Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Map. Click to enlarge.

Portolan map of Africa, ca. 1520.
Kraus Map Collection.


The heart of the cartography collection is the Kraus Map Collection, which comprises nearly the entire contents of H. P. Kraus's Catalogue No. 124 (Monumenta Cartographica), acquired in 1969. Among the Kraus Collection treasures are the maps, atlases, and globes produced in the Low Countries during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by the accomplished cartographers Willem Blaeu (and sons), Gerard Mercator, and Abraham Ortelius. The single most important of these works is Joan Blaeu's enormous world map Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula, completed in 1648. The Ransom Center's copy, one of only two known to exist and the only colored copy, survives complete with an accompanying text. Ortelius's Theatrum Orbis Terrarum(1584), considered to be the first modern atlas, is also present, along with letters to Ortelius from prominent cartographers. Other Kraus cartographic treasures include the first printed map by Isidore of Seville (1472), an early (1610) manuscript map of Virginia, and large terrestrial and celestial globes (ca. 1688) produced by the Italian master Vincenzo Coronelli.

Kraus cartographic holdings are supplemented by significant holdings in the rare books collection. The most important of these is a "Lafreri" atlas consisting of individual maps and compiled by Fernando Bertelli in the mid-1500s; our copy is from the library of John Locke. Joan Blaeu's monumental Grooten Atlas, in nine volumes, contains not only magnificent hand-colored maps but also plates of Tycho Brahe's "astronomical island." Sea atlases include Sir Robert Dudley's Dell'arcano del mare (1646-1647), the beautiful Le Neptune François (1693), with contemporary hand-coloring and illumination, and the monumental Atlantic Neptune (1777-81) of Joseph Des Barres. G. D. Cassini's pioneering map of the moon is another significant item.