Civitates Orbis Terrarum. G. BRAUN, F. HOGENBERG.
From the First City Atlas in its First Edition
Title Page.
[Cologne, 1572]

Civitates Orbis Terrarum.

14 ¾ x 8 ¾ inches. Superb hand color heightened with gold; Some marginal manuscript, else excellent.

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A beautiful example, in lush hand color heightened with gold, of the title page of the first edition of the first city atlas. Printed shortly after Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum,  the Braun & Hogenberg Civitates Orbis Terrarum capitalized on the same desire to see the world from one’s armchair that fueled the former work’s success without competing directly with it. Where Ortelius’ atlas portrayed the world in the form of maps, Braun & Hogenberg’s work focused on the world’s great cities, either in plans or in bird’s eye views.

The title page is richly decorated with allegorical figures. At top and center, a muse with mapmaking tools represents the discipline of geography. She is flanked by two pillars: one guarded by Minerva, (the patron goddess of craft) and the other by a Samson-figure, representing the man of action: “Opidor Auctor,” the builder of towns. Both pillars are portrayed as the support of all posterity. Vignettes at the bottom celebrate the origins of human cooperation, the finding of homes, and the dawn of architecture, all representing the genesis of man’s city-building, which the Civitaties Orbis Terrarum celebrated.

The printing strike of this example is bold and sharp, due to the youth of the copperplate at the time it was printed; in addition, the plans and views of Braun & Hogenberg’s first edition were printed on thicker, higher-quality paper than later editions.

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