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ORTELIUS, A. / VRIENTS, J. B. / GALLE, P.. Epitome Theatri Orteliani, Praecipuarum Orbis Regionum delineationes…. Antwerp, J. B. Vrients, 1601.

Oblong 8vo [15.7 x 11.1 cm], (8) ff., 110 ff., (3) ff., 13 ff., (1) f., with engraved globe device on title, full-page engraving of arms, full-page engraved celestial and terrestrial globes, full-page engraved view of El Escorial, and 123 full-page engraved maps. Bound in contemporary calf, housed in a custom box. Raised bands, spine elaborately gilt, red sprinkled edges. Minor rubbing to back and boards. Early inscription on front pastedown, faint 1755 inscription of English Benedictine (recusant?) house of St. Lawrence on title, internally very well preserved.


A fine copy in an early binding of Philip Galle’s improved version of the first small-scale version of a folio atlas ever published, and the first edition published by Vrients. Ortelius’ groundbreaking, large-format atlas proved to be such an enormously successful, publishing phenomenon that it spawned several editions in a smaller, more affordable format, which in themselves proved to be highly successful. The small-format edition of the Ortelius atlas saw more actual use than its folio forebear, which was often prized as a “trophy” possession of its owner. Therefore, very good copies of the Epitome in an original binding, as here, are quite uncommon in today’s market.

Included among this atlas’ 123 maps are two of the world, a star chart (which was never included in Ortelius’ large atlas), and maps of the continents, all engraved with considerable charm. At the end of the work is a supplement containing maps that had recently been added to Ortelius’ larger atlas, including ones of Japan and Iceland.

The very first, pocket edition of Ortelius’s atlas appeared in 1577 and was also published by Galle. Titled Spieghel De Wereld, it was quite crudely engraved but was nevertheless very successful commercially. In 1588 Galle introduced a new, more capably engraved edition called Epitome du Theatre du Monde, now referring directly to Ortelius’s great folio atlas. Also, Ortelius’s name prominently appeared on its title page as well. Although Galle was a friend of Ortelius, the latter was apparently not aware of the first 1577 attempt to produce a reduced version of the Theatrum. However, the prominence of Ortelius’s name in the second Galle edition suggests the possibility of Ortelius’ participation in it. A third competing edition of the Epitome published by van Keerbergen appeared 1601.

When this edition was first published 1588, three-fourths of its maps came from the earlier edition, but with successive editions more new maps were added. By the time this edition appeared, only a handful of its 123 maps were from the earlier publication with the rest newly engraved. Also, with this edition, Jan Baptist Vrients obtained ownership of the Galle plates; Vrients was also the publisher of the final and greatest editions of the Theatrum.

* Van der Krogt 332:13

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