,000,000
Identification number: Ort 166 (Koeman/Meurer: 48, Karrow: 1/68, vdKrogtAN: 8400:31)

Occurrence in Theatrum editions and page number:
1570L48 (last line, centered like 4 lines above it: peritus Indicarum Historiarum libros 3.),
1571L48 (last line, centered like 6 lines above it: storiarum libros.III.),
1571D/1573D48 (last line, centered like 3 lines above it: selfde Zee Mar del Zur ghenoemt hebben.),
1572G pasted over L48,
1573G48 (last line, centered like 3 lines above it: Meer "Mar del Zur" gehaissen haben.),
1574L63 (large page number),
1575L63 (small page number; last line, italic and centered like 2 lines above it: Hispanica lingua edidit.),
1579L84 (last line, left aligned, in cursive script as is the entire text: "ctor Castagnedo,harum Indiarum historias etiam Hispanica lingua edidit.),
1595L108 (last line, left aligned: di Gonsali Ferdinandi Ouetani,eadem lingua editum.),
1598D77 (last line, centered like five lines above it: noemt hebben.),
1606E108 (last line, left aligned: of the second Tome of "Gonsaluo Ouetani", written in like maner in the Spanish tongue.),
1609L/1612L121 (last line, left aligned: mi secundi Gonsali Ferdinandi Ouetani,eadem lingua editum.),

States: 166.1 as described
166.2: 1579L has degrees along top edge 150-160-170 changed to 150-100-170
166.3: 1584L oblique hachuring in top left cartouche with towers replaced by small random dots.
166.4: 1587F regular vertical dot pattern in the seas replaced by a random dot pattern. Wide hachuring added to all islands and coastlines.
166.5: 1608I or 1609L degrees along the top corrected to their first state again: 150-160-170.

Approximate number of copies printed: 7550.

Cartographic sources: close copy of Mercator's 1569 World map (Karrow p. 8, Meurer p.38).

References: T. Suarez (1999) Early Mapping of South-East Asia, Periplus, p. 164-170, Figure 86.

Remarks: The difficulty of mapping this archipelago was such, that for centuries to come maps of this area remain faulty. Sumatra and Java are heavily oversized, and the Philippines are incomplete and without the Northern island of Luzon.
The mermaids who are beautifying themselves rather than heeding the whales' attack on nearby ships, are based on those occurring on Diego Guti├®rrez map of America (1562), engraved by Cock.

Verso Text (translated from the 1570 Latin, 1571L, 1571/1573 Dutch, 1575 Latin, 1579 Latin, 1595 Latin, 1598 Dutch, 1606E and 1609/1612L edition).

