Mercator’s Atlas

Gerhard Mercator, Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (Amsterdam: Hondius, 1623)


The fifth Latin edition of the Mercator-Hondius Atlas, first published in 1606.


Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) was a Flemish craftsman, who despite his great fame as a cartographer, made most of his wealth from his skilled brass engraving and construction of mathematical instruments. His name, mercator, is Latin for merchant.


He began publishing maps as early as 1537, and in 1578 began the publication, in parts, of his world Atlas, which he continued until his death and was completed in 1595 by Mercator’s son. His own work, however, became overshadowed by that of another Flemish cartographer, Abraham Ortelius, who with Mercator’s encouragement, produced his own world atlas, the spectacular Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in 1570.


In 1604 however, a Flemish engraver named Jodocus Hondius bought the plates of Mercator’s Atlas from his grandson and republished it with thirty-six additional maps, including several of his own. It is the Hondius version of the atlas that is held at the Library, published in Amsterdam in 1623.