Gerard Mercator (1512 – 1594) was a Flemish cartographer who played a central role in the development of mapmaking. Despite his fame as a cartographer, Mercator’s main source of income was his business making mathematical instruments. From 1535 to 1536, he collaborated on the construction of a terrestrial globe, acting both as a cartographer and as a highly skilled engraver of brass plates. Mercator’s own independent map-making only began when he produced a map of Palestine in 1537. This was followed by another map of the world (1538) and a map of Flanders (1540). Mercator learned Italic script, since it was the most suitable type of script for copper engraving of maps, and wrote the first instruction book of Italic script published in northern Europe.
In 1552, Mercator opened a cartographic workshop, where he completed a six-panel map of Europe in 1554. He also worked as a surveyor for the city and taught mathematics at the academic college of Duisburg. After producing several maps he was appointed Court Cosmographer to Wilhelm, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg in 1564. He constructed a new chart with parallel lines of longitude to aid navigation by sea, allowing compass courses to be marked as straight lines; this method is known as the Mercator projection. He first used this new chart in 1569.
Mercator introduced the term atlas to describe a collection of maps, and encouraged Abraham Ortelius to compile the first modern world atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum in 1570. He produced his own atlas in a number of sections, the first of which was published in 1578 and consisted of corrected versions of the maps of Ptolemy (though introducing a number of new errors). Maps of France, Germany and the Netherlands were added in 1585, and those of the Balkans and Greece in 1588. Further maps were published in 1595 after his death by his son Rumold Mercator.