In the 23 years that I have worked at History Colorado, there have been times when I have come across objects in our collection that take my breath away. The map shown here is an example of those experiences. It is a reprint from the 1630 French edition of the famous Mercator-Hondius Atlas. The map shows portions of the northwest and central sections of present-day Mexico. You just never know what you'll find when you open up one of our map cases!
The original Mercator-Hondius Atlas has a fascinating history. Gerhard Mercator was born Gerard de Cremer in 1512 in the town of Rupelmonde in present-day Belgium. While a student at the University of Leuven, he took courses in mathematics and became an expert in the burgeoning trade of land surveying. In 1537 he trained as a cartographer. Over the next fifty years he worked mainly as a cartographer, and by the time of his death in 1594 he had produced an atlas of the known world.
Mercator's work unfortunately languished in obscurity during his lifetime. But after his death, as the exploration of the New World increased, interest in--and the use of--Mercator's maps was revived. Jodocus Hondius, a Flemish engraver, purchased the Mercator plates in 1604 from Mercator's grandson. Hondius published Mercator's work in 1606 together with 36 new maps. The new atlas was a great success, and catapulted Mercator into the first rank of cartography. The famous Mercator-Hondius Atlas went through numerous reprintings. The map you see here was from one of those reprints.
One of the most amazing features of this map is the decorative border. The colorful artistic elements are one of the most attractive features of Dutch maps from this time period. What I like most about this map is the sea monster found in the lower left portion. How cool is that?!
How this map came to History Colorado is unknown. It is one of a number of maps that have "Willard Collection" penciled on the back. Members of our Collection Management staff are carefully going through the old accession ledgers and other resources in their possession to determine who donated the maps to us.
Cataloger, Stephen H. Hart Library & Research Center
"Hispaniae Novae Nova Descriptio" Map, R.109.2006.45
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Stephen H. Hart Library and Research Center
History Colorado Center
Denver, CO 80203