Sunday, 19 February 2017

Iceland 1984 - Nordia Exhibition

Have you ever wondered when the first ever world atlas was published? And who undertook such a mammoth task? Well, the when will come later, but as to the who...? If you shouted out the name Abraham Ortelius, then you are right on the money.


Abraham Ortelius was born 14 April 1527 in the city of Antwerp, which at the time was in the Habsburg Netherlands. Ortelius began his career in 1547 as a map illuminator in Antwerp. He also traded books, maps, and prints. It was during one of his yearly trips to the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1554 that he met a man who would change the course of his life. That man was Gerardus Mercator, a cartographer, geographer, and cosmographer .The two men began travelling together, and during this time, Ortelius developed an interest in scientific geography. 

In 1564 Ortelius published his first map, a large eight-leaf map of the world. Over the next few years he went on to publish several other maps. It  is perhaps important to note that up until this time the compiling of maps into a single volume was only ever done on a made to order basis. Would it not be a good thing to have a collection of maps of the known world gathered together into one book that was more readily available? 

Ortelius seemed to think so. And that is just what he did. In 1570 he published Theatrum Orbis Terrarum "Theatre of the World". This was the first ever world atlas - that we know of, that is. The atlas comprised 53 maps from some 33 different cartographers. Ortelius had the maps printed to a standard size to fit in the book. He also added some notes to each map along with a reference to who originally made it. Incidentally, the world map he had published in 1564 also appeared in the atlas, but at a smaller scale.


On 6 June 1984 Iceland issued a special mini-sheet, featuring one of the maps found in Ortelius' atlas, for the Stamp Exhibition Norda '84, held in Reykjavik from 3-8 July. Czeslaw Slania was asked to engrave this important mini-sheet.

This mini-sheet is a stunning piece of art in its own right. It is loaded with exquisite details. details so minute, it boggles the mind. What I particularly like are the various monsters adorning the map.

The third enlarged image also reveals that individual names on the map can be clearly discerned. Most impressive!

Incidentally, this is not the first time Slania turned to the Ortelius atlas to create stamp art. He also utilized this very same map for one of the two designs in his 1975 Faroe Islands stamp set. Click HERE for my blog post dealing with that lovely set.

Until next time...

Stay Slania Crazy!

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