Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2014
Winifred E. Newman
Space and/or Place in Early Atlases
Abraham Ortelius and Gerhard Mercator respectively assembled two of the earliest and most influential map collections in the western world. Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570) and Mercator’s Atlas sive Cosmographicae (1585) exemplify the emerging drive in the six teenth century toward collecting and communicating ever-increasing knowl edge about the natural world. However, on close examination the two collections bear as many differences as similarities. This paper addresses these differences and suggests that a comparison between their schemas reveals that the distinctions between Ptolemy’s geography, as a
description of place, and cosmography, as the construction of space, are two different forms of knowledge in early modern science.