Romani Imperii Imago

Method Copper engraved with early hand colour
Artist Ortelius, Abraham
Published Cum Gratia et Privilegio [Antwerp, 1598]
Dimensions 344 x 495 mm
Notes A map of the ancient Roman world, with particular reference to its divisions during the height of the Roman imperial period, from the 1598 French Parergon (Supplement) of Ortelius' famous Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. The borders of the Roman world are outlined in beautiful hand colour, and principal cities are picked out in red. Each region is given its Roman title, and place names are rendered in Latin. The notable exception to this rule is Britain, here labelled with its Ptolemaic title 'Albion', rather than the expected Roman 'Britannia.' Ireland, by contrast, is still labelled as Hibernia, rather than the Ptolemaic 'Ierne.' The map is further annotated with individual descriptive texts. The River Tanais, in Sarmatia, is described as the geographic division between Europa and Asia, while the Dacian capital of Sarmizegetusa Regia features a note about the defeat of King Decebalus and the refounding of the city by the conquering Trajan. In the extreme north east of the map, the empty expanse of the Eurasian steppe is filled with a large poetic text drawn from Vitruvius, describing how the Roman people, given their favourable geographic position, have come to rule the whole world. Uncharacteristically for Ortelius, his reference to Book 8 is incorrect, the famous passage instead being found in Book 6. The rest of the map, however, is a masterpiece of classical philology. A decorative strapwork cartouche at bottom centre, crested by a lion's head, describes the early history of Rome in the Regal Period, with reference to Livy, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Plutarch. A genealogy of these early kings, from Romulus to Tarquin the Proud, is featured in the bottom right corner, surmounted by a depiction of the famous She-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus. In the bottom left corner, a boxed text describes Rome's rise, from a small city-state in central Italy to the undisputed ruler of the Mediterranean Basin. The map is completed by a set of three strapwork cartouches at top, enclosing the title and a pair of portrait busts of the goddess Roma and the hero Romulus.

The Parergon ('Supplement') was, as the title suggests, originally conceived of as a supplement to Ortelius' Theatrum. The work, a massive and intricately researched index of the classical world, was accompanied by a series of ancient world maps. Unlike the maps of the Theatrum, the majority of which were reductions of earlier maps, the maps of the Parergon were researched and drawn by Ortelius himself. The work was a huge commercial success, and the maps themselves set the standard for ancient world maps for the duration of the seventeenth century, being reproduced or reprinted by various publishers after Ortelius' final 1624 printing. His interest in the mapping of the ancient world is manifest. The maps of the Parergon are a veritable mine of textual commentary and classical philology, drawing upon Ptolemy, Strabo, Pliny, and many others. Interestingly, the project seems to have been a labour of love, rather than a mercantile venture. Ortelius himself was fascinated with the ancient world, and a formidable classical scholar in his own right. In addition to his work as a cartographer, he dealt in antiquities, visited and surveyed ancient sites across Europe, published a critical edition of Caesar's Gallic Wars in 1593, and assisted Welser in his studies of the famous Tabula Peutingeriana in 1598, producing an engraved copy of the map that can be found in later editions of the Parergon.

Abraham Ortelius (1527 -1598) was a Flemish cartographer, cosmographer, geographer and publisher and a contemporary of Gerard Mercator, with whom he travelled through Italy and France. Although it is Mercator who first used the word "Atlas" as a name for a collection of maps, it is Ortelius who is remembered as the creator of the first modern atlas. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was the first systematically collated set of maps by different map makers in a uniform format. Three Latin editions as well as a Dutch, French and German edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum were published by 1572 and a further 25 editions printed before Ortelius' death in 1598. Several more were subsequently printed until around 1612. Ortelius is said to have been the first person to pose the question of the continents once being a single land mass before separating into their current positions.

Condition: Central vertical fold as issued. Old framers tape staining to top margin, and to margins on verso, not affecting plate or map. Early colour. French text on verso.
Framing unmounted
Price £1,600.00
Stock ID 47841