MAPS ARE MUCH too important to be left to geographers and travellers. For centuries they were left to them, and treasures of incalculable value were lost as a result. We have stories of the great globe constructed by Crates of Mallus around 140 BC, descriptions of the maps that Ptolemy of Alexandria may or may not have drawn during the second century AD, and copies of the great medieval map of the world that was discovered in Ebstorf, in Germany, in the nineteenth century and destroyed by Allied bombers in the twentieth; but none of the originals has survived. The history of cartography is the frustrating study of what is left behind.
The sixteenth century, when map-makers were charting the greatest expansion in geographical knowledge in the history of the world, was a time that called for a man with the passions of a collector, the insight of a publisher, and the ambition of an entrepreneur. Abraham Ortelius qualified on all three