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 and his masterful collection of maps

  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 late-medieval illumination

Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica

Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
  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 late-medieval 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.

Atlas Merkatora
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.

Atlas Merkatora
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.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
You might also be interested in:
Castiglioni World Map – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – C.G. A 12 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Castiglioni World Map
Seville (Spain) – 1525

One of the first world maps in history with the Earth in spherical form: a cartographic masterpiece commissioned by Emperor Charles V to consolidate Spanish supremacy on the world's oceans

Experience More
King Henry's Map of the British Isles – The Folio Society – B.L. Cotton MS Augustus I.i.9 – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
King Henry's Map of the British Isles
England (United Kingdom) – 1536–1537

A magnificent map of his emerging island kingdom from southern England to Wales to Ireland and Scotland: the gift to King Henry VIII of England was valuable as it was practical

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection