Today I wanted to share some of our engraved title pages with you readers. Title pages are usually the first page one sees when viewing an atlas, and they have a long decorative and stylized history. It is common that the title page would be the most ornate and finely worked engraving in the whole book, engraved by the most prominent artists of theat time period.
While the first title pages were only embellished with ornate frames for the atlas’ title, this simple frame style quickly evolved to include statuesque figures, mythical characters, allegorical scenes, nods to the explorers and astronomers, as well as depictions of foreign lands and people. Below is only a sampling of the prints we have in the gallery, but they offer a great introduction to the complexity of design and wealth of content found in title pages.
Geographical, Political, Commercial & Statistical, edited by R. Montgomery Martin, Esq. Title page from Tallis' Illustrated Atlas; one of the last great decorative atlases. Published by John Tallis & Co., London, 1851. Vignettes by H. Warren and J. Rogers.
Allegorical titlepage to Vol. I of this atlas by Giovanni Maria Cassini. Published Rome, 1792-1801. Engraving by Alessandro Mochetti after Stefano Tofanelli. Around the central mounted globe and figures representing the continents are an elephant, camel, lion and horse. Precious metals, flowers and fruit spill from two cornucopias.
Allegorical titlepage from the Atlas Universel by M. Robert and M. Robert de Vaugondy fils, Paris, 1757. Copper engraving by Ch. Baquoy; script by J. Oger. Pedley describes this piece as "a particularly fine example of mid-eighteenth-century design and engraving." On the sides are figures representing the four continents: Africa and Asia at left, America and Europe at right. At the top are four strong steeds pulling a chariot. Below the title is a globe surrounded by putti with pen and dividers.
Allegorical titlepage from Jan Blaeu's Nouveau Theatre D'Italie. Published by Rutgert Christophle Alberts, in A La Haye, 1724. This title page depicts cherubs, religious and political icons, as well as a scene of offering.
Allegorical titlepage engraved by Sluyter after Romeyn de Hooghe. From Volume II of the famous multi-volume Atlas Historique, published by L’Honore and Henri Chatelain, Amsterdam, 1716-22. Classical gods are shown with a memorial obelisk and objects representing the arts, learning, agriculture, royalty and wealth.
Allegorical titlepage to Philip Cluver's famous geography. Published Wolffenbuttel, 1694. Philip Cluver sits beside a table displaying a globe turned to show Europe, Persia and Africa. Two cherubs, one holding an orrery, appear at the sides. To the rear is a walled city.
Elaborate decorative titlepage to The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine by John Speed. Published by Thomas Bassett and Richard Chiswell, London, 1676. The title appears within an architectural entablature adorned with five figures of early Britons: a Briton, Roman, Saxon, Dane and Norman. Along the top are two other figures, coats-of-arms and two cherubs.
Fine illustrated titlepage from Urbium Precipuarum Totius Mundi Urbium, Volume III of Civitates Orbis Terrarum by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg. Published Cologne, 1588. Classical figures representing Peace, Concord, Opulence, Justice, Security, Community and Obedience adorn the title’s architectural surround. Below is an inset view of the Tower of Babel.
Classical decorative title page from De Praecipuis, Totius Universi Urbibus, Volume II of Civitates Orbis Terrarum by Georg Braun and Frans Hogenberg. Published Cologne, 1575. At the top are figures representing Religion and Politics, placed on either side of Cybele, who is seated on a chariot drawn by lions. At the bottom of the stone entablature are the household gods Penates and Lares.