1603 Ortelius - Tartariae Sive Magni Chami Regni Typus

1603 Ortelius - Tartariae Sive Magni Chami Regni Typus

1603 Ortelius Asia with Marco Polo references and "Capo Californio"


Tartariae Sive Magni Chami Regni Typus

Map maker:

Abraham Ortelius

Place and Year:

Antwerp, 1603


34.7 x 46.7 cm (13¾ x 18½ in)


Copperplate engraving


Hand colored, likely early.

Condition Rating:


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Principally northeastern Asia with western north America; among the place names in the latter is Cape Californio (at the tip of Baja) and Sierra Nevada along the coast; Japan also is shown.

Burden notes that "Unlike his map of America, this derives its cartography from Ortelius' own large world map of 1564. This is a very early depiction of the northern Pacific. Its main feature is the STRETTO DE ANIAN. This increased the public awareness of the 1561 Giacomo Gastaldi theory of a strait between the continents of Asia and America.

At its southern entrance an enlarged Japan dominated, below which a note states that a large amount of the information in Asia emanates from the writings of Marco Polo. The west coast of North America differs from his map of America in that the peninsula is broader, some different names appear, and others are lacking."

The map includes a very curious early treatment of Japan and marvelous detail in Tartary, Asian Russia and China, including Marco Polo & Prester John notes, several vignettes, 2 decorative cartouches, sailing ships and sea monster.  Several vignettes  depict the tents of the Tartar kings.  The map is richly annotated in Latin, including some of the lengthier quotes,  which have translated from Latin to English below:

The Nephalites are named Neptali after one of the 10 tribes with a Hebrew name, and after the Danites, who by way of punishment were called the Danes of the dark North, and they were on account of the claims of Rachel Balbah placed to the side, in the area of the Hudores or Iehudeores; in the year 476 they were victorious in their battle against Perosa. Others call them incorrectly Euthalites.

The Scythian ocean, according to Plinius, has sweet water, and he also says it contains many islands, as M. Paulus [Marco Polo] also says, but neither of the two tells about their number or location.

Tabor or Tybur, center of the area of the Tartars, where once the Holy Books got lost, yet they are united under one king, who in 1540 first reached France and king Franciscus, and later, at the initiative of Charles the Fifth was burnt at the stake for his heresy, because he had secretly endeavoured to convert Christian kings to the Jewish religion, about which he had spoken with Charles the Fifth.

Here the ten tribes retreated, and changed from the Tatar or Tartar area to Scythia. Since then they are called Gauths or Gauthens, confirming Gods highest glory, and here lies the splendid kingdom of Cathai.

Turkestan. The area from which the 10 tribes as allies living on this side of the mountain range have been called 900 years ago by the Persians to fight the armies of Ismael the Muslim.

The great Khan (which in the language of the Tatars means emperor), the highest ruler of Asia.

Argon. Once there was in Asia a Christian kingdom, known to Prester John, and D. Thomas founded it [this city] in this place, so that it was in contact with the church of Rome, and was subjected to Rome through Prester John of Africa. Before it was defeated by the Goths, it was known as Crive Romove.

This map contains the area of Tartaria, with the remaining part of East Asia to the Morning Ocean, subject to the great Khan whose might is bounded by the river Ob, Lake Kataia, the Volga, the Caspian Sea, the river Chesel, the mountains of Usson, the area of Tibet, the river Caromora and the Ocean. 

The isle of Japan, called Zipangri by Marco Polo of Venice, formerly [called] Chrÿse, once attacked by the great Khan in war, but without success.


Latin text on verso, with folio No. 108. Engraved by Franz Hogenberg.

Watermark: Horn.


A few tape remnants at edges from earlier matting, lower left corner chipped well away from image; near fine.




Burden 41; Wagner NW Coast 81; Wheat Transmississippi 16. Reproduced as Plate 16 in Skelton, Decorative Printed Maps.