Cartographica Neerlandica


In March 2005 I was approached via internet by a man living in Paris who claimed to have the copperplate of Ortelius' third map of the Americas, the first and only one without the bulge on the west coast of South America, my identification number Ort11. He sent a photograph of the copperplate and also a photograph of a recent offprint made from this plate on modern paper. Inspection of the photograph of the offprint showed that it was the first state of this map, with the Ortelius identification and date 1587 in the lower right area of the map, and without the addition of Le Maire straight and Terra Fuego which first appeared in the rare state 2 of 1620 and later (about ten copies known to exist). Therefore, I responded that this could not be the original Ortelius copper plate of Ort11. The copper plate was also shown to Mr. Bracke of the Royal Library of Belgium in Brussels, who made the same objection I made on the basis of my book "Ortelius Atlas Maps" (1996) in which the second state is explicitly mentioned and specified.

Since the photograph of the map suggested that this was not a crude imitation of an Ortelius copperplate, I investigated the possibility that what I so far considered as the second state of Ort11, might in fact be a new plate, in which case this copperplate might be authentic after all. Inspection of the second state or perhaps plate at the Antwerp Municipal Library, which owns a copy of the rare 1641 Spanish edition of the "Theatrum" including state 2 of the rare Americas map made it clear to me that this second state was not a new plate: comparison of this Ort11.2 with 8 copies of Ort11.1 of my own showed that a horizontal crack developed in the upper right corner, first visible in a copy from the 1608/1612 Italian edition, which worsened in the copy from the 1609/1612 Latin edition. This crack extended further in the Americas copy of the 1641 Spanish edition. Therefore, the second state was indeed a second state of plate Ort11, and not a new plate.

The next step was to examine the plate and its offprint in Paris and see if any differences between Ort11 state 1 and this offprint could be established. So I went to Paris with 4 of my Ort11.1 copies for comparison.

The map turned out to be almost identical to the standard Ort11.1 both in size and engraving, except that in the longitude degrees given along the bottom of the map we find 260 70 280 instead of the normal numbers found on Ort11: 260 270 280

There are also some minor differences in the ornaments in all four corners.

As regards its known history, the plate was found inside a chimney a little more than 20 years ago by the father of the present owner when he demolished that chimney in an old house belonging to his parents in La Linea near Gibraltar in Spain. He gave it to his son 20 years ago, who left it lying around until he decided to go to an artist shop that could print copper engravings early this year. The shop printed one copy on modern paper, of which he sent a photograph to me.

The surface of the plate is scratched in some places, possibly as a result of the method of its retrieval. It has the same dimensions (353 x 484 mm) as the standard Ort11 and is engraved in the style typical of Ortelius plates, and apart from the missing numeral, the offprint is easily confused with Ort11.

It is obvious that this is not the plate with which Ort11.1 and Ort11.2 offprints have been made, but the resemblance is very outspoken indeed. It cannot be established whether this plate was made as a close copy of Ort11.1 or that Ort11.1 was made as a close copy of this plate. Was it made with Ortelius'knowledge or not? How did it end up in Spain?

Assuming that it was made by Ortelius, why is it that 2 nearly identical plates of the same area have been made, possibly around the same time, viz. 1587? There are other cases where there were two plates of the same area. Some of these were made and/or used simultaneously with their counterpart. But in all these cases there are more differences which can be identified more easily than is the case here.

I would be very pleased to hear if any copies printed from this plate with its missing numeral viz. 70 instead of normal 270, have been printed in Ortelius' time. Just check the bottom line longitude numbers of the copy you may have access to.

Meanwhile, a copy has turned up in the UK which fits this description with the missing 2 in the numeral 270. It has no text on verso. This means that in Ortelius’time, at least one print has been pulled with this plate.


Please mail me at with your findings.

Examples of two or more plates of the same area:
Ort29/30: Valentia were used simultaneously until 1602 but Ort30 is visibly more elegantly engraved and forms the large majority of copies printed;
Ort44/45: Caletensium/Veromanduorum, only used simultaneously in 1595; Ort44b Veromanduorum has South at the top, Ort45b has North at the top;
Ort61/62: Gelria, used simultaneously from 1579 to 1612, different ship in sea and ornaments in cartouche, further fairly close copies, Ort62 copies rare throughout the life time of this plate;
Ort70/71: Hannonia, used simultaneously from 1584 to 1612; lower left corner entirely different, Ort70 copies somewhat more numerous than Ort71 copies;
Ort75/76: Flandria, fairly similar but used consecutively, switch of plates in 1579;
Ort117/118: Italy, rather different, used consecutively, switch of plates in 1584 but Ort117 used again in 1641;
Ort152/153: Transilvania, used simultaneously in 1575 only, after that Ort118 only, rather different, different number of lines in right cartouche;
Ort154/155: Polonia, rather different, used simultaneously in 1595 only, after that Ort155 only;
Ort168/169: Turkey, fairly similar in geography but different cartouche, used simultaneously in 1579, after that Ort169 only;
Ort170/171/172: Palestina closely similar except for ships and lettering upper right, but used consecutively, Ort170 until 1579, Ort 171 until 1595, Ort172 until 1624;
Ort178/179: Geographia Sacra, geography similar but cartouches very different, very few copies of Ort178 in 1598 and 1601, all other editions have Ort179;
Ort182/183: Abraham, close copies, but background hachuring at different angle, used simultaneously throughout the period 1590-1624; copies of Ort183 are about four times as numerous as those of Ort182;
Ort194/196: Ancient France, entirely different, used simultaneously.
Ort197/198: Ancient Low countries, fairly similar, but different date, and used consecutively, switch of plates in 1595;
Ort199/200: Ancient Germany, close copies, only some region lettering different, used consecutively, Ort199 in 1590, Ort200 from 1591 onwards;
Ort204/205: Ancient Italy, geography fairly similar, cartouches very different, only used simultaneously in 1592 and 1595, after that Ort205 only;
Ort207/208: Ancient Tuscany, geography close copy, cartouches rather different, used consecutively, swith of plates in 1595.

Of all these cases, the two Americas plates discussed above match best with the Abraham maps in terms of similarity. But the Abraham maps have a different background hachuring, and somewhat better engraving in the medaillions for the late version. For the Americas plates discussed here, the only clear pointer is the lack or presence of a longitude number.

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