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Cartographica Helvetica


Arthur Dürst:

The maps of Europe by Gerard Mercator, 1554–1595

Cartographica Helvetica 10 (1994) 3–19


Gerard Mercator was the most significant and important geographer and cartographer of the 16th century. He was born in Rupelmonde (Flanders) in 1511 and died 1594 in Duisburg, where he lived and worked for 42 years.

Gerard Mercator's map of Europe in 15 sheets was the first of his large-size wall maps. It was published in 1554 at Duisburg and it marked the beginning of a new era in mapmaking. Obviously such an extraordinary work became copied several times. One of the unauthorised copies was the map engraved by Duchetti and Forlani in 1571.

In 1569 Mercator published his World map, for which he used the so-called 'Mercator projection', which became famous through his introduction. This conformal cylinderical projection shows the meridians as parallel, vertical lines, which do not meet the poles. The distances between the parallels of latitude are increasing from the equator towards the poles. Therefore, the map is absolutely conformal, which is of great importance for navigation purposes.

In 1572 Mercator published a new map of Europe in the same scale (approx. 1:4.3 millions). In compare to the first edition, only the entire area of Scandinavia has been changed, otherwise there are only minor changes detectable. The various legends have been partly or completely revised. Up to now, there are only three specimen of this second map of Europe known: Öffentliche Bibliothek der Universität Basel, Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek Weimar, Biblioteca Augusta Perugia.

Bibliographic note

  • Also published as: Die Europa-Karte von Gerard Mercator, 1572. Murten, 1998. (Cartographica Helvetica Sonderheft 14).

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