Collection Index :

Introduction to the

Cartographers in the

Collections & Interests - Cartographers

Collection of Antique Prints and Engravings (16thc – 19th c) Central Eastern Europe

Habsburg Empire, Russian Empire, Ottoman Empire ( Turkey in Europe)
the Principalities of Transylvania, Moldavia & Wallachia (present-day Romania

Brief Biographies of some of the more famous Cartographers in this Collection.

"The finest Dutch map publishers were the Blaeu family, and they hold the title of mapmakers supreme for any period of cartographical history." (R.Baynton-Williams, Investing in Maps).

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) was the founder of the publishing house and established the fine reputation of Blaeu maps. Originally specializing in sea charts, he published his first world atlas, the Atlantis Appendix in 1630, based around the printing plates he had acquired from Jodocus Hondius Jr.’s stock. In 1634 he commenced publication of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Novus Atlas. On his death he was succeeded by his son Johannes (1596-1673) who "aimed at the full description of heaven, earth and water" (Koeman, Atlantes Neerlandici).

Blaeu maps are renowned for the consummate care and attention apparent in every stage of production - using only the best paper with finely engraved plates and a high standard of printing.


Georg Braun (1541-1622) and Frans Hogenberg (1535-1590) were co-publishers of the monumental Civitates Orbis Terrarum, "the earliest systematic city atlas" (Koeman), published from 1572 onwards. Designed as a companion to Ortelius’ world atlas the Theatrum, this enormous work, which was expanded to incorporate over 500 plans and views, must be viewed as one of the most ambitious book producing ventures of all time, and certainly, with Ortelius’ Theatrum and Blaeu’s Atlas Maior among the greatest achievements in the history of cartography.

Braun compiled the accompanying text, printed on the reverse, while the plans were engraved by Hogenberg, who had also prepared the maps of Ortelius’ Theatrum. Hogenberg used generally up-to-date and accurate maps, surveys and reports to compile this collection of plans and bird’s-eye views of all the major towns of Europe, and a smaller number of towns outside Europe. One of the major contributors was Georg (or Joris) Hoefnagel, who supplied some 63 manuscript drawings, the vast majority from personal observation.

It is to Hogenberg’s credit that, despite the many different sources from which this vast collection of plans was assembled, he managed to create a sense of uniformity among the completed engravings. While this has much to do with his own style, he also relied on a standard formula, inserting appropriate coats of arms and, in the foreground, attractive drawings of inhabitants of the region, in local costume.


William Faden (1750-1836) was perhaps the leading English map-maker and publisher of the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and early years of the nineteenth century.

Faden’s career began when he entered into partnership with Thomas Jefferys in 1771. Jefferys was the leading English publisher of the third quarter of the eighteenth century. The main strengths of Jefferys’ business were in large scale maps of the English counties, and maps of the British colonies abroad. In many cases, Jefferys acted, in an unofficial capacity, as map-maker to the various branches of the British Government, including the Colonial Office, and Geographer to King George III. Consequently, his maps were often based on the most up-to-date and accurate survey work available, hence their great importance.

Following Jefferys’ death the same year, Faden continued the business, proving himself to be Jefferys’ equal as a map-maker, and more astute as a business man. In turn, Faden was appointed Geographer to George III. Faden made his name during the American War of Independence, when he published numbers of maps of the individual colonies, the general theatres of war, and plans of the major battles.


Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612) was a foremost map engraver of his day; he worked for many Dutch publishers, and was employed by the English map and print-sellers, Sudbury and Humble, to engrave the maps for John Speed’s The Theatre of The Empire of Great Britaine, published in 1612.

In 1604, Hondius bought the copperplates of Mercator’s Atlas at the auction of Gerard Jr.’s effects. He added another forty maps, including new maps of the Continents and important regional maps of the Americas, before publishing a new edition of the Atlas, in 1606, in competition with Ortelius’ Theatrum. As many of the maps were more up-to-date, the Mercator-Hondius Atlas effectively superseded Ortelius’ Theatrum.

On his death in 1612 his widow, Coletta van den Keere continued the business; from 1619 onwards their son Henry (II) (1597-1651) took over. From 1633 publication was carried on in co-operation with Jan Jansson Jr., Henry’s brother-in-law.


Jan Jansson Jr. (1588-1664) was the son of a bookseller and publisher who had worked with Jodocus Hondius Sr. He married Jodocus’ daughter Elisabeth in 1612. From about 1633 onwards, his imprint appears on the title pages of the Mercator-Hondius Atlas, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Henry, as they re-issued their Atlas in competition with the Blaeus. At this time, many of the maps were re-drawn or replaced.

Following Henry’s death, Jansson continued the business, expanding the Atlas into the Atlas Novus "this was a magnificent work and would, at any other period, have been the highlight of a nation’s map production but for the work of the Blaeu family". (Potter, Antique Maps, p.39).

