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YEAR 1614

This map is based either on Ortelius’s Islandia from 1590 or directly from the same sources as the Ortelius. The scale is 1:2,150,000. By this time Gerardus Mercator was dead, but his son Rumold had taken over his stock and shop and now published a collection of his father’s old maps along with 34 new ones, including Islandia. With this atlas, the Mercators were attempting to duplicate the tremendous success Ortelius had with his Teatrum. The collection was called Atlas sive cosmographicæ Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura and it was the first book of maps to formally use the word ‘atlas’ in the title.

While Ortelius is perhaps most revered for the beauty of his maps, rather than their accuracy, Mercator was said to put more emphasis on accuracy than appearance. His map is indeed more detailed when it comes to place names, with about 290 in total, about 40 more than the Ortelius map. What is clear is that the maps are so similar, in comparison to anything that existed before, that they cannot be independent inventions of a new shape for Iceland. These two cartographers are reported to have been friends, so a scenario of mutual influence is possible. At the same time, there are some notable differences, both in the shapes and the place names, so Mercator did use other sources as well. When it comes to the shape of the country, Mercator’s version is a bit more stretched from West to East, located 354°12−13’. The location N/S on Mercator’s map is between 64°30’ and 68° 6’, even further North than on Ortelius’ map. Mercator’s map is by no means without an artistic aesthetic. It has a creature in the sea, as well as a decorative cartouche for the title and a compass and scales in the lower left corner. Of course, one can’t forget the fire spewing volcano, Hekla. For some this might be decorative enough. He also scaled down the description on the map, opting instead to keep just some of the same text as Ortelius, including a note about the springs that change the color of wool. Additionally, there are no polar bears, driftwood or ice.

Technical data






Gerardus Mercator, Jodocus Hondius Sr.


Jodocus Hondius Sr.


28 × 43,5 cm.