Abraham Ortelius

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A cartographer, geographer and cosmographer - and the creator of the first modern atlas. Ortelius studied Greek, Latin and mathematics, and was only 20 when he established himself as a map colourist and salesman in Antwerp. With the assistance of his sister he would buy and colour black and white maps. He also provided a small outlet for the books of the great printer, Christophe Plantin. The business prospered and Ortelius established a highly developed network of powerful and influential contacts both at home and abroad. His greatest work, the ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’, appeared in 1570, marking the beginning of an epoch in the history of cartography. It is considered the first modern atlas, a uniformly sized and systematically curated collection of maps of the world's countries; its information was current and although the contents were mainly European, it also contained maps of the separate continents and a world map. The first edition included 53 maps, but over 42 editions this increased to over 160. Information was drawn from every possible source; Ortelius selected only the best maps of his contemporaries for inclusion.

Colourful side profile portrait of Abraham Ortelius, a man with very short hair and holding a globe.