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 ‌Map of Ireland 'Hiberniae pars australis'

Map of Ireland 'Hiberniae pars australis' with a short history, in two parts

by Henricus [Hendrick] Hondius (1597-1651), altering an original design by Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594)  

from the Dublin Castle Archival Material Collection, DCA00101


These are two copper engraved and hand-coloured maps with outline hand colouring. Mercator's two-sheet map of Ireland was first published just after his death in 1595 and over the decades it was altered considerably by cartographers. For instance the original strapwork cartouche on the map of the southern half of Ireland was replaced with a new title and the hatchuring that filled the seas has been flattened (although it is still visible in places) and the ships and sea-monster on the northern sheet have removed. No attempt was made to actually  update the cartography but these changes were seen to improve the appearance of and modernise maps.

Mercator was famous as a globe maker as well as a very skilled skilled scientific-instrument maker. He also courted controversy by virtue of his beliefs (which he was very open about – that he could not reconcile the biblical account of the origin of the universe with that of Aristotle!) - and in 1544 he was arrested and imprisoned on a charge of heresy. Fortunately for him the university authorities of Leuven supported him and he was released.

In 1569 he became famous for the publication of a world map that he had composed using a 'projection suitable for navigation' the details of which he would not disclose. This is now known as the Mercator Projection or the Mercator Chart and was found to be ideal for nautical purposes. On this map the meridians of longitude were represented by equally spaced vertical lines and the circles or parallels of mapped to horizontal lines. The uneven spacing of the parallels compensated for the increasing exaggeration of the east-west distance between adjacent meridians at higher latitudes - this distance decreases on the Earth but remains the same on the chart.

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