1. {1570L{INDIA

2. That there is hardly a better and more famous country in the world, nor larger, comprised under one and the same name than INDIA <is something> that almost all writers jointly agree on. It received its name from the river Indus. The entire area of India is confined in the judgement of Strabo and Plinius as follows: in the West it has the river Indus, in the North the great mountain <range> Taurus, in the East the Eastern sea, {1606E only{in which you find those most famous islands of the Moluccas,}1606E only} <and> in the South it has the Indian sea. In the middle it is divided into two large provinces by the excellent river Ganges. Whatever is Westwards of the river Ganges is called India intra Gangem, {1606E only{<that is> India on this side of the Ganges}1606E only}. <Whatever lies> Eastwards is India extra Gangem, {1606E only{India beyond the Ganges}1606E only}. In the holy Script this is called EVILAT {1606E only{or Havila}1606E only}. Some writers call it SERIA, {1606E only{the country of the Seres,}1606E only} as Dominicus Niger asserts. M<r.> Paulus Venetus seems to divide it into three provinces, the Greater, the Lesser and the Middlemost which he says they <also> call Abasia.
3. This whole country in general is most rich and fortunate, not only for its multitude of nations {1595L{(of which, as Herodotus writes, it is the most populous and richest country of any in the world)}1595L} and for its almost infinite <number> of towns and villages, but also for its abundance of all kinds of commodities (excepting only brass and lead, if we may believe Plinius). It has very many rivers, and those are very wide and beautiful. They run in all directions, and cross and water many places, bringing forth from the moist soil under the powerful sun all kinds of things plentifully. It provides all the world with Spices, {1606E only{Pearls}1606E only} and Precious stones, providing a greater supply of these commodities than all other countries of the whole world together.
4. Near to this country there are many excellent islands, which lie scattered over the main Ocean, so that it may justly be termed World of Islands. But especially IAPAN, which M<r.> Paulus Venetus calls Zipangri, {1606E only{situated in this sea, is worth noting}1606E}. Since it is not many years ago that it was known to few or none, I think it is not amiss to say something about it in this place. It is a very large and wide island, and has almost the same distance from the North Pole and from the South as Italy. The inhabitants, these islanders, are much inclined towards learning, wisdom and religion, and are most diligent and earnest searchers of the truth and natural causes <of phenomena>.
5. They are used to pray and attend service often, which they do in their Churches in the same manner as Christians do. They have only one King, to whom they are subject, and they will do nothing opposing his requests and laws. Yet, he also has someone above him, whom they call Voo, to whom the order of Ecclesiastical matters and government of the state of the Church is exclusively committed. Incidentally, we may compare this quite aptly to the Pope, as their King to the Emperor. To their Bishop they commit the salvation and care of their souls. They worship only one God, who is portrayed with three heads, for which they cannot provide a reason. They baptise their children, and by fasting show penance, exerting themselves to subject their bodies. They cross and bless themselves with the sign of the cross against the assaults of Satan, so that in religion, certain ceremonies and in their manner of living they seem to imitate the Christians. In spite of this, the order of the Jesuits do their utmost by labouring as hard as they can, incurring efforts and travelling, to subject them wholly to Christianity.
6. Here are also the MOLUCCÆ, certain islands famous for the abundance of spices {1606E only{which they yearly harvest and export to all parts of the world}1606E only}. On these islands breeds the Manucodiatta, a small bird which we call the bird of Paradise, {not in 1571L, 1579L & 1609/1612L{a strange fowl that is not seen anywhere else}not in 1571L, 1579L & 1609/1612L}. Nearer tot he coast of India is SUMATRA, {1606E only{or rather Samotra, for that is the way in which the king himself of the country writes it in his letters to his Majesty}1606E only}. This Island was known to the ancient Geographers and Historians by the name of TAPROBANA. There are also various other islands in this region {1606E only{of great fame and highly esteemed,}1606E only} such as Iaua Maior, Iaua Minor, Borneo, Timor &c. as you can see on the Map, {1606E only{but we cannot in this place discuss everything in particular and exhaustively. As far as here, the religion of Mahomet is professed and from Barbary opposite Spaine, all the way to these places the Arabic language is spoken and understood. The Moors from Marrocco, Ambassadors to our late Queen some five years ago, we saw and heard them speak that language <=Arabic> naturally, and their commissions, and patent letters were written in it as well.
7. From Achem in Samotra and from Bantam in Iava Minor our Merchants recently brought letters to his Highness which were so beautifully and ingeniously written in those characters and language <=Arabic> that no one who has not seen it would be willing to believe it, particularly from so barbarous and rude a nation}1606E only}.
8. Of the ancient writers, Diodorus Siculus, Herodotus, Plinius, Strabo, Quintus Curtius and Arrianus in the life of Alexander have praised the Indies. {1571L & 1579L only{There is a letter from Alexander the great to Aristoteles about the location of the Indies}1571L & 1579L only}.{1595L{So has Apuleius in the first book of his Floridorum. Dion Prusæus in his 35th oration has written much about this country, but very inaccurately}1595L}. From contemporary writers, see Ludouicus Vartomannus, Maximilianus Transsylvanus, <and> Ioannes Barrius in his Asian Decades, {1575L{& his Cosmæ Indopleutes, cited by Petrus Gyllius}1575L}. See <also> the Jesuits' Epistles, where you shall find many things in detail concerning the discovery of the island of Japan. {1595L{But if you want a full and absolute description of it, I suggest you take recourse to the twelfth book of Maffeius <describing> Indian history.}1595L} Ioannes Macer, a Civilian, has also written three books on the history of India}1570L} {1595L{in which he has much on the isle of Iava}1595L}. {1575L{Moreover, Castagnedo, a Spaniard, has written a discourse on the Indies in Spanish}1575L}. {1595L{About the islands which lie scattered here over the ocean, read the twentieth book of the second Volume of Gonsalvus Ferdinandus Ovetani, likewise written in Spanish}1595L}.

