Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica

Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)

Duisburg (Germany) — 1585–1595

Maps in modern Mercator projection created by the greatest cartographer since Ptolemy: Gerardus Mercator's famous atlas as a milestone in geography and a masterpiece of Renaissance book illumination

  1. Gerardus Mercator (1512–94) was regarded as the Ptolemy of his time

  2. He is the creator of the Mercator projection still used in modern maps today

  3. This atlas is not only a milestone of geography, but an absolute masterpiece of early modern illumination

Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica

Our modern geography and navigation goes back to the work of the great polymath Gerardus Mercator. The scientist was already seen as the Ptolemy of his time by his contemporaries. His significance for mathematics, philosophy, and cartography above all was unrivaled for centuries. His cosmographic atlas laid the cornerstone for the science of geography. The comprehensive work Atlas sive cosmographica is captivating not only because of its systematic correctness and precision, but is also one of the most beautiful illuminated codices of the Renaissance.

Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica

The atlas by Gerardus Mercator is without a doubt the first and most important bound cartographical work ever created. His great and famous project bears the name Atlas sive Cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura, which can be translated as “Atlas or cosmographical meditations upon the creation of the universe, and the universe as created”. Aside from depictions of the world, the continents, and countries, the comprehensive work is also comprised of theoretical writings concerning the history of creation. The atlas is not only a milestone of geography, which wins people over with its brilliantly colored illustrations, but is also an absolute masterpiece of early modern illumination.

The Great Scholar Gerardus Mercator

Gerardus Mercator, whose actual name was Gerhard Krämer, was a polymath and one of the great scientists of the 16th century. He was a mathematician, philosopher, theologian, and above all set benchmarks in his occupation as a geographer and cartographer. He was regarded as the Ptolemy of his time during his own lifetime and was famous even in the Arab-Islamic world. Mercator is still known and remains present today above all because of the Mercator Projection, which was discovered by and named after him, and is still used in modern cartography. His comprehensive cosmographic atlas fundamentally changed the medieval worldview. After its publication, it was not only the most important navigational aid for travelers on land and sea, but also contained geographic information that was completely unknown to the population of the medieval world. Mercator himself was not able to witness the publication of his masterpiece – the atlas was published one year after the master’s death by his son Rumold.

A Masterpiece of Art and Science

The Mercator atlas is an artwork of special importance. Its system and its precision, which revolutionized the geography of the Middle Ages, is captivating. This level of detail corresponds to its markedly high-quality, artistic character. Information and aesthetic are outstandingly united with one another in this work, which is presented completely in the style of the Renaissance. The illustrated maps bear titles in elaborate, heraldic-looking quill writing. Water areas are designed with fish and ships, magnificent fields and landscapes adorn the pages in sumptuous green. The incomparable masterpiece was already unbelievably precious at the time of its creation and was only affordable for distinctly wealthy members of medieval society. Original specimens of the atlas could be found e.g. in the possession of Queen Elizabeth I and Ferdinand II de Medici, the Duke of Tuscany.


Alternative Titles
Atlas Merkatora
Atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mvndi et fabricati figvra
Size / Format
504 pages / 44.0 × 32.0 cm
Artist / School
Previous Owners
First section: Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603)
Second section: Cardinal Ferdinando II de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (1610–70)

Available facsimile editions:
Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)
Orbis Pictus – Pelplin, 2009
Limited Edition: 294 copies
Detail Picture

Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica

Author Portrait

This wonderfully colored woodcut portrait of Gerardus Mercator is extremely detailed, especially with respect to his beard, hands, and the fall of folds in the sleeve. He is holding a globe, the production of which was a primary source of his income, and a compass in his right hand is placed directly upon the North Pole – an allusion to medieval depictions of God as architect of the universe. The mandorla surrounding the portrait praises Mercator’s accomplishments.

Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)
Single Page

Atlas sive cosmographica


Delicately shaded and obviously created with respect to Mercator projection, this is one of the earliest modern maps of Europe and is remarkable for its level of accuracy thanks to the systematic way in which it was created. Upon closer examination, one can appreciate the tremendous attention to detail that was required in creating this woodcut, such as the coastline of Norway.

Although originating from the late–16th century, many of the boundaries illustrated in this map are surprisingly modern. However, the boundaries depicted in the map tend to be more cultural and linguistic than political. For example, it would be impractical to attempt to depict the thousand nations of the Holy Roman Empire at this scale.

Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Atlas Merkatora

Orbis Pictus – Pelplin, 2009

Publisher: Orbis Pictus – Pelplin, 2009
Limited Edition: 294 copies
Binding: Red leather with gold embossing. Comes in slip case.
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
You might also be interested in:
Italy's Ptolemaic Chart – Priuli & Verlucca, editori – Several Owners
Italy's Ptolemaic Chart
Cologne (Germany) – 1578

Lush royal blue and landscapes in shimmering golden tones: the beautiful map of Italy by the brilliant Renaissance cartographer Gerardus Mercator created for the first atlas of the world

Experience More
Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin – Faksimile Verlag – 2° Kart. 180/3 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin
Germany – First part: 1585; Second part: 1589; Third part: 1595

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

Experience More
Mercator Atlas - Codex Salamanca – CM Editores – BG/52041 – Universidad de Salamanca (Salamanca, Spain)
Mercator Atlas - Codex Salamanca
Amsterdam (Netherlands) – 1607

Gerardus Mercator and the revolution of cartography: the "world's first atlas" in the splendidly colored edition from Salamanca with 146 double-page illustrations

Experience More
Ptolemy Atlas – Vicent Garcia Editores – Ms. BH 693 – Biblioteca General e Histórica de la Universidad (Valencia, Spain)
Ptolemy Atlas
Naples (Italy) – 15th century

Masterly maps in golden frames for the King of Aragon: a splendid Ptolemaic atlas with uniquely beautiful land and sea charts in vibrant colors as a testimony to early Italian Renaissance cartography

Experience More
Ptolomei Cosmographia – Vallecchi – Magliab. XIII.16 – Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (Florence, Italy)
Ptolomei Cosmographia
Florence (Italy) – Ca. 1480

The last large map collection before the discovery of the Americas: Claudius Ptolemy's ancient knowledge in masterfully illuminated charts with magnificent ornaments, inspired by Nero's golden palace

Experience More
Mercator Atlas of 1595 – Coron Verlag –
Mercator Atlas of 1595
Germany – First part: 1585;Second part: 1589; Third part: 1595

A milestone of cartography and the template for all later atlases: Gerardus Mercator's posthumously published pictorial atlas from 1595 contributed to a completely new perspective on the world

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection