Moraviae, qvae olim Marcomannorvm sedes, corographia

Dublin Core


Moraviae, qvae olim Marcomannorvm sedes, corographia


Moravia (Czech Republic)


“Moraviae, quae olim marcomannorum sedes” is a map of Moravia created by Abraham Ortelius in 1592. It is believed to have been originally published in Antwerp as part of Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas. Moravia, located in present day Czech Republic, is depicted centrally in the map and is surrounded by parts of the Kingdom Bohemia to the west (present day Germany), Hungary to the east, Silesia (present day Poland) to the north, and Austria to the south. Along with major cities such as Brno, the map also contains a legend which highlights towns, villages, monasteries, and castles. Rivers, forests, and hills constitute the geophysical features included on the map.

Along with geographic information, the map offers insight into the ornate cartographic practices of the day. It is written in Latin and the bottom right hand corner includes a scale which appears to be disguised as a crest upon first glance. Every town or city is drawn with a not-to-scale representation of its central fortress or castle. Though not useful for modern navigation, the hand-drawn and coloured map is quite accurate compared to other 16th century maps of parts of the world that were not as well known to map makers.


Ortelius, Abraham






Elysia Martini


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


Full-sized digital item can be found in McMaster's Digital Archive at:


Printed map, on sheet 43 x 54 cm, hand coloured








Europe--Czech Republic--Moravia

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Printed map

Physical Dimensions

43 x 54 cm

Contributor's Research

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum: The First of its Kind
Abraham Ortelius’ main claim to fame is no small matter—he is credited as the maker of the first modern atlas. His atlas, titled Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, was first published in Antwerp in 1570 and went through numerous revisions and translations until his death in 1598 (Van Den Broecke 15). The map of Moravia which generated the research question for this write up was included in one of the later editions. Though not accurate by modern standards, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum is considered the first atlas because it marks the first collection of uniform map sheets bound in a book format (Koks). While examining the map assigned to me in class, I was struck by how much detail was included. The map was almost entirely filled up with the names of villages, towns and fortresses. When I discovered that this map was part of a larger body of work that supposedly covered the entire globe, I immediately wondered at how such detail could be replicated for other, less well known parts of the world. The rest of this write up examines the accuracy and detail of the remainder of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum and how Ortelius was able to construct an atlas of the world in the first place.
While looking up the images of the other maps included in the first atlas, I was not surprised to see that they were not nearly as accurate or detailed as the map of Moravia. The comparisons are not even close. During the georectification assignment I saw that major cities such as Brno and Olomouc were quite close to their present day locations. On the contrary, the maps of places outside of the European continent are completely inaccurate. The map of North America, for example, can only be accurately described as a blob. Northern and western regions in particular are neglected and distorted. While there exists a discrepancy in accuracy for some parts of the world, there is evidently also a discrepancy in quantity between the number of maps of Europe and the number of maps of the rest of the world. For example, there are more than twenty maps of Germany alone, while fewer than ten of Africa, and fewer still of North America. While dozens of towns in Moravia are mapped with some accuracy, out of the entire North American continent, only Florida and Mexico are included. The discrepancy in accuracy and quantity of maps of the rest of the world compared to maps of Europe is likely a result of European cartographers’ lack of exploration and knowledge of lands beyond Europe at the time.
It is evident that much of the world was neglected in the publication of the first atlas. However, I do not feel that this diminishes the accomplishment of Ortelius, as the lack of accuracy was not due to any lack of care on his part, but rather a universal ignorance of the geography of the world outside of Europe among his peers. I am more impressed that he included these maps at all. The question that puzzled me was how one man could manage to map every continent in an era before satellites and easy means of transportation. The answer, I discovered, was simple—he had help. Although credited as the maker of the first atlas, I believe “compiler” would be more accurate. Many of the maps in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum come from the work of other cartographers from various sources that Ortelius compiled in a uniform size and format (Swaen). For example, the aforementioned map of Florida is originally credited to Geronimo de Chaves, who himself based it off a map from another cartographer (Ven den Broecke). Altogether, Ortelius’ 1570 publication of the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum contained a list of 87 map authors and more were added to each subsequent edition (Swaen). Along with compiling the first atlas, Ortelius is also one of the “fathers of the footnote” in Western writing, as he meticulously kept track of all the outside sources of the maps in his Theatrum (Van Den Broecke). Many of these sources would have been lost in history if not for being referenced in Ortelius’ work (Van Den Broecke). It appears that the quest for the first atlas was not a solitary endeavor and the mapping of the world was much too big a job for one person to complete on his own.
Although Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was not the most accurate or detailed of atlases, it was the first, which is a mighty accomplishment on its own. Much of the credit for creating this body of work rightfully belongs to Ortelius, a prolific cartographer and geographer in his own right, however it is evident by citations from Ortelius himself that mapping the world involved contributions from many other sources. Despite gross inaccuracies in lesser explored regions, the atlas is surprisingly accurate in its representation of the European continent, including the map of Moravia found in the Map Library.

Works Cited
Koks, Frans. ""Ortelius Atlas."" Ortelius Atlas. Library of Congress. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Swaen, Paulus. ""Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.” 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Van Den Broecke, Marcel. ""Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570-1641) Characteristics and Development of a Sample of on Verso Map Texts."" Netherlands Geographical Studies 126.2 (2011)"


Ortelius, Abraham, “Moraviae, qvae olim Marcomannorvm sedes, corographia,” Omeka Testbed, accessed September 26, 2017,