<The texts of the 1571/1573 Dutch, 1573 German and 1598 Dutch editions differ so much from the text given above that a separate translation is given below.>

9. {1571/1573D{Indien.

10. There is no larger Area in the world comprised under one name than the Indies, nor a more noble land on the entire Earth. For no country is more fertile, nor does one have a better climate, nor is there a country where the people live longer <than in this one>. No country has richer fruits, serving the necessities and pleasures of man. These Indies fill the world with its precious stones, spices and fragrances. All handicrafts and Arts have here reached their highest degree, so that here the Art of Printing has been in existence for one thousand years, as diligent writers describing the world testify, for instance Iohannes Barros in his Asia, as well as the Jesuits, who travel in this area in our times, and exert themselves to convert its inhabitants to Christianity.
11. Nowhere else can you find such large and populous cities, or harbours, where there is important trade of Merchandise, for which reason these Indies in old times as well as nowadays has been highly esteemed by Writers. Thus one might say, (unless the location of Paradise can be ascertained), that this entire area may be considered Paradise on Earth. Here in the Sea there are many rich Islands, such as Samotra, both Iauas the Molucken, &c, so that this Sea by itself might be called a World of Islands of its own.
12. But I have to say something in particular about the Isle of Iapan {1573G only{which can be found here}1573G only}, because few people know about it, as it has only been discovered in 1550 during our lifetime. Its inhabitants are very sharp-witted and devoted to wisdom; In their Religion and ways of life they resemble Christianity in many respects. Nothing is more common for them than to say their prayers in their Churches as we do. Their children are baptised, they punish their bodies severely by fasting, and they bless themselves by making a cross to avert the temptations of the Devil. They pray to one God only, whom they portray with three heads, but they cannot give a reason why.
13. They have a Chief to whom they are all subjected, but he has another one above himself called Voo by them, who rules over matters concerning religion and spiritual matters, who might be compared to the Pope, whereas the other one is like an Emperor. About the Molucken I also have to say something, namely the Spices which reach us from there, and about a miraculous bird which we call Bird of Paradise called Manucodiatta by them, (meaning Gods little bird). These Islands are five in number. Gilolo lies in the middle, the others around it.
14. The Spanish call their new World America also the Indies, but wrongly. For these Indies derive their name from the principal river Indus traversing it, and should one be inclined to give America a name after its principal River, then it should be called Oreliana or Amasonia, rather than India. But the reason why this country was misnamed is (in my view) the following: They have seen that all writers who have described the World have called the part of Asia extending from the river Indus Eastwards to the end and ultimate borders until the sea India, and they, coming from the West, searching for new lands, and finding them in the East, could not but think that this must be the very edge of Asia, which in writings was called the Indies (as we remarked), unaware as they were that between this newly found land and Asia there was another large sea, as they later realised and which they meanwhile have called Mare del Zur}1571/1573D}.

Bibliographical sources


Bibliographical sources mentioned in this text:

Apuleius : Bk.1 Floridorum 166.8
Arrianus : Life of Alexander 166.8
Barrius, Ioannes : Asian Decades 166.8, 166.10
Castagnedo : Discourse on the Indies 166.8
Corsalus, Andreas : on mapsheet concerning New Guinea
Curtius, Quintus 166.8
Gyllius, Petrus: Cosmæ Indopleutes 166.8
Herodotus 166.3, 166.8
Jesuits Epistles 166.8
Macer, Ioannes : History of India 166.8
Maffeius : Bk.12 Indian History 166.8
Maximilianus Transsylvanus 166.8
Niger, Dominicus 166.2
Ovetani, Gonsalvus Ferdinandus : Vol.2, Bk.20 Indian Islands 166.8
Plinius 166.2, 166.3, 166.8
Prusæus, Dion : 35th Oration 166.8
Siculus, Diodorus 166.8
Strabo 166.2, 166.8
Vartomannus, Ludovicus 166.8
Venetus, Paulus on mapsheet, calling Japan Zipangri, 166.2, 166.4