THE FIRST LATIN EDITION OF BLAEU’S THEATRUM, 1635
BLAEU, WILLEM JANZ
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Sive Atlas Novus.
Two volumes, with 105 of 107 black and white maps (lacking the maps of the world and New England (“Nova Belgica”). Gilt-stamped publisher’s vellum, rubbed and soiled, binding for vol. 2 partially detached. Vol. I: The maps of Europe, Asia and Africa with some repairs, splits or creasing to lower margin; the remaining maps in generally very good condition. Vol. II: Very light water staining to the first few maps (generally confined to margins), a few maps lightly browned, the map of the Elbe loose, but present. The maps are otherwise in very good condition. Ex-library.
This is the first Latin edition of Willem Janz. Blaeu’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, or Novus Atlas, Amsterdam, 1635. The firm of Blaeu was the most famous cartographic publishing house of the seventeenth century. They were the originators of the unprecedented and stupendous concept of the encyclopedic world atlas, for which the Theatrum marks the first step. It was the first multi-volume atlas published by the firm of Blaeu, with the largest number of maps to be found in any atlas to its time.
Willem Blaeu studied astronomy under Tycho Brahe, and subsequently settled in Amsterdam in 1598. At first Blaeu limited himself to the production of globes, instruments, pilot guides, and separately-issued maps. In 1630, in order to compete more successfully with the rival House of Hondius, which had hitherto dominated the market, Willem Blaeu published his first land atlas, the Atlas Appendix, with 60 maps. With this publication began a new trend in Amsterdam atlas production, characterized by competition and a continual increase in the number of maps. The Atlas Appendix was followed in 1635 by the Theatrum (207 or 208 maps), published in four languages, of which this first Latin edition was the second to appear. By 1655 the Theatrum had grown to six volumes, with 400 maps. It was soon superceded by the Atlas Maior, 1662, with 594 maps in eleven volumes, the largest and most expensive book published in the seventeenth century.
The atlas contains a number of highly important maps, including those for China, Japan and Southeast Asia. The latter is “one of the first printed maps to show part of Australia” (Schilder). In addition there is a suite of maps of America that includes Blaeu’s famous map of Virginia, one of the earliest derivatives of Capt. John Smith’s map of that area.
Inventory No. 13493