The Most Beautiful Maps and Atlases

Maps have always been a prerequisite for the exercise of economic and military power and were correspondingly valuable. Often centered on Jerusalem in the early and high Middle Ages, "modern" maps with their astonishing accuracy (even before Gerhard Mercator's revolutionary projection method, by the way) formed the basis for the maritime and global domination of the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English in the late Middle Ages. The rediscovered Cosmographia by Claudius Ptolemy from the 1st century AD laid the foundation for the magnificently decorated Renaissance atlases, which, together with anthologies of city views such as the Civitates Orbis Terrarum, soon became the most popular books of the early modern period and were used by the educated and the nobility to demonstrate their sophistication and knowledge of the world.

Opus Magnum of Claudius Ptolemy

The masterpiece of the ancient cartographer Claudius Ptolemy in the dress of the Italian Renaissance: exquisite maps of land and sea adorned with gold and silver for the pomp-loving king of Aragón

Naples (Italy) — 15th century

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Civitates Orbis Terrarum - Braun / Hogenberg 1574–1618

One last historically and artistically precious look at the cities of Europe shortly before the destruction of the Thirty Years' War: a journey back in time to the 16th century with more than 600 fantastic city views

Cologne (Germany) — 1574–1618

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Cantino's Map

Contraband from a spy at the Portuguese court: an exact copy of the famous and then secret world map "Royal Standard" with the newly mapped coastline of Brazil for the Duke of Ferrara

Lisbon (Portugal) — 1502

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Catalan Atlas

The first complete depiction of the world as it was then known on twelve parchment plates measuring over 3 meters long: this mappa mundi is the pinnacle of medieval cartography and the most important contemporary map of Africa

Mallorca (Spain) — 1375

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Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin

The world's first modern atlas: scientific knowledge and refined art in the opus magnum of the great Gerhard Mercator with 107 masterfully engraved and geographically correct land and sea maps

Germany — First part: 1585; Second part: 1589; Third part: 1595

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The First Circumnavigation of the World by Magellan and Elcano

A spectacular milestone of the age of world exploration: Ferdinand Magellan's and Juan Sebastián Elcano's famous circumnavigation of the globe in a unique compendium of the most important documents from three museums

Spain; Portugal — 16th century

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Hereford World Map: Mappa Mundi

A mixture of geography, biblical worldview and secular history with a diameter of 132 cm: the largest completely preserved medieval world map and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lincoln or Hereford (United Kingdom) — 1285–1295

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Mappa Mundi of Andreas Walsperger

The Christian worldview in harmony with the new, scientific cartography: the large globe by the famous cartographer with Jerusalem in the center and Paradise as a large citadel in the east

Constance (Germany) — Ca. 1448

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Portolan Atlas of Battista Agnese - Codex Petersburg

The great union of exceptional craftsmanship and utmost precision: 13 beautiful nautical charts by the famous Battista Agnese, including the route of the first circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan

Venice (Italy) — 1546

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Mappa Mundi by Fra Mauro

The largest world map of the Middle Ages measuring 2.4 × 2.4 meters: innovative cartography of "breathtaking accuracy" (NASA) and with over 3,000 inscriptions, created by an Italian monk of the Early Renaissance

Venice (Italy) — Around 1450

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Atlas of Henry VIII

Impressively represents King Henry VIII's global ambitions for a British Empire: a magnificent luxury atlas by the famous Venetian cartographer Battista Agnese for the English sovereign

Venice (Italy) — 1542–1547

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Map of Juan de la Cosa

The world of Christopher Columbus and his travel companion: Juan de la Cosa's famous map showing all the regions of the Old and New Worlds known in Europe, as well as the first cartographic representation of the Americas

Puerto de Santa María (Spain) — 1510

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Tabula Peutingeriana

Almost like a modern travel guide: the only surviving copy of an ancient map of the Roman road network, peppered with practical information on places and accommodations in the vast Imperium Romanum

Monastery of Reichenau (Germany) — 12th/13th century

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Atlas of the Worlds

From the workshop of Battista Agnese, arguably the most talented cartographer of the 16th century: scientific accuracy and the refined art of the Italian Renaissance combined in a delicate adorned masterpiece

Venice (Italy) — Ca. 1540

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Vatican Ptolemy

Created almost 1,500 years after Ptolemy: a revised new edition of the ancient standard work in a brilliant cartographic manuscript by the Vatican astronomer Nicolaus Germanus for Pope Paul III.

Florence (Italy) — 15th century

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Portulan C.G.A.5.b

Precise coastlines and important landmarks for practical use at sea: an impressive medieval map by the famous Mallorcan cartographic school from the mid-15th century

Mallorca (Spain) — 1450–1460

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