Gerardus Mercator - Atlas sive cosmographica

Alternate Titles:

Atlas Merkatora, Atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mvndi et fabricati figvra, Mercator-Atlas, Mercatoratlas

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Alternate Titles

Atlas Merkatora
Atlas sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mvndi et fabricati figvra

Extent / Format

504 pages / 44.0 x 32.0 cm

Artist / School

Gerhard Kremer, called Gerardus Mercator (1512 - 1594)
Rumold Mercator

Former owners

Queen Elizabeth I (the first part)
cardinal Ferdinand II de’ Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (the second part)

Short description

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.

Facsimile editions available


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.

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