Leen Helmink Antique Maps

Antique map of California to Alaska by Acosta/Metellus

Stock number: 18383

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Johannes Metellus (biography)


Limes Occidentis et Quivira Anian

First Published

Cologne, 1598


18.5 x 24.2 cms


Copper engraving




Extremely rare and early map of the north American west coast. A German derivative of Wytfliet's map, published by Johannes Metellus. It covers the cost from Mexico to the Strait of Anian, separating America from Asia. A cornerstone collector's map of the region.

From José de Acosta's "Geographische Und Historische Beschreibung Der Uberauss Grosser Landshafft America ... Cologne, 1598"

"The Wytfliet is known to have been produced in 1597, the Metellus, which is much rare and seldom available on the market, is usually dated 1598 but some scholars have argued the possibility that it may precede the Wytfliet. The Metellus is acknowledged as, by far, the finer engraving of the two, which, along with its rarity and importance, makes it a focal point of any collection of early American maps."


Johannes Metellus (1520-1597)

"Metellus is an obscure figure about whom little is known except that he was born in Louvain, later being heard of in Cologne where he was probably a publisher as well as a cartographer. He compiled a set of maps of America (with a World Map) very similar to those of Cornelis van Wytfliet with which they are often confused. The maps by Metellus are much rarer than those of Wytfliet."

(Moreland & Bannister).

Johannes Metellus [Jean Matal; Germanus; Matalius; Natal; Sequanus] (1520-1597) was born in Burgundy and died in Augsburg. He was a geographer and antiquary in Louvain/Leuven and later in Cologne. He contributed to geographical texts including Braun & Hogenberg's Civitates Orbis Terrarum.


"As with the Cornelis Wytfliet a year earlier this publication contained a set of maps relating to the Americas only. All but one are derived from the Wytfliet. These were used to illustrate the German edition of José de Acosta's 'De Natura Nova Orbis', first published in Salamanca, 1598. Acosta was a Spanish Jesuit missionary, historian and cosmographer.

The maps, however, are attributed to Johannes Matalius Metellus (Jean Matal in his native French), a very well respected geographer of his day. In the 'America sive Novus Orbis' of 1600, he is named as the cartographer of the maps but, most probably, did not see their completion as he died in 1597. The work was finished by a friend, Meurer identifies him as Conrad Loew, a pseudonym for Matthias Quad.

Born in Burgundy, 1520, Metellus spent much of his working life in Louvain where, of course, the Wytfliet atlas was published. However, he spent his last years in Cologne, dying in 1597. This leads us to the possibility that the Metellus actually pre-dates the Wytfliet as the first atlas concentrating on America. A number of questions are posed. Is there an earlier edition still unknown, as all issues are extremely rare ? Is Metellus the true author of the Wytfliet maps ?

All issues have text on the back, and are extremely rare."

(Burden on the Conibas map)

Only a handful examples of the Metellus books are known, see Burden 115 for a list of locations.