Jansson also issued a revised reprint of Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, retaining many of the existing plates, but also adding a number of new ones. Other atlases that he published include Andreas Cellarius’ celestial atlas and George Hornius’ classical atlas. In the latter there are two maps of particular note - a seven sheet map of Palestine and the Peutinger table of Roman Roads.

The DE L’ISLE Family

Claude De L’Isle (1644-1720) was a geographer and historian, working in Paris, but overshadowed by his more famous son, Guillaume.

Guillaume De L’Isle, (1675-1726) Premier Geographe to the French king, was probably the leading map-maker of the period. His work was important as marking a transition from the maps of the Dutch school, which were highly decorative and artistically-orientated, to a more scientific approach, which reduced the importance given to the decorative elements, and emphasized the scientific base on which their maps were constructed, out of which the modern school of cartography emerged. He was prominent in the recalculation of latitude and longitude, based on the most up-to-date celestial observations, and his major contribution was in collating and incorporating this information in his maps, setting a new standard of accuracy, quickly followed by many of his contemporaries, including the Dutch firm of Covens and Mortier.

Having learnt geography from his father, it is said that at the age of eight or nine he could draw maps to demonstrate ancient history. He studied mathematics and astronomy under J.D. Cassini, where he received the grounding in scientific cartography, that is the hallmark of his work.

His first atlas was published in about 1700, in 1702 he was elected a member of the Academie Royale des Sciences, and in 1718 became Premier Geographe du Roi. His maps of the newly explored parts of the world reflect the most up-to-date information available and did not contain fanciful detail in the absence of solid information.
After his death in 1726 his business was continued by his nephew Philippe Buache, and subsequently by J. Dezauche.

Joseph Nicholas De L’Isle (1688-1768), Guillaume’s brother, became a friend of Peter the Great and supplied him with information on the Russian Empire. He stayed in Russia for twenty-two years and was in charge of the Royal Observatory in St. Petersburg, returning to France in 1747, taking with him much of the material he had access to, particularly relating to explorations along the northern Pacific coasts of Russia and America, which he subsequently published. The Atlas Russicus was published in 1747 and contained twenty maps.

Simon Claude De L’Isle (1675-1726) was a historian. It is curious to note that he was born and died in the same years as his elder brother Guillaume.


Herman Moll (d.1732) came to London in about 1678 and worked as an engraver for other publishers, such as Moses Pitt, Greenville Collins. John Adair, and Seller & Price, but soon set up his own business publishing atlases and also separate maps of all parts of the world. His work was varied, ranging from miniature maps to large very decorative wall maps. The first maps engraved by Moll in his own right were prepared for the atlas volume accompanying Sir Jonas Moore’s New System Of The Mathematicks ..., in which he began to develop his characteristic engraving style.
Maps in Moll’s large folio atlas, The World Described are clearly printed with large cartouches, enclosing the title and dedication and often with large vignettes. This atlas contained one of the largest world maps of the early eighteenth century to appear in atlas form. Published in 1724 the map is somewhat outdated (despite its author’s claims), showing California as an Island long after the French maps of around 1700 had depicted it as a peninsula. Perhaps his most famous map is the New and Exact Map of the Dominions of the King of Great Britain on ye Continent of North America, depicting the English colonies along the east coast. The map is more popularly called the "Beaver Map", after the attractive vignette scene showing beavers building dams.

Jonathan Swift, it is said, referred to Moll’s maps in the writing of Gulliver’s Travels, thereby adding greater credibility to his story by ensuring the location of the islands visited by Gulliver could not be disputed.
Moll’s other works include the Atlas Manuale (1709), New and Complete Atlas (1719), the Atlas Minor (1729) and Atlas Geographus (1711-17) in five volumes.

Moll also published a fine series of county maps, in the New Description of England, published in 1724. The maps are famous for their side panels with drawings of architectural remains from the counties. His work was much copied by other publishers and he enjoyed a high reputation.


Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) and his sisters became map illuminators and colourists following the death of their father. He dabbled in buying and selling general antiques and from 1558 onwards is recorded as purchasing multiple copies of maps in order to colour them while building up a large personal collection.

From about 1560, possibly as a result of his friendship with Mercator, Ortelius began to produce maps and work on preparing his greatest project the first systematic ‘modern’ atlas.

The Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, first published in 1570, achieved instant fame as "the world’s first regularly produced atlas" (Skelton), being the first atlas with maps prepared to a uniform format. It was an immediate commercial success and frequently reprinted up to 1612, with many of the maps re-engraved and up-dated, and new maps added so that later editions contained up to 163 map sheets.

The maps themselves are finely engraved, often very decorative and generally found with text on the reverse.


