Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598), map-maker, son of Leonard Ortels (1500-1537), was born at Antwerp 4 April 1527. His father, who had originally come from Augsburg, died when Abraham was young, and the care of his mother and sister fell to him. In 1547 he joined the guild of St. Luke at Antwerp as an illuminator of maps. He also dealt in the maps which he imported from other countries. Wood (Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 134) says that about 1551 he passed some time at Oxford for purposes of study. He travelled widely, became known to learned men in every country in Europe, carried on an active correspondence with his friends, and collected medals. In 1567 he and Christopher Plantin joined at Antwerp the society known as 'the Family of Love' [see Nicholas, Henry, or Niclaes, Henrick], but that was dissolved at the approach of Alva. Probably Ortelius was wrapped up in his map-making, for by this time he had published many of those maps which were afterwards to form part of the 'Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.'
On 20 May 1573 Ortelius was made, by the influence of Arias Benedictus Montanus, geographer to Philip II of Spain. In February 1577 he paid a visit to London in the company of his cousin Emmanuel Meteren, and from London explored various parts of England and Ireland. He had before this time known many Englishmen by correspondence, and Humphrey Llwyd [q. v.] had helped him with the map of England and Wales. He now formed a friendship with Camden and other learned men. He had reached the height of his fame, and for the rest of his life he lived chiefly at Antwerp, where he died on 28 June 1598. He was buried on 1 July in the church of St. Michael. A monument was raised to his memory by his sister Anna and his nephews Jacob and Peter Cole, the inscription being written by Justus Lipsius.
Ortelius's great work, the 'Theatrum Orbis Terrarum,' was first issued in a complete form in 1570 at Antwerp. A complete account of the many editions which have followed is given in the preface to Mr. J. H. Hessels's 'Epistolae Ortelianae,' which forms the first volume of the 'Collection of Letters' preserved by the Dutch church in Austin Friars. They numbered at least twenty-eight during the author's lifetime. The various editions contain different numbers of maps, and Ortelius was constantly in correspondence with those who suggested corrections or additions. Ortelius also published:
1. 'Deorum Dearumque Capita ex vetustis numismatibus in gratiam Antiquitatis studiosorum effigiata et edita. Ex museo Abrahami Ortelii,' Antwerp, 1573. There is a copy of this work, with the author's autograph, in the British Museum; other editions 1582 and 1602.
2. 'Synonymia Geographica sive populorum, regionum, insularum, urbium … appellationes et nomina,' Antwerp, 1578. This was an enlargement of the compilation made by Arnold Mylius which had been attached to the 'Theatrum' in the 1570 edition; another edition 1596, Antwerp, and 17th cent. Hanover.
3. 'Nomenclator Ptolemaicus.' This was added to the 'Theatrum' in 1584 instead of the 'Synonymia Locorum,' but it was also published separately in 1603.
4. 'Itinerarium per nonnullas Galliae-Belgicae Partes,' Antwerp, 1584, 8vo; other editions, Leyden, 1630 and 1667.
5. 'Aurei Seculi Imago,' Antwerp, 1596. When dying he was engaged on the 'Peutinger Table.' His edition was published by John Moretus a few months afterwards. Many letters from and to him are printed in the collection edited by Mr. J. H. Hessels. His 'Album Amicorum' is preserved at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
Ortelius's nephew, Jacobus Colius Ortelianus (1563-1628), born in Antwerp on 31 Dec. 1563, was eldest son of Jacob Cole the elder, by his second wife, Elizabeth (d. 1594), the sister of Ortelius. Jacob Cole the younger was brought up in London, where his father had five children living by his first wife. His father lived in Lime Street, and appears to have been a silk merchant, and after his death in 1591 Jacob received certain property under his will. His uncle seems to have been fond of him, and used to call him 'Anthracius' or 'Carbo.' In 1589 Ortelius began to call his nephew Ortelianus, and from that time he was commonly known by that name when the Latin language was used. He corresponded with his uncle from 1586, lived, like his father, in Lime Street 'at the sign of the Cock,' and was a successful silk merchant. Like his uncle, he collected coins and medals.
He died in 1628, and was buried on 14 May of that year. He had married, first, Maria Theus of London, who died in 1594, and may be conjectured to have been a daughter of Lodewijk Theus, a deacon of the Dutch church in 1573, and an elder in 1585 (Moens, Register, pp. 209, 211); secondly, 16 Dec. 1606, Louisa de Lobel, daughter of Mathias de Lobel; but he left no child. He published: 1. 'De Statu Civitatis Londinensis peste laborantis,' Middleburg, 1604, 4to. 2. 'Syntagma Herbarum Encomiasticum,' Leyden, 1606, 4to; Antwerp, 1614. 3. A tract on death, which was first printed at Middleburg in Holland, and of which an English edition, under the title 'James Cole: of Death a True Description,' &c., appeared in London, 1629, 8vo; a copy is in the library of the London Dutch church. 4. 'Paraphrasis ofte verklaringe ende verbreydinge vanden CIV Psalm,' &c., Middleburg, 1626, 4to. James or Jacobus Cole inherited some of his uncle's books, which came afterwards into Bishop Moore's library, and thence into the Cambridge University Library. Many of his letters have been published in the 'Epistolae Ortelianae.'
[Hessels's Epistolae Ortelianae has all material particulars; Goethals's Les Lettres et les Arts en Belgique, iii. 75; Roose's Corresp. de Christophe Plantin; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum, iii. 847-8; Van Hulst's Plantin; information kindly supplied by J. H. Hessels, esq.]
William Arthur Jobson Archbold, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 42. pgs. 269-270.