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BELGIUM – Flemish Region: Exactissima Flandriae Desciptio



A stunning example of a rare, separately issued map of the Flemish Region by Gerard de Jode, was coloured in the late 16th century in the style of the frescoes of the Gallery of Maps in Vatican.

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Copper engraved map sheet with full contemporary colour, with no text on verso, recently remounted upon a larger sheet of paper with added French lines in gilt and blue (Very Good, excellent original colour, map trimmed to neatline as it was once bound in a contemporary atlas factice), map proper: 36 x 48,5 cm (14.2 x 19 inches).

A detailed, original coloured separately issued map of the Flemish Region was made by Gerard de Jode.

This example, corresponding the 1578 state, was published separately without text on the back and bound in an atlas factice. It was originally coloured with a magnificent late 16th full hand colour, close to the frescoes of the Gallery of Maps in Vatican, which were made between 1580-1583.

Such colouring, which is more typical for the murals, and is seldom seen on works of paper. It is amongst the most decorative 16th century colouring we have encountered.


Separately Published Maps by de Jode

This is a separately issued edition without text on the back, corresponding to the state, published in 1578 atlas Speculum Orbis Terrarum by Gerard de Jode.

As most of the 1578 de Jode maps were issued with text on the back in an atlas, examples were also sold by the author separately without the text (Shirley, p. 51, no. 119; KOEMAN, Atlantes Neerlandici, vol. 2, p. 206). De Jode’s grand project to make an elaborate atlas was namely extremely costly, time consuming and unlucrative, and the author would, as it was normal at the time, sell maps separately on demand to pay his daily costs. Only a small number of atlases was actually sold.

The survival rate of de Jode’s separately published maps is extremely low due to their large format. They would, like our map, usually survive in privately composed atlases.

This map was contemporary coloured and mounted back to back with another map in an atlas factice. All the maps from this atlas fragment were trimmed to the neatline and re-margined in order to obtain equal sizes of sheets in the atlas. Such practice was common in the 16th century composite atlases.

The map has recently undergone professional restoration whereby it was removed from its contemporary backing and remounted upon a larger sheet of paper with added decorative French lines in gilt and blue.  The map’s stellar period colour and gilt highlights have been fully preserved.

Gerard de Jode

The De Jodes were highly skilled and innovative cartographers, although their impressive endeavours never met with financial success. Gerard de Jode, originally from Gelderland, found his calling as an engraver in Antwerp, then a premier global centre of publishing. In 1564, he notably engraved Abraham Ortelius’ cordiform wall map of the World. Shortly thereafter, he set about preparing his own atlas, but was beaten to the punch by Ortelius, who published his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), considered to be the first fully modern atlas of the entire known world.

Evidence suggest that Ortelius, a politically powerful man, ran interference on De Jode’s efforts to complete his atlas. He used his connections to ensure that De Jode’s application for an imperial privilege (the contemporary version of copyright protection) was severely delayed. Gerard De Jode eventually published his atlas in 1578, and while his maps are generally regarded to be of superior artistic merit and based on more progressive geographical sources than those of his rival, Ortelius’ opposition ensured that relatively few copies were issued.

Cornelis de Jode decided to continue his father’s work and to prepare a revised and enlarged edition of his atlas.


References:  KOEMAN, Atlantes Neerlandici, vol. 2 (Amsterdam, 1969), Jod 1 (63) – an example with text verso.

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