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The first depiction of the Galapagos Islands on a map by a known cartogrpher is that of Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598), a Flemish cartographer who published an atlas, Orbis Terrarum in 1574. This atlas was a milestone in the development of world cartography and established Ortelius as one of the pre-eminent mapmakers of his time. (See for example Africa maps by Ortelius)

Click below to see the image and information on the Ortelius 1574 map:

Americas map

detail of Galapagos on the map


Image of Ortelius 1574 map

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Ortelius' map of the Americas from the Orbis Terrarum shows the Galapagos Islands' approximate location (white circle): on the equator several hundred miles west of South America. Closer inspection of the islands (below) reveals significant inaccuracy, a reflection of relative ignorance about the islands themselves.
(With permission from J. Woram photo)

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Image of detail on Ortelius 1574 map

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This detail from Ortelius' map shows that details of the islands (Insulae de los galopegos) were poorly known, although their location is approximately correct. The group seems composed of a half dozen similarly sized islands just above the equator. In fact there are thirteen major islands, and most of the land area is below the equator. Also, the colored feature to the northeast of the main group may represent one of the small northerly islands but the best candidate may be Cocos Island, which is not considered part of the archipelago. Later editions of the Orbis Terrarum corrected this error.

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Learn more about the Ortelius 1574 map

previous maps

image of vellum map image of vellum map detail

vellum map 1530

next maps

image of Bowen map

Bowen 1744

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