Without maps, giving a visible representation of the whole of an empire and its various countries, merchants would not be able to reach the richest and most important lands to trade there and bring the entire earth into fraternity with Europe. Moreover, without them, princes could only with difficulty and by means of intermediaries, often of doubtful fidelity, arrive at safe and stable decisions regarding the government of their dominions.Gerardus Mercator

Although engraved in fine detail the terrestrial globe contains many geographical errors compared with reality. Even so Mercator wanted it to provide a revised image of the world, in the wake of Gemma Frisius. This revision of terrestrial geography was not unanimously accepted at the time, however, particularly as regards South Asia.

Influences and sources

Mercator was influenced by Ptolemy and Marco Polo but he did not bow to them. He knew how to use their writings while also rectifying and surpassing them […]


Measuring the world

On his terrestrial globe Mercator divided the known world into five parts: Europe, Africa, Asia, America and Quinta, a newly discovered southern continent […]



Mercator decisively corrected the outline of the Mediterranean basin by reducing the longitudinal overextension inherited from Ptolemy […]



To draw Africa, Mercator no doubt referred to Martin Waldseemüller’s Carta marina navigatoria […]



In Asia, Mercator tried to make the most recent discoveries fit with the representation inherited from the ancient geographers […]



In Mercator’s day, America was a largely unexplored continent whose coastlines were still only vague. Despite the dearth of information, it is represented as completely as possible […]



Mercator tried to prove that this fifth landmass existed and was huge, as if it were necessary to counterbalance the weight of the other continents […]



When a territory was uncharted, cartography gave pride of place to the imagination. Allegorical beasts of all kinds were depicted, including hybrid monsters and exotic creatures […]



The terrestrial globe features a number of insets. They mainly indicate the author and the place and date of the plates’ design, but one bears a dedication to Mercator’s benefactor Nicholas Perrenot lord of Granvelle […]