Braun was born and died in Cologne. His principal profession was as a Catholic cleric, however, he spent thirty-seven years as canon and dean at the church, St. Maria ad Gradus, in Cologne. His six-volume work was inspired by Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia. In form and layout it resembles the 1570 Theatrum orbis terrarum by Abraham Ortelius, as Ortelius was interested in a complementary companion for the Theatrum.
The Braun publication set new standards in cartography for over 100 years. Frans Hogenberg (1535–1590, from Mechelen) created the tables for volumes I through IV, and
Simon van den Neuwel created those for volumes V and VI. Other contributors were Joris Hoefnagel, Jacob Hoefnagel, cartographer
Daniel Freese, and Heinrich Rantzau. Works by Jacob van Deventer, Sebastian Münster, and Johannes Stumpf were also used. Primarily European cities are depicted in the publication; however, Casablanca and Mexico City/Cuzco on one sheet are also included in volume I.