Vol. 12 (2023): The Circulation of Cosmographical Knowledge in Early Modern Europe
Part Two - Case Studies

Getting the Message of Abraham Ortelius’ Heart-Shaped Map and Atlas

Stephanie Inverso
Boston University

Published 2023-03-19


  • Atlas,
  • Cartography,
  • Cordiform,
  • Family of Love,
  • Ortelius

How to Cite

Inverso, S. (2023). Getting the Message of Abraham Ortelius’ Heart-Shaped Map and Atlas. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 12. https://doi.org/10.36253/jems-2279-7149-14390


In 1564, the celebrated Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius published his first cartographic work: a world map in the shape of a heart. This map manifests a spiritual call toward world unity heavily influenced by the heterodox sect known as the Family of Love. Six years later, Ortelius published the first edition of his groundbreaking magnum opus, an atlas entitled Theatrum orbis terrarum. With this later work, the unorthodox message of his cordiform map was not erased but transmuted into the form of an atlas. Abraham Ortelius’ example demonstrates how the ways in which knowledge circulated within humanist networks ensured that spiritual concerns, particularly unorthodox ones, continued to influence European cartography long after the rediscovery and translation of Ptolemy in the early fifteenth century.