Ireland – Eryn. Hiberniae, Britannicae Insulae, Nova Descriptio Irlandt

by Abraham Ortelius

A superb map


Date of first edition: 1573

Date of this map: 1601

Dimensions (not including margins):  35,5  x 48,5 cm

Dimensions (including margins): 46,5  56, 3 cm

Condition: Good. Sharp copper engraving printed on strong paper. Centre fold is as published. Original colouring. Slight age-toning. Wide margins. Small right side tear.

Condition rating: A

Verso: text in Latin

Map reference: Van der Krogt 3, 5900, 31A;  Van den Broecke 22.3

From: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum



Item number:
British Isles
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Our commentary

HIBERNIA, ERYN, IRELANDT… or just IRELAND is a nice place to visit.

Although the remote origin of the name Hibernia is Greek, it is well-known that Tacitus also referred to Hibernia in his work “Agricola”. Since then this term became common knowledge. Other denominations are mentioned at the top and at the bottom of the cartouche: Eryn and Irlandt.

This map shows the historical division of the isle, dating back to the Viking age when the island was divided into 4 sections: Langinia (Leinster), Hultonia (Ulster), Connacia (Connacht/Connaught) and Mononia (Munster). At independence in 1921/1922, the Ulster lost some territory in the South to Leinster and in the West to Connaught. Both larger lakes in the North are currently part of Northern Ireland. In the context of the constitutional separation of the island, the aforementioned subdivisions play no political importance anymore: the Republic of Ireland is divided into 30 administrative regions.

In the right bottom corner Ortelius shows some southern parts of nearby Scotland. Unfortunately Ortelius makes a painful historical reference in the Irish Sea: “A part of this island is given by the Queen of England to the English to come and live here. In 1572 the settlement was controlled by “Mr Smeth”, a horse rider dressed in gold. This “Sir Thomas Smith” (1513-1577), an English diplomat, received in 1571 an area of 150.000 ha in East Ulster. The colony as such established was a failure. But the seed has been laid! Already in 1542 Henry VIII had officially proclaimed (himself) King of Ireland. The dissolution of Catholic communities In England was already deployed in 1535. It was also executed in Ireland. However, even Ortelius mentions some 30 years later some old ecclesiastical communities.

Just a detail: the “waves” shown by Ortelius are a typical feature of 16th century illustrations of seas or oceans.

At the top center Ortelius refers to his main source: Gyraldo Camb. This Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) was a Welsh historian (c. 1146 – c. 1223). His most famous work the “Topographia Hibernica” was written in 1188. The oldest Ireland map of Ortelius from 1570 portrays the island along with the rest of the UK. This enhanced and more detailed version is primarily based on the large (8 sheets) map of the British Isles by Mercator from 1564. This map was printed from 1573 to 1606. From 1606 to 1609, it was replaced by a more recent engraving.