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Abraham Ortelius
Maris Pacifici


Audio Tour: About Ortelius

One of the most important maps appearing in Ortelius’s popular atlases, this was the first map devoted to the Pacific Ocean, the discovery of which is memorialized by the depiction, with the legend, of Ferdinand Magellan’s flagship Victoria.

This map quite accurately depicts Nova Hispania (Mexico) and the California peninsula. The west coast of America is, however, elongated, with a bulge along the 40˚ N latitude (just north of San Francisco Bay). Nevertheless, many of the place-names from Cabrillo’s voyage of 1542–1544 are shown along the coast, including Cape Mendocino and Cape de San Francisco. Quivira is shown to the northeast of Cape Mendocino. Japan is moved further west closer to the coast of the Asian continent. Note the depiction, in the upper left corner of the map, of the Great Wall of China (as reported four hundred years previously by Marco Polo, who even at this date was believed to have been the only European to have seen it).

Maris Pacifici suggests a large continent in the Southern Hemisphere. This assumption, widely held at the time, results from calculations of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere and the theory that there must be an equivalent mass and weight in the South in order to balance the earth on its axis.