Septentrionalium terrarum descriptio

Click on the map above to view a zoomable version.

Gerard Mercator, 1512-1594. Septentrionalium terrarum descriptio.
Second state. French edition of 1613.

This is the first printed map of the North Pole, originally published in 1595. It reflects the belief that the continents were surrounded by water, which helped to perpetuate the idea of a northwest passage into the 19th century. A blend of mythology and fact, this map incorporates the discoveries of Frobisher (1576-78) and Davis (1585-1587).

Gift of George Weston Ltd.