Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin

Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin Facsimile Edition

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

The first modern world atlas: the magnum opus of the great Gerhard Mercator with 107 geographically correct maps

  1. The magnum opus of Gerhard Mercator (1512–94) masterfully combined scientific geographical insights with refined art

  2. He is considered to be the eponym of the modern “atlas” book and was of incalculable value for navigation

  3. 3 parts with 107 magnificently colored copperplate engravings of detailed, geographically correct maps in their original order

Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin

The Mercator Atlas of the scholar Gerhard Mercator originated from 1595 and masterfully combined scientific geographical insights with artistically appealing painting. He is considered to be the eponym of the modern “atlas” book and was of incalculable value for navigation during the time of the Renaissance.

Mercator Atlas

Our modern term atlas, that denotes a bound book of collected maps, goes back to a work by the Renaissance man Gerhard Mercator. The Mercator Atlas, which is considered to be the cornerstone of the science of topography, was produced in 1595 and was one of the most influential works of its kind as well as being a template for all subsequent cartography. 107 detailed and geographically correct maps are to be found in brilliant black and white copper engravings, that were, for the most part, to be colored in later by the wealthy buyer.

Gerhard Mercator was Ahead of His Time

Gerhard Mercator was responsible for the creation of the atlas. Maractor was born on March 5, 1512 near Antwerp in what is today Belgium and was educated by the famous Flemish scientists of the time, including Löwener Goldschmied, Gaspard van Heyden, and the natural scientist Gemma Frisius. After he was charged with heresy in his hometown, he decided to settle with his family in the tolerant and modern city of Duisburg in 1522. There he lived and worked as a renowned scientist until his death in 1594 and conducted correspondence with numerous other humanists and scholars, through which he was able to gather important topographical insights for his own work.

A Master and His Many Talents

Meractor’s life was imprinted with the spirit of the Renaissance, he was a true Renaissance man, whose purpose was to explain the processes of our world with the help of the sciences. He composed scientific writings from the fields of mathematics, philosophy, history, and theology. He was also active as more practical artisan, for example, he produced copper engravings, globes, and surveying instruments. He is personally responsible for most of the copper engravings in his atlas. His greatest achievement was the invention of the Mercator projection, which in 1569 recorded for the first time the world on a 21 page wall map. This first equiangular and geographically precise depiction of the Earth, which broke with clerical ideas and superstitions, served the famous navigators and travelers of their time. Francis Drake, the famous pirate who sailed in service of the English crown, navigated by Mercator’s maps. Even today his topography has not lost its influence, for example, his projections are held to be templates for our modern satellite navigation.

Science and Art, Masterfully Combined

The Mercator Atlas is not only known for its precision and its systematic correctness, it also stands out because of its artistry and beauty. Information and aesthetic are excellently combined with one another in this work. For the first time, Mercator employed Italian cursive script for his work, he designed his watercolors with ships and fish and recorded the map titles in graceful, nearly three dimensional handwriting. There is little doubt that here he had an incomparable artwork of geographic science.


Alternative Titles
Mercator Atlas
Gerardus Mercator Atlas
Mercator Weltatlas
Size / Format
558 pages / 41.0 × 28.0 cm
First part: 1585; Second part: 1589; Third part: 1595
107 mainly double page maps
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin – 2° Kart. 180/3 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany) Facsimile Edition
Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2012
Detail Picture

Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin

The New World

Identified as both INDIA NOVA and by its modern moniker, the Americas are shown here with remarkable details considering that this map was created barely a century after Columbus stumbled upon them. Rivers in particular are not only recognizable but surprisingly accurate. The early boundaries of some modern nations such as Mexico, Brazil, and Chile are already evident as the European empires there took shape. Shading along the coastlines serves to enrich the colors of this splendid woodcut.

Single Page

Mercator Atlas - Codex Berlin

World Map

Here in the original atlas, we see the first equiangular and geographically precise depiction of the Earth. It is as distinguished for its precision and its systematic correctness as it is for its artistry and beauty. Despite it being 400+ years old, this large double-page map is surprisingly modern.

Aside from regions that would have been very remote to 16th century Europeans like the North Pacific, the map is extremely accurate. The Ural Mountains and Bosporus divide Europe and Asia, but unlike the rest of the Modern Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula is colored green like Africa, as are Sicily, Sardinia, and southern Greece. The Americas are labelled AMERICA SIVE INDIA NOVA: “America or New India” to explain Columbus’ confusing term.

Facsimile Editions

#1 Mercatoratlas

Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2012

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2012
Binding: The dark brown cowhide binding is a true copy of the original, along with the blind and real gold embossing on the front and back cover, the decorative mottled edges on three sides of the book block, and the double ribs on the spine. In keeping with the old custom, all the folios were mounted on rabbets in the binding. This allows each card sheet to open completely – there is no shrinkage in the binding.
Commentary: 1 volume (400 pages) by Thomas Horst
Language: German
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
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