Claudius Ptolemy (87-150) was an Egyptian mathematician, astronomer, and geographer who lived and studied in Alexandria, the home of one of the greatest libraries of any period and an important trade centre. Here he was able not only to study ancient authorities but also consult contemporary travellers and merchants. From this wealth of accumulated knowledge, Ptolemy composed his Geographia, a work of considerable genius, which "dominated the whole of the Christian and Moslem world for 1,500 years" (Tooley, Maps, p.5).

Ptolemy introduced the concept of latitude and longitude to form a grid covering the world, making it possible to plot the position of principal land-marks by observations and fill in other information from other available sources.
Unfortunately Ptolemy was hampered by the paucity of observations, which resulted in some exaggerated coastlines, and by lack of information, which was often circumvented by invention. Despite these flaws, the work was of fundamental importance and earned its compiler the reputation and accolade of being "the father of geography" (Tooley, Dictionary, p. 521).

In 1477, the first printed edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia with maps was issued in Bologna. Testimony to the influence of Ptolemy is given by the number of editions of Ptolemaic atlases that were subsequently published even as late as 1840.


Justly called "the Father of English Cartography", Christopher Saxton (ca.1542-1606) compiled the first printed atlas of England and Wales, one of the earliest printed national atlases of any country. More remarkable is that the atlas was compiled from completely new and original survey work, carried out by Saxton himself, between about 1573 and 1578. The maps were engraved and probably sold, as they were available, while the completed atlas was issued from 1579 onwards. The atlas contained a general map, and 34 maps of the counties. Unfortunately, unlike later map-makers, Saxton often combined two or more counties in one map, without any apparent reason. For example, the Welsh county of Pembroke was given separate coverage, while the counties of Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Middlesex were all combined onto one sheet, at a vastly reduced scale. Saxton’s maps were used as sources by many later map-makers, including Kip and Hole’s maps for Camden’s Britannia (1607), and by John Speed (1611-2). Indirectly, their influence lasted into the 1750’s, finally being ended by the Bowen and Kitchin maps from the Large English Atlas. Directly, however, the original plates continued in use into the 1760’s, much revised by subsequent owners, but fundamentally the same maps. The most commonly encountered re-issues are those by Philip Lea, circa 1689 and circa 1694, and by George Willdey, circa 1732. The main difference between the original issues and Lea’s examples are the additions of town plans in blank areas of the map, and roads, extra names and other details within the maps themselves.


John Speed (1552-1629) is the most famous of all English cartographers primarily as a result of The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, the first atlas of the British Isles. The individual maps are the best known and most sought-after of all county maps. They were derived from the best up-to-date sources available; however, Speed did make innovations - introducing town plans, county boundaries, and embellishments such as the coats of arms of local Earls, Dukes, and the Royal Household. The overall effect is to produce very decorative, attractive and informative maps. Speed was also responsible for the first world atlas by an Englishman, The Prospect of the Most Famous Parts of the World (1627). The maps are famed for their borders consisting of local inhabitants in national costume and panoramic vignette views of major cities and towns. An added feature is that regular atlas copies have English text printed on the reverse, giving a charming description of life in the early seventeenth century of the region.

Little is known of Speed's personal life other than that he was born in 1552 the son of a Cheshire tailor who devoted his time to map making. In 1598 he was found a post in the Customs where, with Royal patronage, he was subsidized in map making. Through his work he became a member of such learned societies as the Society of Antiquaries and associated with the likes of William Camden Robert Cotton and William Lambarde. He died in 1629 at the age of seventy-seven.


Among the many great Dutch map publishers active in the seventeenth century were the Visscher family, begun by Claes Jansz Visscher (1587-1652) and continued by his son Nicolaas (1618-1679), grandson Nicolaas II (1649-1702) and then by his grandson’s widow, Elizabeth until her death in 1726.

Although mainly art dealers, the Visschers were prolific publishers, producing individual maps and also atlases made up to their customers’ specifications. Indeed, they are commonly regarded as second only to the Blaeus among Dutch map-makers for the high quality of engraving and decoration and the geographical accuracy of their many maps. Particularly outstanding - not only as maps but as works of art - are their world maps.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

References quoted:

Baynton-Williams (R.), Investing in Maps, 1969.
Koeman (C.), Atlantes Neerlandici, 1967.
Potter (J.), Country Life Book of Antique Maps, 1988.
Tooley (R.V.), Dictionary of Mapmakers, 1979.
Tooley (R.V.), Maps and Mapmakers, 1949.
Skelton (R.A.), County Atlases, 1964
Home Page Collecting The Gallery News & Fairs Travel Books Reference Books Spotlight Catalogue Globes.

Constantin Roman © 2001. All Rights Reserved.
Designed & Maintained by
Delamain Creativity.