Gerard Mercator: Edition and Translation of his Correspondence

Gerard Mercator to Jean Vivian, (C) Stadthistorisches Museum Duisburg

Gerard Mercators Correspondence

Nearly 90 letters of the correspondence of Gerard Mercator (1512 – 1594) survived to present day, more than 200 pieces can bei traced. As a member of the “republic of letters” he stood in contact with scholars all around Europe and had access to the latest scientific knowledge. The correspondence gives an insight into working method and knowledge base of Gerard Mercator. His correspondents supplied him with the latest scientific  in matters of geography, theology and philosophy and he could easily compare it with the current state of scientific knowledge.

Gerard Mercator was born in 1512 in the flemish town Rupelmonde and he died 1594 in Duisburg/Germany. Still in the spanish Netherlands, he prepared astronomic tools, Globes, the Chart of Palestine and Flandres, his World Map of 1538 and a scripture about the use of italics on charts. In 1544 he was suspected for haeretical toughts and spent some time in jail in Rupelmonde, but was released in the same year. Eight years later he settled to Duisburg, a town in Duchy Julich-Kleve-Berg, maybe to teach at the university, which was in mind of the Duke. During the following forty years he published between others his famous 1569-world map. After his death his Atlas was published.

Several european archives acquired the correspondence and it were historians from Belgium in the 19th century, who published them in their original language. Heinrich Averdunk from Duisburg popularized them in Germany. The temporary climax of the scientific discourse about the letter was the publication of the “correspondance mercatorienne” by Maurice Van Durme, again a Belgian, in 1959. He was the first to arrange the correspondence in a single publication, but without examining them anew.

The project examines the older prints and publications of the 19th and 20th century as well as the autographs in the various european and non-european archives and new discoveries of recent years. The editorial work will be published together with a translation of the mostly latin texts.


The project is funded by the Mercator Foundation in Essen and will be finished until December 2015.


Project Manager: Prof. Dr. Ute Schneider, Department for Social- and Economic History

Editor: Nils Bennemann

Further Information

Kultur- und Stadthistorisches Museum Duisburg: The Museum does not only own Mercators last correspondence, but as well his Earth- and Skyglobes and a great collection of his works.

Mercatormuseum St. Niklaas: The Flemish Mercator-Museum also owns a great collection of Mercators works.

Biography Gerhard Mercator: Elaborate biography of Mercator in the "Portal Rheinische Geschichte" (German).

Erinnerungsort Mercator: Project homepage of course at University Duisburg-Essen, in which students examined the memoration of Gerard Mercator from the 16. century until our time. (German)

Wilhelm Krücken: Private homepage of Wilhelm Krücken, honorary doctor at the University Duisburg-Essen. It covers the reconstruction of the Mercator-Projection and translation of several letters and the praefatio of the "Atlas".