The great Mercator-Hondius-Atlas

2 volumes with all 239 copper engraved maps

This is a rare, complete, very well preserved edition in French of the famous Mercator-Hondius-Atlas in 2 volumes. It contains 239 copper engraved maps (127 in the first and 112 in the second volume).

Gerhard Mercator

Gerard Mercator, actually Gerard De Kremer, Latin: Gerardus Mercator (1512 at Rupelmonde, Flanders – 1594 at Duisburg) was a Flemish mathematician, geographer, philosopher and cartographer. He was already regarded during his own lifetime as the Ptolemy of his time .

Mercator first studied at Louvain before he privately dedicated himself to philosophy, cosmography and magic. From 1535 on he also dealt with mathematics and its practical application possibilities. He started to produce mathematical instruments, globes and maps. In 1537 he created his first map titled Amplissima Terrae Sanctae descriptio ad utriusque Testamenti intelligentiam, a six leaf wall map of the Holy Land.

In 1544 Mercator was accused of heresy and became imprisoned for several months.
In 1552 he moved with his family from Louvain to Duisburg.
After 16 years of preparation, in 1554 Mercator published Europae Descriptio, a 15 leaf wall map of Europe which is considered a milestone in the history of cartography as for the first time it depicted the European countries in their exact position towards each other.

A yet greater masterpiece of Mercator was the map Nova et aucta orbis terræ descriptio… which was published in 1569 after 30 years of work. This 21 leaf world map with a size of 134 x 212 cm was the first world map for which an isogonic cylindrical projection had been used, allowing a depiction of the accurate direction and shape of the areas shown. This kind of map production later became known as Mercator Projection.

Altogether Mercator created 74 maps. Few months after his death, in 1595 his son Rumold and his grandchildren published his complete work naming it as Mercator still had determined Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (Atlas or cosmographic mediations on the creation of the world and the form of creation). They added 33 maps, partly own ones, partly maps which Mercator had not been able to finish any more.

After a second edition of the atlas in 1602, the copper plates were bequeathed to Gerard (II) Mercator (about 1563 – 1627) who sold them to Jodocus Hondius at Amsterdam in 1604.

Jodocus Hondius

Jodocus Hondius (1563 Wakken, Flanders — 1612 Amsterdam) was a Flemish artist, engraver and cartographer.

He started to learn the art of engraving at the age of eight as an autodidact. Aged twenty, Hondius emigrated to London where he created his first maps at the end of the 1580ies. His maps of England (1590) and France (1591) marked the beginning of a new style of map design with richly ornate margins.

In 1593 Hondius moved to Amsterdam where he established his publishing house. At the beginning mainly cartographic single works were published there.

However, the great breakthrough for Hondius as publisher was in 1606, when he published the Mercator atlas whose copper plates he had bought in 1604.

Hondius’ Mercator edition which was extended by 36 new maps was a big success. Up to 1636, numerous editions appeared in Latin, French, German, Dutch and English, enlarged by new maps. Due to the successful publication of the Meractor Hondius Altas, Amsterdam was established as a centre of cartography.

A reduced version was published in 1607 as Atlas Minor which became also reprinted in several editions.

After Hondius’ death (1612), the publishing house was continued by his sons Jodocus H. the younger and Henricus as well as his son-in-law Johann Janssonius.