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Civitates Orbis Terrarum


The first volume of the Civitates Orbis Terrarum was published in Cologne in 1572. The sixth and the final volume appeared in 1617.

This great city atlas, edited by Georg Braun and largely engraved by Franz Hogenberg, eventually contained 546 prospects, bird-eye views and map views of cities from all over the world. Braun (1541-1622), a cleric of Cologne, was the principal editor of the work, and was greatly assisted in his project by the close, and continued interest of Abraham Ortelius, whose Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of 1570 was, as a systematic and comprehensive collection of maps of uniform style, the first true atlas.

The Civitates, indeed, was intended as a companion for the Theatrum, as showed by the similarity in the titles and by contemporary references regarding the complementary nature of two works. Nevertheless, the Civitates was designed to be more popular in approach, no doubt because the novelty of a collection of city plans and views represented a more hazardous commercial undertaking than a world atlas, for which there had been a number of successful precedents. Franz Hogenberg (1535-1590) was the son of a Munich engraver who settled in Malines. He engraved most of the plates for Ortelius’s Theatrum and the majority of those in the Civitates, and might have been the responsible one for creating the project.

Over a hundred of different artists and cartographers, the most significant of whom was Antwerp artist Georg (Joris) Hoefnagel (1542-1600), engraved the cooper-plates of the Civitates from drawings. He contributed not only with most of the original material for the Spanish and Italian towns but also reworked and modified those of other contributors. After Hoefnagel’s death his son Jakob continued the work for the Civitates. A large number of Jacob van Deventer (1505-1575), also known as Jacob Roelofszof, unpublished works, plans of towns of the Netherlands were copied, as were Stumpf’s woodcuts from the Schweizer Chronik of 1548, and Munster’s German views from the 1550 and 1572 editions of his Cosmographia. Another important source for maps was the Danish cartographer Heinrich van Rantzau (1526-1599), better known as Rantzovius, his Latin name, who provided maps of Northern Europe, especially for Danish cities. The Civitates provided a unique global view of urban life at the end of the 16th century. Other sources were the maps of Sebastian Munster from around 1550.Braun added to the maps images of people dressed in traditional clothes. This feature was anticipated in Hans Lautensack’s etched view of Nuremberg, 1552, those groups of citizens in the rural foreground add further authenticity to the highly accurate topographical details of what was effectively Germany’s cultural capital at that time. Braun’s reasons for adding people images to the views, however, went farther: as stated in his introduction to book 1, he thought, perhaps being optimistic, that his maps would not be scrutinized by Turkish military forces, as their religion prohibited them to look at representations of the human form.

The maps, each one accompanied by Braun’s printed history of the town, its location and ways of commerce, creates a traveler’s compendium, which the scholar Robert Burton, in The Anatomy of Melancholy of 1621, affirmed would not only provide with instructions but also would uplift the spirit.

The six volumes that make up the Civitates Orbis Terrarum work allow us to understand the world of the 16th and 17th centuries. We can travel through Jerusalem, Rome, Istanbul, Moscow, London, Paris, Mexico, Bilbao, Barcelona, Burgos and Seville as well as contemplate another 500 sights of the cities, landscapes and citizens of the world during the golden century.


  • Author: Georg Braun
  • Place and year of publication: Cologne, Germany, years 1572, 1575, 1581, 1588, 1598 and 1617, respectively.
  • Language: Latin
  • Maps: 360, almost 600 views of cities on double page.
  • No. Pages: 1300 (considering all six volumes).
  • Measurements: 36 x 25 cm.
  • Binding: Concertina stitched with leather covers in Gold-brown leather with spine labels.
  • 6 Facsimile volumes plus a study volume.
  • Originals preserved in the National Library of Spain and in the Historical Library at Salamanca University. Catalogue numbers R/22248-250, ER/4684-86, (BNE) and BG/32146-32151 (BGUSAL)
  • 375 Limited edition copies, numbered and certified by a notary.
  • ISBN: 978-84-942508-4-2


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