The man behind the modern day Atlas-Abraham Ortelius
More than 400 years ago, it was on May 20, 1570 when the world’s first modern atlas titled “Theatrum Orbis Terrarum” (Theatre of the world) was published. Today’s Google Doodle remembers the man who created the atlas – Abraham Ortelius.
An atlas is an aggregation of many maps and the one created by Ortelius, born in Antwerp, Belgium, on April 4 1527, recorded the first evidence of someone imagining the phenomenon of continental drift – the theory that suggests the continents, as we know them today, were joined together before drifting apart to their present day positions. His atlas brought geographical maps together, gathering them all in the same format.
The atlas that had 53 maps in its first edition was all the more significant in 16th century when world maps helped in showing discoveries, as well as communicating the presumed shape of the world. The last edition of the atlas with 167 maps was published in 1622.
Paying tribute to Ortelius in an animated doodle, Google remembers him as “one of the first cartographers to consistently add sources and names to the creators of the original maps.”
His cartographic innovation “helped give all a truly global view,” says Google.
Remembered as a humanist, Ortelius could speak several languages right from the childhood including Dutch, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, Spanish and also some German and English. He studied classical literature and history, and kept up with the evolution of science.
Ortelius, like his sisters, earned his living working as a ‘kaartafzetter’ and specialised in coloring illustrations and maps. This was the most important source of income in his life. He was also a passionate collector of antiques, coins, maps and books and it is believed that at one point, his collection became so huge that he had to move to a larger house.
An avid traveller, Ortelius explored Italy, France, Netherland and Ireland, among other places, and it was one of the journeys with a cartographer, Gerard Mercator, that inspired to start producing his own maps.
His very first maps were maps of Egypt, the Holy Land, Asia, Spain and the Roman Empire. Fascinated by the discoveries in America, Asia and Africa, in 1587, he published a map titled “America or the New World, a new description.”