Gerardus Mercator (March 5, 1512 – December 2, 1594) was a 16th-century geographer, cosmographer and cartographer from the County of Flanders. He is most renowned for creating the 1569 world map based on a new projection which represented sailing courses of constant bearing (rhumb lines) as straight lines—an innovation that is still employed in nautical charts.
Mercator was one of the pioneers of cartography and is widely considered the most notable figure of Netherlandish school of cartography in its golden age (approximately 1570s–1670s). In his own day, he was a notable as maker of globes and scientific instruments. In addition, he had interests in theology, philosophy, history, mathematics and geomagnetism. He was also an accomplished engraver and calligrapher.
- When I saw that Moses’ version of the Genesis of the world did not fit sufficiently in many ways with Aristotle and the rest of the philosophers, I began to have doubts about the truth of all philosophers and started to investigate the secrets of nature.
- Evangelicæ Historiæ: Quadripartita Monas Sive Harmonia Quatuor Evangelistarum ("Harmonization of the Gospels") (1592), dedicatory letter. Quoted in Jean Van Raemdonck, Gerard Mercator: sa vie et ses oeuvres (1869), p. 25, footnote 2
- Since my youth geography has been for me the primary object of study. When I was engaged in it, having applied the considerations of the natural and geometric sciences, I liked, little by little, not only the description of the earth, but also the structure of the whole machinery of the world, whose numerous elements are not known by anyone to date.
- 1578, Introduction to Ptolemy's Geography.
- ... spread on a plane the surface of a sphere in such a way that the positions of all places shall correspond on all sides with each other both in so far as true direction and distance are concerned and as concerns true longitudes and latitudes.
- Legend on 1569 map
- D.O.M.S. GERARDVS MERCATOR HIC SITVS EST IVLIACENSIVM PROVINCIA ORDVNDVS NATVS RVOELMVNDÆ FLANDORVM AN. DNI. M. D. XII. V. MARTII CAROLI V. ROM. IMP. DOMESTICUS: GVLIELMI PATRIS AC JOAN GVLIEMI FIL. CLIVENS IVLIAC: ETC: DVUCUM COSMOGRAPHVS MATHEMATICORUM SVI TEMPORIS FACILE PRINCEPS QVI GLOBIS ARTIFICIOSIS RADIO DIMENSIS COELVM AC TERRAM INTERIVS ET EXTERIVS QVA LICVIT, DEMONSTRAVIT A VARIA DOCTRINA, THEOLOGIA IMPRIMIS LAVDATVS PIETATE VIRTVTE INTEGRITATE VITÆ MORVMQ(EU) COMITATE DEO ET HOMINIBVS CHARVS, VXORES BINAS HABVIT QUARVM PRIOR BARBARA SCHELLEKENS LOV ANIENSIS FÆMINA LECTISSIMA PROPE MARITVM SEPVLTA IPSI: TRES FILIOS TOTIDEMQ(UE) FILIAS PEPERIT. EX POSTERIORE VERO GERTRVDA VIRLINGS NVLLOS LIBEROS SVSCEPIT. AN. M. D. LII. LOV ANIO TEUTOBVRGVM VNA CVM FÆMINA HABITATVM VENIT VBI AN. M. D. XCIV. II. DECEMB. OBIIT. ÆTATIS LXXXII. At the base: AD LECTOREM. QUISQUIS ADES FRUSTRA METUIS NE FORTE SEPULTO / SIT MERCATORI TANTULA TERRA GRAVIS / OMNIS TERRA VIRO LEVIS EST QUI TOTA USQUAM TERRARUM EST HUMERIS PONDERA GESSIT ATLAS. On the cartouche: MEMORIÆ ET GRATITVDINIS ERGO HABERE DES HOC MONVMENTVM POSVERE.
- Dedicated to God, most good, most great (DOMS). Here is buried Gerhard Mercator who lived in the duchy of Jülich but was born in Ruppelmunde in Flanders on 5th March, 1512. He was a Councillor of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Cosmographer to Duke William and his son Johann Wilhelm of the united duchies of Jülich and Cleves. He was by far the foremost mathematician of his time and he crafted artistic and accurate globes showing the heaven from the inside and the Earth from the outside. He was greatly respected for his wide erudition, particularly in theology, and famous on account of his piety and respectability in life and works, acclaimed for his good standing with God and men. He was married twice. His first virtuous wife Barbara Schellekens, from Leuven, is buried beside her husband. She bore him three sons and as many daughters. His second marriage with Gertrud Virlings bore no children. In 1552 he came to Duisburg from Leuven with his wife. He died on 2nd December 1594 at the age of 82 years. AT THE BASE: To the reader: whoever you are, your fears that this small clod of earth lies heavily on the buried Mercator are groundless; the whole Earth is no burden for a man who had the whole weight of her lands on his shoulders and carried her as (an) Atlas. ON THE CARTOUCHE: Erected in rememberance and gratitude by his heirs.
Orbis Imago 1538
Michael Föllmer, Ruth Löffler, Werner Pöhling, Die Welt des Gerhard Mercator: Karten, Atlanten und Globen aus Duisburg, Duisburg, Kultur- und Stadthistorisches Museum Duisburg und Mercator-Verlag, 2006, p.19.; Gilbert A. Cam, “Gerard Mercator: his ‘Orbis Imago’ of 1538”, The New York Public Library Bulletin, vol.41, no.5, May 1937, pp.371-381, p.373.
Lectori Salve. Quam hic vides orbis imaginem lector candide eam ut posteriorem ita & emendatiorem iis quae hactenus circumferebantur esse America Sarmatiaque ac India testantur. Proposuimus atque partitionem orbis in genere tantum, quam deinceps in particularibus aliquot regionibus latius tractabimus, atque adeo in Europa id iam facimus, quam brevi non minorem illa universali Ptolemei expectato. Vale. 1538.
- Dear Reader, Greetings. Let America, Sarmatia and India bear witness, Dear Reader, that the image of the world you see here is newer and more correct than those that have been circulated hitherto. We propose with regard to the different parts of the world to treat, successively, particular regions more broadly, as we are already doing with Europe, and you may soon expect a universal map, which will not be inferior to that of Ptolemy. Farewell. 1538
Letter to Melanchthon (extract)
The original latin text and a german translation may be found in may be found in volume 2, pp 297-301 of Ad Maiorem Gerardi Mercatoris Gloriam. Krücken, Friedrich Wilhelm (1996), Ad Maiorem Gerardi Mercatoris Gloriam. The six volumes of this work are available from the Mercator pages of Krücken's web site (archived version) . The English text given here is a rough unedited version produced by Google translate.
|Gerardus Mercator Rupelmondanus Philippo Melanchtoni etc.||Gerhard Mercator from Rupelmonde to Philipp Melanchthon etc.|
|Paulo ante Calendas Maji huius anni vocatus sum /fui/ a Caesarea Majestate Bruxellam.||Shortly before the 1st of May this year, I have been called by His Imperial Majesty to Brussels.|
|Causa vocationis erat, quod terrarum situm vellet in globulo pugni magnitudine a me depingi;||The reason the invitation was that he wanted to have drawn from me the situation of the countries on a fist-sized globe.|
|placuerant nimirum mathematica instrumenta, quae paulo ante postremum eius in Germaniam discessum suae Majestati fabricaveram.||Undoubtedly, the mathematical instruments were pleased that I had just made his majesty before his last departure to Germany.|
|Is globulus [globulo] coelesti includendus erat ex Cristallo summa industria parato verticique insignis horologii superimponendus, quod e Mediolano ab ipso artifíce Janello allatum erat,||This little world was in a celestial globe of crystal - made with highest diligence - insert, and should be installed on top of an unprecedented movement above, which had been brought from Milan by the art master Janellus itself.|
|octo lateribus septem planetarum slellarumque fìxarum motum ad amussim exprimens, in superioribus vero tanquam in conum ascendentìbus totidem lateribus inscripta erant, quaecunque ad Calendarii cognitìonem requiri poterant.||This movement shows eight pages, the movement of the seven planets and the fixed stars completely precisely and accordingly just as many pages above it - as it tapers into a cone - was written, which can be taught by a closer acquaintance with the calendar else.|
|Mira intus et perplexa erat facies rotarum plus quam 700, ut ipsemet Janellus referebat||Amazing inside and confusing the appearance of more than was - wieJanellus self-reported - seven hundred gears.|
Quotes about Mercator
- It was the custom of our mutual friendship and intimacy that, during three whole years, neither of us lacked the other's presence for as much as three whole days. and such was the eagerness of both for learning and philosophizing that, after we had come together, we scarcely left off the investigation of difficult and useful problems for three minutes of an hour.
- John Dee in: William Howard Sherman (1995) John Dee. p. 6 : About the friendship between John Dee and Mercator.
- Mercator knew Palestine better than any place outside the Low Countries. He had grown up with its miracles and revelations. He knew its history. Palestine had been the subject of the first map that most of his generation had ever seen. And like the Bible maps of his boyhood, his would show the route described in the Fourth book of Moses
- Crane 2003
- Although he ate and drank very little, he kept an excellent table, well furnished with the necessities of civilised living... He always did his best to help those who were poor and less fortunate than he and ... he cultivated and cherished hospitality. Whenever he was invited by the magistrates to a banquet or by friends to a dinner, or he himself invited friends, he was invariable cheerful and witty ...
- Ghim biography published with 1595 atlas.